Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 31 August 2008

SNP suspends a Glasgow councillor

Jahangir Hanif has been suspended by the SNP; his 'crime' (indeed he has in fact committed no crime of any kind, as is admitted and accepted by the SNP and presumably, more importantly, by the security services) is to have been filmed firing a kalashnikov rifle whilst on a family holiday in Pakistan. There appears to be no suggestion that he was in any way involved in any kind of terrorist 'training' activity, but the SNP doesn't like firearms, so it opines.

Mr Hanif has apologised for his 'gaffe'; really this kind of incident illustrates to me just what an authoritarian crowd the SNP might turn out to be if they ever got a hold of sovereign power in Scotland. Presumably there are some Scots currently serving in the military, or to be strictly accurate residents of Scotland, who happen to support the political ideas of the SNP and who from time to time are called upon to wield a loaded firearm and to fire it, possibly in the presence of children - Iraq and Afghanistan spring to mind. Now, whatever view one may take of the involvement of our military in these conflicts, is the SNP seriously suggesting that any soldier who is also a member of the SNP risks being suspended from his party membership? Complete madness, in my opinion. I think Mr Hanif and the SNP deserve each other!

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Where was I when ... ?

(Please see UPDATE at end)

There's been one of these 'meme' thingies running around the British 'blogosphere' for the past couple of days seeking to get people to write about where they were when certain events took place, some of more importance than others, but all iconic in their own ways. I haven't been 'tagged' to do it by anyone, but am I going to let a small detail like that hold me back? No way, so here goes:

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
I was sitting at the desk in my study, cross-checking data in my PC for my tax return, with the television on up on the wall (it's on a wall-bracket in that room) when the broadcast was interrupted by a newsflash that a 'plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York; it was thought to be be a 'small' 'plane, but as we watched we saw the second 'plane fly into the other tower. It was obvious this was no accident - initial speculation was that it might be domestic terrorism (Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had been executed exactly 3 months before on 11th June), but pretty soon this was discounted and the focus shifted to al-qa'ida. After my initial shock I 'phoned the local Conservative constituency office (I was still vice-Chairman at the time, but in the process of contemplating resignation and leaving the Party) and suggested they switch on the television in the upstairs office; I explained briefly what had happened and said I thought it would have major implications and 'a lot of things would change' as a result. Incidentally the bank for which I used to work had its main New York office in the WTC, but not in either of the two main towers, but instead in one of the low-rise buildings in the complex; it was evacuated with no loss of life, although was destroyed when the two towers fell about an hour later. The announcement of Iain Duncan Smith's election as Leader was delayed from the Tuesday until the Thursday (13th September) because of the attacks, and I resigned from the Party the following Monday after agonising over the weekend.

Princess Diana's death - 31st August 1997
I was up very late this Saturday night, watching something on the television (don't remember what, but it was on a BBC channel), when the programme was interrupted by a newsflash that she had been involved in a serious accident in Paris; I continued watching until her death was confirmed a few hours later. Then I went to bed. Although I was sad at her death, I did not get in any way emotional about it and was confused and somewhat disgusted by the public reaction which built up over the next few days; I could not understand why Her Majesty the Queen had to hot-tail it back down to London - I realised then, for the first time (though not the last) how out of touch I was with British public opinion - I knew what was going on, I just didn't share public sentiments in any way. When I lived in Paris, some years earlier, I had sometimes gone home through the Alma Tunnel, but didn't do it often because I didn't like the bend as you descend from the place de la Concorde end, so I knew what a treacherous little tunnel this is; I always parked my car in the underground car park in the place Vendôme, where the Ritz Hotel is located, because our office was very close by, so I knew the whole area intimately and had eaten lunch occasionally in the hotel.

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation - 22nd November 1990
I lived in Abu Dhabi at the time and so far as I recall I was up in Dubai at the time for a couple of days on business (a lot of my clients wished to squirrel away their considerable liquid assets - I was a 'private banker' then - in more secure parts of the world, so I was extremely busy); I think I saw a report on the television in my hotel bedroom. As Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq a few months before and the build-up to war was starting in earnest I had other things on my mind, quite frankly, although I did at the time equate her political 'assasination' with what had happened to Chamberlain at the start of WWII and thought how typically British was this kind of action in the midst of a military build-up, although I was fully behind what was happening as I always thought she should have bowed out after the 1987 election; it was after this that she went off the rails, having been an excellent PM until then.

England's World Cup Semi Final against Germany - 4 July 1990
I have 'zero' interst in football so have no particular recollection; I might have been on a business trip in the UK or Hong Kong at the time (from Abu Dhabi).

