Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Hateful bigotry from Nairn's SNP Councillor on Highland Council

(Please see UPDATE at end)

Nairn has four Councillors on Highland Council and one of these is Councillor Liz MacDonald, who represents the SNP. The article below appeared in our local [weekly] newspaper yesterday:


Councillor MacDonald (SNP) stands by her "butcher's apron"
remark to Labour man
- article appearing in "Nairnshire Telegraph" 19th August 2014
(Unfortunately our local weekly newspaper in Nairn
does not have an on-line presence.)


- Hateful bigotry from Nairn SNP Councillor Liz MacDonald -


Click here to see an enlargement.



Click here to see an enlargement.

Whilst I find her "chip-on-shoulder" and plain nasty views deplorable, it is at least good that these have been exposed in our local newspaper. I think that all her comments deserve a good 'fisking', but I think this particular extract from the article above of one of her quoted remarks illustrates perfectly the kind of person she is:

"I was surprised that he had gone to the press about it because it was a tweet between us."
How naïve does someone have to be to make such a comment? Presumably if she had wished it to remain private she would not have tweeted publicly about it (but see below), but perhaps sent a 'direct message' instead, nor would she then have spoken about it to a reporter from "The Nairnshire". However, this particular remark says something more about Councillor Liz; this person, an elected Councillor, has a habit of blocking people from viewing her Twitter feed who have criticised anything she has tweeted in support of the SNP. For example, I am myself blocked from viewing her tweets because a couple of months ago I responded to a tweet from her suggesting, in response to one of my tweets, that I should get a copy of "Scotland's Future" to enable me to comment knowledgeably. This is a document put out by the Scottish Government (which currently is SNP led). I responded that I had indeed ordered this document soon after it was published and that I had subsequently read it cover to cover. I also commented that I found it merely a propaganda document (a 'manifesto' if you will) for the SNP and that it is vague on detail and provides no real factual information to allow people to make an educated and considered decision on how to vote in the forthcoming referendum. It is really just a very lengthy list of forecasts and wishful thinking. I realised some time later that Councillor Liz had blocked me as a result and I am aware that others locally have been blocked by her too, for having had the temerity to dissent from SNP 'dogma'. To be clear, I was never rude to her, but it is equally clear that she is unwilling to engage in meaningful debate and frankly doubt she merits holding public office with such a closed-minded attitude toward free debate. Our local newspaper "The Nairnshire" has performed a valuable public service by revealing the attitudes of our SNP Councillor when it comes to open debate.

Finally, it is unsurprising to me that the "The Nairnshire" article has gone unmentioned so far in another well-known Nairn blog; the writer is a supporter of the SNP cause and is usually very quick to comment on important articles appearing in our local 'rag'. Perhaps realising the devastating 'own goal' which the remarks and tweets made by Councillor Liz represent, he has preferred to draw a veil over it? She may regret that someone has decided to publicise her noisome tweets, but Twitter is part of social media and she will have to get used to it - or alternatively she might care to go into a sound-proofed room where she would be able to spew out her hateful rhetoric to her heart's content and not risk others becoming aware of her bigotry.

This article expands upon my tweet on this topic earlier today, here.

UPDATE (Wednesday 20AUG2014 16.45 BST) I have just noticed that our local councillor Liz MacDonald has unblocked me on Twitter; I can't say precisely when or why this has happened, but perhaps it is as a result of this blog article and my tweet earlier today. In any case I wanted to record this fact and that I am pleased about it.

Monday, 18 August 2014

One month today, Scotland will vote to remain in the UK!

I remain convinced, but not complacent, that the vast majority of Scots voters will choose to vote on 18th September in the referendum for Scotland to remain a part of the UK. This is obviously my preferred outcome, but I think my cautious optimism is solidly-based, both on almost every opinion poll and of course on the performance of First Minister Alex Salmond's (SNP) rather lacklustre performance in the debate with Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign on 5th August - I wrote about that here.

The "Yes" campaign regularly accuses the "No" side for being "negative" (whatever that means!), but it is really up to those who favour separation/independence to provide convincing arguments for how and why they think it a good idea, it is not enough simply to provide us with pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking and expect a majority of voters to follow them blindly. Why are the "Yes" campaigners, including Mr Salmond, so "negative" about Scotland remaining part of the UK? Scotland's partnership with England and Wales and later with Ireland (now Northern Ireland only, regrettably) for over 300 years has been one of the most successful amalgamations of nations into a country in history and, in my opinion, remains very successful to this day.

Democracy means having to accept what is the majority wish - I have accepted that a Scottish Parliament now exists, because that is what was voted for in the referendum held in 1998, just as I had to live with a Labour government from 1997 to 2010, although I certainly voted for neither. Equally obviously I did not vote for our current SNP Scottish Government in 2007 or 2011 and indeed nor did the majority of voters vote for the SNP either (the 2011 Scottish Parliament election results are here), but the vagaries of our electoral system gave the SNP a comfortable working majority. However uncomfortable I am with this, it is democracy and I therefore accept it. But of course, the real reason the SNP, with its 'beggar-thy-neighbour', 'chip-on-shoulder' attitudes (and I make absolutely no apology for slipping into cliché) does not really accept democracy at all, which is why it seeks to sow division between Scots and our fellow British citizens - I really do not believe your average Highlander in Scotland (me, in other words) is so very different from people in the lowlands of Scotland, the north-east of England or Devon or Cornwall, just to take some random examples - we all have to accept democratic outcomes which means that sometimes we get governments we don't wish for personally. The SNP only want a democratic arrangement which will favour them - hence their wish for Scotland to swim in its own little political pond, rather than to be part of (remain part of) one of the foremost economies of the world.

And speaking of 'economies', SNP plans give no certainty of what currency we might use should they prevail on 18th September, nor what entity will be responsible for acting as 'lender of last resort' or for setting interest rates. It is not "negative" to ask hard questions of these fantasists, indeed it would be negligent not to.

I shall be voting "No" on 18th September and I urge you to do so too. However, beyond that, I would like as many people to exercise their right to vote as possible, however you vote - this is a really important decision for all of us. Please don't miss your chance to participate in deciding our future. Finally, I hope the result is decisive one way or the other and both winners and losers will accept the result gracefully, as I intend to. Hopefully the SNP and its supporters will similarly accept the result if (as I hope happens) they lose their bid to split our country asunder. We will all have to live together once this is all over, so triumphalism by the winners is certainly to be avoided.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Why I will never give up completely on traditional SW/LW/MW radios

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking increasingly about this arcane subject, having first begun to think about it seriously a few years ago. Like many people I have at least one ordinary radio in every room in my home (including bathrooms), with all of them capable of receiving long wave (LW), medium wave (MW) and frequency modulation (FM) transmissions; I also have several radios capable of receiving short wave (SW) transmissions - one of these is a pretty sophisticated multi-band short wave radio although it is very large and heavy, so I rarely use it nowadays and indeed it generally lurks on a bookcase shelf in my garage. Obviously I also have a radio in my car, able to receive LW/MW/FM transmissions.

About 4 or so years ago I got my first digital radio, also capable of receiving FM analogue broadcasts and a couple of years ago a second digital radio, also with FM analogue capability.

A year or so ago I got my first internet radio and it can be plugged into a broadband router or connected to it wirelessly; this allows easy radio reception from more or less every country on the planet with a huge range of stations available from most countries with very high quality audio; obviously a broadband internet connection is required to make this work. I now have two of these radios.

Long wave transmissions have been broadcast for many decades, although are much less used nowadays, but they have a quite big reception radius (for example I used to listen to BBC Radio 4 LW when I lived in Paris and know that signals can be picked up as far away as northern Spain with adequate clarity under most weather conditions; the number of separate stations that can be fitted into this broadcast spectrum is quite limited though so there is great risk of interference if too many stations try to broadcast on similar frequencies because of the long reception range. Medium wave has a smaller, but still quite large, reception radius, whereas FM has a smaller reception range still, but provided a decent quality signal is available and the aerial is angled correctly, can provide much better quality reception that is hiss- and crackle-free. Short wave broadcasts can be picked up world-wide, but are very dependent on atmospheric conditions and time of day, with different short wave bands being used at different times of day when signals are being beamed to particular parts of the world.

Digital radio is a definite 'advance' (in some respects) on MW/FM broadcasts in particular; the reception is generally crystal-clear, but only domestic broadcasts can be listened to and only those which are carried on the digital platform and this is by no means all of them. I did take one of my digital radios to Spain a few years ago, but the digital receiver did not work there (I understand the technical specifications for digital broadcasts for different countries are different), although I was able to use it for FM broadcast reception, but because of the lack of digital reception capability there I brought it back to the UK to use it to its fullest extent.