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
I was 11 years old at the time; I had just started at secondary school a few months earlier. I was watching television in my usual spot in the kitchen, next to the Raeburn (a Scottish version of an Aga) after tea and before going off to do my homework when the programme on BBC was interrupted to say Kennedy had been shot in Dallas; the Cuba missile crisis had only been the year before so I was well aware of who he was. The first television pictures, I think, were the next day via Telstar II, the second satellite used for trans-altantic broadcasts; it was not geo-stationary, so pictures could only be received/tranmitted for about 15 or 20 minutes during every orbit of about 90 minutes; I had watched with great excitement the first live trans-atlantic broadcast only about a year earlier using Telstar I.

UPDATE: (Thursday 4SEP08 09.35 BST) I've just noticed, through a recent visit recorded by my site stats that I was in fact 'tagged' to do this by David at Freedom & Whisky - you can see his post on the subject here)

Monday 25 August 2008

Boris at the party - magnificent!

Fortuitously I read the comments for this post chez Mr Eugenides, otherwise I might have missed this bravura performance by London Mayor Boris Johnson at the post Olympic Games closing ceremony 'handover' celebratory party. Even Gordon Brown seemed to be thoroughly enjoying Boris's seemingly-extemporaneous, but probably carefully-crafted, discourse.

I did however see a part of Brown's own speech at the same gathering, because that's what the BBC was dutifully plugging on its news buletins (on BBC World at least - which is what I was watching here in Spain at the time). No doubt the man means well, and if he'd stopped at the 1'41" mark it would have been fine, but he went on; just look at Seb Coe's face and even David Beckham's - the 'groaning' was of a quite different nature (i.e. 'when will this end?') to what it had been during Boris's tour de force.

(I note that Boris's speech was in fact considerably longer (at 4'11") than Gordon's (at 2'47"), but it seemed quite the reverse.)

Hoy rubbishes idea of Scottish Olympics team

(Please see UPDATES at end)

Chris Hoy, winner of 4 gold medals and 1 silver medal at various Olympic Games, as well as being both British and Scottish has rubbished in no uncertain terms the demands by SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') ministers for there to be a separate Scottish team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London:

Referring to comments made by Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell, Hoy said: "I think he needs to focus on some more pressing priorities,” said Hoy.

"Before there are any discussions of Scotland going it alone at the Olympics, he would have to look at the facilities and the resources which have been put into Scotland in the first place.

"We don’t have an international facility for cycling and we don’t have the coaching structures in place. In fact, we don’t have anything in place, so the whole idea is ridiculous. I’ve not lived in Scotland for nine years because there is nowhere for me to train. I’m a Scottish athlete but I’m proud to perform in a British team."

Similar comments have been made by another British 'Olympian' of Scottish origin, David Florence, silver medallist in the canoeing slalom:

"It’s a non-starter and he should consult athletes first before he comments. Scotland would have to build a new slalom course first and they would have to build a velodrome.

"I am very proud to be Scottish, to have been born in Aberdeen and have Edinburgh as my home town. But I am also very proud to represent Great Britain and everything that stands for, which is not just Scotland.

"I’m as proud to wear the union jack as I am the saltire. I don’t have a problem separating my pride in being a Scot from being British at the same time."

It is indeed pleasing to see some common sense from a couple of fine British (and Scottish) sportsmen, rather than the mindless political propaganda that flows from the SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government')!

Speaking of his desire to see a Scottish team at the Olympic Games, Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell said:

"If you look at Jamaica, a small island nation, they won gold, silver and bronze in the women's sprint, they've got world records, they've won the men's, the women's 100 and 200 metres and the relay.

"This is an exceptionally brilliant nation - at the same time a small nation. Scotland can compete on the world stage - we proved that in the Olympics - and a Scottish team at the Olympics is the future."

Asked what Mr Maxwell would say to those Scots who would rather see Scotland's athletes play a big role in Team GB, Mr Maxwell replied: "What I would say to them, do Irish athletes want to rejoin the UK and be part of the UK team?

"Do we want to get rid of the GB team and have a European team because a European team would sweep the board?

"So I think you have to think about whether or not it's appropriate in the level you represent your own country in. I think it's quite right you represent your own country."

I have quoted at some length what Mr Maxwell said, because whilst I disagree profoundly with his views on this matter I do not feel the need to run away from his arguments. The whole question, Mr Maxwell, is whether our fellow Scots wish to separate themselves from their present political arrangements with England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the UK and whether they are prepared in sufficient numbers to express that desire by voting in a majority for 'independence' in any referendum held on the matter. Or indeed if they wish to see further integration in Europe, such that all sportspeople from EU member states compete as one team in the Olympic Games. If they are, then your argument will have been won and presumably Scotland would then set up all the institutions of a fully-fledged separate country, such as the Republic of Ireland or Norway and no doubt that will include a separate team to compete in the Olympic Games. Would the SNP win such a referendum, though? I tend to doubt it myself, because there simply are not enough Scots sufficiently aroused by the issue to make them want to change their lives fundamentally. Most Scots are proud to be so, I certainly am! However, I am also British and am quite happy, and determined, to remain so. I have no difficulty distinguishing between the two sentiments, any more than David Florence does. As for the 'red herring' about one single EU team, well I think we all know how favourably such a proposal would be received by the majority of people in the UK or any of its constituent parts (not a view I entirely share, but I am above all a democrat and a realist).

Desperate attempts by the SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') to use every event touching on relations between Scotland and England within the UK to try and sow discord, render them frankly boring in their obsessiveness - sort of like the political version of Tourette's syndrome or indeed OCD - they just can't let it alone. The Scots are a free people already and most of them are pretty sensible and level-headed individuals. If they want 'separation' or 'indpendence' or whatever you want to call it from the UK then rest assured they will vote for it. Personally I think it would be a far better test of whether our fellow Scots want this to happen if there were a mjaority of MPs elected to Westminster representing the SNP point of view. In other words the SNP needs at least 30 MPs at Westminster before I will have any confidence that this is what people in Scotland really want, rather than just being manipulated into some kind of decision in a referendum, by the shameless propaganda of people such as Maxwell or Alex Salmond (even if Gordon Brown is an easy target right now); Salmond is certainly a master political strategist, but 'con-men' and 'charlatans' usually have great PR skills and I would be the last to deny that Mr Salmond has those in spades!. (And before any SNP supporter takes umbrage, I do not suggest in any way that Mr Salmond is actually a 'con-man' or a 'charlatan' - these are figures of speech for someone who has, undeniably, the 'gift of the gab', as our Irish cousins would say.)

UPDATE: (Wednesday 27AUG08 16.35 RST) Well, this issue continues to rumble on in blogland - Richard Thomson trumpets what Chris Hoy, according to that 'journal of record' The Daily Record, really thinks of the idea of having a Scottish team at the Olympic Games; naturally I wouldn't quarrel with what that august newspaper reports him as saying, but I would just highlight one small part of what he is supposed to have said:

And he said he believes Scotland could form a world-class team - with the right investment in sports. (Reported speech only, no direct quotation)

And that really is the crux of the issue; could Scotland, as a nation, afford to put in place the training facilities someone like Hoy requires? Or would he have to continue to do his actual training elsewhere? Just as, I expect, many sportspeople from smaller (or less wealthy) countries take themselves off to places such as the US or Australia (or indeed England) where they are likely to find better facilities to allow them to maximise their native potential. And does any of this matter? For as Richard Thomson says:

"In the end, we come back to the fact that most athletes probably are more concerned with their sport than politics; that they are in the main proud to compete for whoever; and that what people see as the merits or otherwise of a Scottish Olympic team vis-a-vis 'Team GB' is largely a matter of conjecture and personal preference."

All very reasonable and I think pretty uncontroversial, given our deeply differing views on the basic question - the merits or otherwise of Scotland continuing to function as one of the two founding nations of the 'United Kingdom'. However, as I was linked by Richard for what I said above, I am happy to observe that whilst I quoted Chris Hoy's actual comments completely faithfully I am happy to acknowledge that the title of this post "Hoy rubbishes idea of Scottish Olympics team" perhaps over-egged the pudding a little, even if it would have made for a more cumbersome and less catchy title to have amplified it thus: "Hoy rubbishes idea of Scottish Olympics team until and unless the investment is made in Scotland to provide the level of facilities he needs to train to the highest competitive level". Chris Hoy did after all say of Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell's calls for a Scottish team at the Olymic Games: "I think he needs to focus on some more pressing priorities". Frankly, I couldn't agree more! Will the SNP let this topic alone, or any other where they think they can gain further leverage for their obsession with 'independence'? I doubt it very much. The basic argument has not gone away though and supporters of the continuance of the UK, like me, will require to maintain vigilance to combat the idea that the SNP and its supporters would have us believe that the ending of the UK is, with the presence of a minority SNP Executive (aka 'Government') at Holyrood, somehow inevitable. It is not - and the idea should never be allowed to take root, or go unchallenged, that it is. The time to discuss Scotland having its own team at the Olympic Games will be after a referendum has been won by the SNP to take Scotland out of the UK, if that ever happens; until such time it is premature, to put it mildly.