Internet radio is mostly a marvellous advance - a huge range of domestic and worldwide broadcasts can be picked up easily - and the sound is of [equally] high quality whether one is listening to voice radio from the UK (such as BBC Radio 4) or similar kinds of domestic and international broadcasts from places such as New Zealand, Australia or Canada; the same is true of other kinds of broadcast such as classical music for example. Without an internet broadband connection however it will not work.

So why am I writing this article, specially with the title I have chosen? I certainly recognise the advantages of both digital and internet radio broadcasts - high quality audio with both and with the latter the capability of easy reception of broadcasts from all over the world. However, digital radio does require a decent signal and I have occasionally experienced signal break-up under certain atmospheric conditions, specially during the summer (I did query this a few years ago with the BBC technical people and was told that atmospheric conditions should not affect reception quality, but in my experience this is simply not true; to digress for a moment this signal fall-off also occurs in summer on Freeview TV reception). I live within line of sight of the broadcast transmitters for both radio and TV and it is not very many miles away, across water, so the signal strength is generally excellent. As for internet radio, it is excellent most of the time, but occasionally reception will break-up, even though there is a broadband signal and occasionally too a broadcast will not be available for "legal reasons" - this happens from time to time on BBC Radio 4 'Today' and whether I happen to be listening on my internet radio here in the UK or the similar radio I have at my home in Spain.

This last point brings me to the crux of my whole article:
- Digital radio is suitable only for listening to domestic broadcasts and not all domestic broadcasts are carried on this platform. We live in the UK in a pretty liberal democracy; the same is true of [most of] Europe and a number of other countries and regions (which I generally classify as North America, Australasia [Australia and New Zealand] and Japan/South Korea/Taiwan/India, plus perhaps a few others, for example parts of South America), but there is no getting away from the fact that one is with digital radio only able to listen to what the licensing authority in one's country chooses to allow one to listen to. The increase in reception quality that digital radio undoubtedly makes possible is at the price of being limited to only domestic broadcasts and only some of those;
- Internet radio is generally wonderful, except when one's internet connection is interrupted, which also of course means when the electricity supply is interrupted (which doesn't happen often either here in the UK or Spain, but it does occasionally), because although the radio itself can work for many hours on its rechargeable lithium battery, the broadband router cannot. Internet radio is also dependent on the proper functioning of the internet, which occasionally suffers technical problems resulting in a temporary interruption of connectivity, but is [more than] theoretically subject to political or perhaps commercial interference here or elsewhere.

Of course conventional radio broadcasts (SW/LW/MW) are also subject to some of these same problems as signals can be "jammed" more or less effectively by governments who do not wish their citizens to listen to certain (usually foreign) broadcasts, often in time of war, but also during peacetime or periods of "cold war". But generally speaking these methods of broadcasting are less-dependent on the full functioning of an advanced technological society and less subject to efforts to stop one listening to them for whatever reason, benign or not. So whilst I make full use of digital and internet radio, I never want to lose my ability to make use of less advanced technology - one never knows when this might become crucial, as people in some countries where governments block some of the internet already know all too well. Whenever there are breaks in my internet radio reception of BBC Radio 4 'Today' (referred to above) for 'legal reasons', I can easily switch to my digital or FM radios, but that may not always be possible under all circumstances. I prefer to retain my freedom to circumvent whatever controls may sometimes be placed on these more advanced broadcasting technologies. My motto is always to be as prepared as possible and not to become complacent - recent events around the world have only hardened this determination on my part.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

My verdict on "Salmond and Darling - the Debate"

A Scottish friend, who lives outside Scotland and therefore cannot vote in the upcoming referendum on separation/independence of Scotland from the UK, emailed me this morning about other matters, but wanted to hear a report on last night's "debate". A number of my Twitter friends had remarked that the STV on-line feed of the event seemed to crash or buffer almost continuously, perhaps because there was nowhere near enough bandwidth to cope with the demand (apparently from around the world) to watch it.

Luckily, though, it is going to be re-broadcast tonight on the BBC Parliament channel so at least most viewers throughout the rest of the UK should be able to watch it if they wish to.

As for the debate last night, well I both watched it and and recorded it. My overall impressions:
- was that there was nothing much new. Salmond certainly had no killer punch and Darling was only marginally less dull than usual, although I think he had the better evening;
- I doubt if anyone will have been persuaded against their previously held views or that many if any 'undecideds' will be any nearer to reaching a decision on how to vote;
- having said that, my view is that most 'undecideds' know perfectly well how they are going to vote, but they simply don't want to reveal it, possibly to avoid complications in their personal and professional lives if their real views don't 'fit' (they may also think it makes them interesting, perhaps, when instead it simply reveals how boring they are; not cynical at all, eh?).

Now onto some comments about what I saw and heard. Both participants mostly regurgitated their well-known positions and although it was mostly 'civilised' on both sides, it did descend into a Yah-boo shout-match on a couple of occasions.

One of the major topics of the evening was what currency Scotland would use post-separation/independence, should that eventuate. Salmond was asked what his back-up plan is should a 'currency union' with rUK not be agreed, as the UK government has repeatedly said this would not happen. Basically he said it would happen, because it would be in the interests both of Scotland and rUK; no evidence was offered, although eventually after much to and fro he did slip in that the UK Treasury "gained £40 billion from being able to include oil revenues, which it would not be able to do without a currency union" and that the current refusal to contemplate currency union by the UK government (and the Labour opposition, too) was mere bluff and bluster that would change quickly in the event of a 'yes' vote. My remarks - either you believe this or you don't as little real substance was offered to support his contention. This was really what both Darling and sceptics/opponents in the audience quizzed Salmond about most exhaustively. Salmond and his advisers really do need to develop a more credible position on this important topic.

As for Darling, his major stumbling block was when he was asked repeatedly by Salmond whether "you agree with David Cameron that an independent Scotland could flourish" to which he refused to give any clear response. The basic difficulty for Darling is that as a staunch Labour supporter he seemed incapable of putting aside his dislike of all things Conservative in a seeming determination not be be heard saying anything that might be taken to be support for a view expressed by the Prime Minister and leader of a political party he opposes viscerally, even at the expense of not achieving his aim of keeping Scotland part of the UK. In other words, the 'Better Together' campaign's main flaw is that its principal components (Labour, Conservative, LibDems) basically loathe each other and seem unable to put this loathing to one side in order to advance their joint desire to maintain Scotland within the UK. Darling and his Labour advisers and 'Better Together' partners really do need to develop a more credible position to enable them to answer Salmond's jibe (for that's all it was) with conviction - that of course Scotland could flourish as a separate country, but that they simply want to remain British. In other words, that the separation/independence debate should not solely be about economic and fiscal matters, but about emotion, too.

Apart from these two topics, which showed up glaringly the defects of both sides of this debate, there was nothing much more said that was not trivial or petty. Some of the audience participation on both sides was reasonably sensible, without in any way being anything other than naked propaganda for their chosen standpoints. The stand-out silly, unpleasant comment/question came from an independence supporter though. There is a thread (actually a dirty-great ship's traditional jute rope!) running through much separatist/independence rhetoric and that is that anyone who is not a supporter of their position is not a true Scot and is somehow a traitor. The stand-out comment which illustrated this attitude perfectly was from a lady who asked Darling in an aggressive and argumentative manner if he had an address in Scotland, seemingly expecting him to say no. Now, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I have absolutely no love for Labour, but have always thought that Darling is, for a Labour person, a reasonably decent and honest man and that he is so self-evidently Scottish that I don't think any rational person could seriously have posed the question that lady did, unless blinded by nationalist rhetoric; it is perfectly easy to establish that he has a home in Edinburgh and is of course the MP for a constituency in that city.

That's really all that needs to be said about last night's programme I think; I don't care for Bernard Ponsonby's presenting style, but he did a competent enough job in all fairness.

The general verdict of most commentators is I think that Darling won 'on points':
- Herald;
- Scottish Daily Record;
- Daily Telegraph;
- Guardian.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Obama: "We tortured some folks"

A pretty remarkable statement for any US President to make, even if it is long overdue and hedged about with many qualifications and "justifications":


A fuller version of his statement is on C-Span:


Although President Obama cautioned against being "too sanctimonious" he also stated that the US had "crossed a line" in some of the techniques - for example in 2009 soon after he took office he referred to some of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" favoured by the CIA (amongst them "waterboarding") by commenting "whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake". His latest comments on these techniques included the statement that "any fair-minded person would believe were torture".

Basically, in advance of the publication of a US Sentate report which is expected to criticise the CIA for its use of brutal abuse of terrorist suspects in its custody and moreover that such methods did not result in any life-saving intelligence. It seems also that CIA personnel have also been involved in spying on Congressional staff preparing the Senate report, something which CIA Director Brennan has already apologised for

Basically, the current US administration is now accepting that its predecessor used torture, something it has studiously avoided doing until now, for fear of the legal ramifications. Although I do not wish to criticise President Obama too heavily, for it is after all his administration that has (at long last!) acknowledged publicly what every objective observer around the world, including some in the US itself, has known or very strongly suspected for years. Nevertheless, President Obama's attempt to jutify or 'place in context' US actions do not really wash with me. The President has stated, for example:
- "It is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.";
- "It is important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent.";
- "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened.".

My reaction to these comments and statements is, to put it brutally frankly: STUFF AND NONSENSE! Torture is wrong. Period. No ifs or buts. No attempts at 'placing in context' are acceptable or justifiable!

Nevertheless, his remarks on Friday are very welcome, as they seem to indicate that the US as a nation is at last finding its way back to reality, rather than trying to rely on making up rules which flouted its international legal obligations:
- "When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques – techniques that I believe, and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture – we crossed a line.";
- "That needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that so hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.".

One suspects though that whilst the US no longer uses torture, at least since the current administration came to office, it is not part of President Obama's thinking for the US to atone for its earlier crimes under the Bush 43 administration. Will we see those responsible for authorising the use of torture by the US arraigned before the International Criminal Court in the Hague? I doubt it very much, unfortunately, but in an ideal world I would expect the criminals responsible to be held to account (principally President George W Bush, Vice-President Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Henry Rumsfeld plus no doubt some others slightly lower on the totem pole of power in the US at the time - the then current Director of Central Intelligence or later National Intelligence, for example, for running the agency which carried out or procured the carrying out of the torture); the verdict of history on this criminal period in US governance is I strongly suspect not in much doubt, whether the criminals responsible are made to pay for their crimes during their lifetimes or not.

To summarise my views about this whole lamentable affair, there is no justification whatsoever, under any circumstances, for torture under the relevant UN Convention on the matter (CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - you can read it here), although the US when signing the convention inserted a large number of qualifications - see here.

I have written about torture a number of times in the past, so won't repeat all I wrote here, but links to some of the articles most relevant to the latest US developments are linked below:
- Cheney tries to bury Vice-Presidential records (21 September 2008)
- "The Moral Maze" and "Torture" (23 July 2008);
- The truth about 'waterboarding' - it is torture (2 July 2008);
- The US under G W Bush and 'torture' (24 July 2007);
- Torture - is it ever justified? (20 March 2005).
(There are many later and earlier posts - simply put "Torture" into the search box at the top.)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Flying of St Andrew Saltire at Nairn cricket pitch

(Please see UPDATES at end)

I have earlier this evening written a message to the Highland Council (whose website is here) on the above-mentioned subject. I repeat the text below:

QUOTE
I have noticed for the past few years that a St Andrew Saltire flag has been flown permanently from a flagpole at the southern side of Nairn cricket pitch. By my recollection this practice started [only] a few years ago, during the period an SNP councillor was briefly Provost of Nairn, until “ousted” from this role by "Independent" colleagues; my home overlooks this venue, so I have been observing it closely for many years. Again by my recollection, prior to this time, no flag was flown over the cricket pitch except during the weeks immediately prior to the Nairn Highland Games (held during mid-Agusut), when it was a Union Flag. Please clarify why this policy has changed in very recent years?

In the run up to the referendum on Scottish "independence"/separation from the rest of the UK, to be held on 18th September 2014, I am sure that Highland Council would wish to appear strictly non-partisan in this important decision affecting all our futures. Or am I wrong? Is Highland Council strictly non-Partisan?

Or is it some other body that has authorised this change of flag-flying practice at Nairn cricket pitch in very recent years? Who might that be? I think I and some other Nairn residents would be interested to know.

(Note: as a proud Scot, I like to see our St Andrew Saltire flying from time to time and if year-round raising of this flag had been the normal practice at Nairn cricket pitch over the past several decades I probably would not have even remarked on it, but the fact is that its year-round flying is a very recent change.)

I am not even going to pretend I am neutral on this topic; I want Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK for short), but probably even now would not raise a query had the new practice of flying a St Andrew Saltire year-round been restricted only to the immediate weeks around the Nairn Highland Games. But it is obvious that this recent change of practice represents something different; why is our national flag the Union flag not also being flown?

I am posting this message simultaneously in my personal weblog:
http://billcameron.blogspot.com/ (i.e. this blog)
UNQUOTE

I shall be interested to observe what response I may receive, if any; naturally I will report on this here.

UPDATE (Wednesday 30JUL14 14.30 BST) I just had an email acknowledgement of my query, from Highland Council, allocating a case reference number and advising "We aim to deal with this case within 10 working days". Developments awaited.

2nd UPDATE (Monday 18AUG14 12.30 BST) As I have not heard further from Highland Council within the 10 days they mentioned in their acknowledgement to me, I have today emailed them asking them to expedite their response.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A Malaysian Airlines 'plane has been shot out of the sky over Ukraine!

On Thursday evening we had the shocking news that a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777, carrying 298 passengers and crew had crashed over the Donetsk area of eastern Ukraine. It was suggested that the aircraft had in fact been shot out of the sky, possibly either by a ground-to-air missile or by a jet fighter and today Barack Obama, President of the United States, announced that in all probability it was the result of the former, which he suggested originated in the pro-Russian rebel held eastern part of Ukraine. However, it appears that the Russian Government (or those perhaps acting on its behalf) have taken issue with certain aspects of how this outrage is being reported, by 'editing' the dedicated Wikipedia page for this incident, according to an article in the Telegraph. It may therefore be that establishing a widely-accepted analysis of what occurred will be very political as well as technical. The fact, however, that a British journalist working for the Russian government-funded RT television channel decided today to resign from her job because of what she alleges is political manipulation in the way this story is being reported is perhaps an indication that the Russian government has its "dirty hands" (e&oe) all over this! This Guardian report indicates that Ukraine rebel forces, thought to be responsible for this atrocity, are hastily covering up traces of their actions, whilst denying international access to key evidence which might establish the truth.

The Malaysian Airlines flight (MH17) was on a regular route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur; for around 100 of those passengers this was apparently to be merely a transit point for an onward flight to Australia where they were scheduled to attend an AIDS conference. Latest information is that around 200 of the passengers were of Dutch nationality, with nine or ten other nationalities represented, including Australian, British, Canadian and American. Apparently there were 10 British nationals aboard, according to the latest information I have seen.

It may be recalled that another Malaysian Airlines flight (MH370), flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing (edited on Monday 11th August 2014 - I had originally and erroneously mentioned this was a flight originating in Bangkok, I've no idea why I made this elementary mistake), disappeared some months ago, so far without trace, so the reason for its disappearance remains a mystery. This later incident is quite different in nature, but it seems that this may nevertheless be factored into potential future passengers' willingness to fly with this airline, to the extent that it is being suggested that it may not survive, given that it has apparently been loss-making for some years; many national or quasi-national airlines are loss-making, so Malaysian Airlines is not particularly unusual in this respect, but when potential customers begin to lose confidence in their likelihood of surviving a flight with it, the game is just perhaps up! Harsh undoubtedly, but understandable.

Finally, and distressingly (at a personal level), I had an exchange yesterday with a regular Twitter correspondent based locally (in Nairn) in the course of which he seemed to assume automatically that this whole tragedy was in fact a plot by the US and it was somehow responsible for it - a more deluded load of tosh I find it difficult to imagine! You can examine this whole exchange in my Twitter timeline if you have the inclination and stomach for it. I am under no illusions about the faults of US (specially under the last if not the current) administrations, but even the baleful Presidency of former President G W Bush had slightly more credibility than that of former KGB operative and current Russian President Vladimir Putin; I do occasionally watch the RT television 'propaganda' channel, but apart from sometimes interesting nature programmes, I place little credence in anything I see there. But those of a left-wing persuasion in the UK and US and some other western countries seem to be unusually gullible when it comes to the propaganda pumped out by the gangster regime which governs Russia. The resignation today of a British journalist at that channel is not the first time a western journalist working for it has found it impossible to continue to acquiesce in the lying propaganda it specialises in; only a few months ago another western journalist (of US origin on that occasion) reached her limit and decided she could no longer work for this outfit. Useful idiots have been a regular feature of those reporting or working for the former USSR and now the Russian Federation over many decades - it may not be the total "evil empire" alluded to by former US Presdient Ronald Reagan in a whimsical not-for-broadcast aside which was perhaps inadvertently spoken into a live microphone, but I am nevertheless amazed and appalled at the credulity of some left-leaning westerners who seem prepared to place credence in the most absurd notions concocted by the USSR/Russian propaganda machine, specially when it gives an opportunity to attribute the most base motives to their own [western] governments - I am not saying that western governments don't indulge in their own misinformation propaganda of course, I'm sure they do this regularly when it suits them, but is it too much to expect these left-wing stooges to apply a bit of critical analysis to the propaganda regularly pumped out by RT? I'm torn between disgust, despair and incredulity at the credulity of some of these people!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Two months tomorrow, Scotland will vote to remain in the UK!

.. or at least such is my fervent hope and, if one is to believe the regularly-published opinion polls, this is indeed likely to be the outcome of the referendum on Scotland's continuance as a component part of the United Kingdom to be held on 18th September 2014.

But it would be very unwise to be complacent. Everyone who is eligible to vote should do so, whichever way you choose to vote. The higher the percentage of eligible voters who exercise their right to vote the more accurate and credible will be the result.

I am very clear where I stand on this issue; I want Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom, so I shall be voting "no" in the referendum. I am British and I wish to remain British. Obviously I am also Scottish, but I see no conflict (whatsoever) between being British and Scottish - they are almost if not entirely the same - I expect most of my English, Welsh and Northern Irish co-citizens feel more or less the same. Hopefully on 19th September we can all of us look forward to a continuing future as British citizens.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

European Parliament Election 22 May 2014 - Scotland Region candidates

The nominations for the European Parliament Election to be held in the UK on Thursday 22nd May 2014 are now closed and the candidates from the Scotland Region are as follows (listed in alphabetic order by Party):

(#) - indicates a candidate with an address in Scotland
(*) - indicates a candidate with an address outside Scotland


Britain First (Defending the Union 2014)
Dowson, James (*)
Randall, John Arthur (*)
Fransen, Jayda Kaleigh (*)
Clynch, Geoffrey (*)
Clynch, Margaret Dorothy (*)
Shepherd, Jane Susan (*)

British National Party (Because we can make Scotland better)
McDonald, Kenneth (#)
Orr, David James (#)
McKenzie Victoria (*)
Matthys, Angus Jim (*)
Stafford, Paul Brandy (*)
Fleming, Stacey Jayne (*)

Conservative Party (Scottish Conservatives Vote No to Independence)
Duncan, Ian (#)
Don, Belinda (#)
Mobarik, Nosheena (#)
Gardiner, Jamie (#)
McGill, Iain (#)
McIntyre, Stuart ((#)

Labour Party
Martin, David (#)
Stihler, Catherine (#)
Munn, Derek (#)
Murray, Katrina (#)
Khan, Asim (#)
O'Brien, Kirsty (*)

Liberal Democrats (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
Lyon, George (#)
Jardine, Christine (#)
Brodie, Richard John (#)
Holden, Jade Elizabeth (#)
Mathers, Siobhan Helenor (#)
Davidson, Euan Robert (#)

NO2EU (Yes to Workers’ Rights)
Foster, John Odell (#)
Elliott, Andrew (#)
Maclean, Murdo (#)
Morrow, Gail (#)
Smith, Brian (#)
Veitch, Richard Edward (#)

Scottish Green Party
Chapman, Maggie (#)
Booth, Chas (#)
Murray, Grace Alice (*)
Whitelaw, Alastair (#)
Thomas, Anne Katherine (#)
Parish, Steen William (#)

Scottish National Party (SNP) (Make Scotland’s Mark in Europe)
Hudghton, Ian (#)
Smith, Alyn (#)
Ahmed-Sheikh, Tasmina (#)
Gethins, Stephen (#)
Giugliano, Toni (#)
Stephens, Chris (#)

UK Independence Party (UKIP)
Coburn, David Adam (*)
Newton, Kevin Andrew (#)
Inglis, Otto (#)
Baykal, Denise Mary (#)
Hatrick, Hugh (#)
MacKay, Malcolm George-Eric (#)

Some observations:

- the candidates are in list order and MEPs from all Parties will be elected, if any are elected from that Party, in the order in which they appear in that Party's list;

- my perhaps cynical view is that candidates whose listed address is not in Scotland are purely 'paper candidates', certainly when they are placed lower in a Party's list; where such candidates are at the top of a Party's list it is an indication (in my opinion) of their expectation of not gaining a seat. Incidentally in the case of Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections I also hold the firm view that candidates need to have addresses in (or close to) the parliamentary or regional constituencies they hope to represent and regard candidates who don't as 'paper' candidates only, as I look askance at candidates who have quite obviously been 'parachuted in' simply so that a Party has a name or names standing for election.

- at the European Parliament Election in 2009, the 6 MEPs from Scotland, in the order of total votes received by the Parties concerned, represented Scottish National Party (2), Labour (2), Conservative (1), Liberal Democrats (1); none of the other Parties which stood in 2009 received sufficient votes to have an MEP elected (in strict order of the total votes received - Green Party, UK Independence Party, British National Party, Socialist Labour Party, Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship", Scottish Socialist Party, Independent - Duncan Robertson, No2EU - Yes to Democracy, Jury Team). In 2009 there were no changes in Party representation from the previous European Parliament election in 2004;

- the existing MEPs from the 2009 election from the Scottish National Party (2), Labour (2) and Liberal Democrats (1) are standing in the top positions in their respective lists in 2014. The existing Conservative (1) MEP is standing down and is likely to be replaced by the current top-listed candidate for that Party (in my opinion), unless one of the other Parties supplants it;

- in 2009 there were 12 Party/Independent candidates, in 2014 there are 9, which is an improvement given that there are only 6 MEP positions available from Scotland, so there are at least fewer completely ridiculous and spurious candidates, even if there are still 1 or 2 who have little hope of electoral success in this election, in my opinion, but it is those Parties'/Candidates' 'time'/'money' to waste and their 'democratic right' to stand, so good luck to them all.

You can visit the Highland Council main EP election page here, which links to The City of Edinburgh Council website here, as it is they who are coordinating the candidates list for the Scottish Region constituency, and from there one may download the full candidates list (in .pdf format) that I have summarised above. I have also uploaded the same .pdf list to my own website and you may download it here too.

My earlier post about the upcoming European Parliament election is here.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

European Parliament Election 22 May 2014 - Nominations open

(Please see the UPDATE at the end)

The next election for the European Parliament (EP) will take place between Thursday 22nd May and Sunday 25th May; in the UK the polling day is Thursday 22nd May.

The UK elects 73 members of the EP (MEPs), with the country divided into 12 electoral regions (9 for England and 1 each for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The 'Scotland Region' elects 6 MEPs. There is a useful Wikipedia page which explains all this in greater detail here.

Candidate nominations opened at 10am on Tuesday 15th April and remain open until 4pm on Thursday 24th April 2014. The Highland Council website has a page providing basic information and links (one of which currently does not work) as follows:
- Highland Council main EP election page is here;
- the 'Notice of Election' with details of how to lodge nominations for the 'Scotland Region' are here (.pdf file).

Full results of the last EP election in 2009 are in the BBC website here.

In my own little blog, I published a few articles on the last EP elections, to which you can find links below if you are interested:
- Is freedom of speech only for those people one happens to agree with? (10JUN2009);
- European elections - my thoughts on the final results (10JUN2009);
- European Parliament elections - rolling results (7JUN2009);
- European Parliament elections - 7 Jun - day 4 (7JUN2009);
- European Parliament elections - 6 Jun - day 3 (6JUN2009);
- European Parliament elections - 5 Jun - day 2 (5JUN2009);
- The moment the polls closed - the knives are out for Brown! (4JUN2009);
- European Parliament elections - 4 June - day 1 (4JUN2009);
- The European Elections voting marathon explained (3JUN2009);
- European Parliament elections - June 2009 (25MAY2009) - election literature received by me.

UPDATE (Thursday 24APR2014 22.43 BST) Nominations are now closed and I have posted a further article here, with full details of all candidates for the Scotland Region.