2nd UPDATE: (Wednesday 27AUG08 22.55 RST) It seems I have been much too generous in accepting at face value what Mr Hoy is said to have said to The Daily Record! It seems the quotes used were somewhat 'selective'! Here's a link to a Record article; I'll now repeat all the direct quotes attributed to Chris Hoy, just for the record:

"I was proud to represent Scotland in the Commonwealth Games.

"That's something I will always cherish.

"Scotland is part of Britain - they are not mutually exclusive. I'm a proud Scot and I'm a very proud Brit as well.

"For him (Scottish sports minister Stewart Maxwell) to call for a Scottish Olympic team at this stage is ridiculous.

"I wouldn't have three gold medals hanging round my neck if Iwasn't part of the British team."

Just to be clear, The Daily Record is not a publication that I read (or wish to read); indeed, before her eyesight deteriorated to the extent (as a result of the infamous macular degeneration) that she can no longer read newspapers of any kind, I banned my own mother from bringing her Daily Record into my home whenever she visited (I know, I must sound like a complete tyrant and a horrible son, and I accept to some extent the former, but I think I can state confidently that my mother would dispute hotly the latter), so quoting from that publication as I have done in this 2nd update can be put down to force majeure, something that will certainly require a good shower before bedtime! It is now even clearer to me than it was before that however 'reasonable' some SNP supporters or apologists may be (and Richard Thomson has certainly always seemed to me to be pretty level-headed, whilst having a very different viewpoint to the one I hold), it is necessary always to be on one's guard; they are fighting a 'war' and so must we, who support our country the United Kingdom; none of this should be taken to mean, or to imply, that I am not very happy and proud to be a Scot as well as British, because I am happy to be both and find absolutely no contradiction in this.

Friday 22 August 2008

Police State Britain - attempts at illegal intimidation

Here is a startling example of two Metropolitan Police Officers (perhaps they were 'Community Police', but their yellow hi-vi jackets bear the logo of the Met) attempting to inditimidate a member of the public into stopping him making a video recording in the street. There is no law in Britain which forbids the taking of still or moving pictures in any public place by anyone who cares to. The situation is quite different when one is in what is deemed to be 'private property', but a public thoroughfare does not fall into this category. At the beginning you will see one of the police officers (the one who speaks the most, the other one remains alsmost silent throughout the whole encounter) attempt physically to stop the filming and when challenged why he has 'assaulted' the camera-holder reels off a string of meaningless verbiage. At one one, later in the account, when again challencged to justify why he is attempting to stop the filming and under which law, he responds "Shut Up!". He suggests, bizarrely, at one point that the filming is 'suspicious' because the person doing the filming is not a tourist, implying that for a tourist to do it would not be 'suspicious'.

When it became quite clear the two policemen weren't going to be able to intimidate the person into stopping filming, they walked away. Surely the police, of all people, should know the law and what they may or may not do legitimately? No doubt there will be cases when it will be a fine judgement whether an offence is being committed, but this is not one of those cases. It is quite clearly an attempt by the police to take the law into their own hands with no justification whatsoever. See what you think:

It requires a certain amount of courage, and a reasonable understanding of the law, to stand up to authority when challenged. It is necessary sometimes for citizens to make very clear that actions by figures of authority which go beyond lawful limits will not be tolerated.
(thru the devil's kitchen in turn through Tom Paine of The Last Ditch)

Spain mourns victims of the aircrash at Barajas Madrid airport

Madrid yesterday declared three days of mourning in memory of the 153 killed in the Spanair air disaster at Barajas Airport Madrid. Madrid Council also observed five minutes of silence in the Plaza de Cibeles yesterday.

So far 49 of the 153 victims of the crash have been identified by forensics teams and it is hoped to identify the remainder over the course of the next few days. It is hoped to hold an official funeral sometime next week for all the victims, once all or most of them have been identified.

I offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who perished in this disaster.

I hope too that at least some of the few who survived the crash will be able to recover from their injuries, some of which I understand to have been extremely severe.

Monday 18 August 2008

Romance and the art of wooing, Australian outback style

The mayor of a remote town in northern Queensland has a novel way of trying to restore the severe gender imbalance in the local population. No doubt there will be thousands, and if not thousands then hundreds, and if not hundreds then tens - OK, perhaps there'll be a few lovelies from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and other points south who will flock to the town in the hope of finding a husband. Which among them could resist this sales-pitch?

Mayor of Mount Isa (Queensland), John Molony:

"Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face. Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness. Some, in other places in Australia, need to proceed to Mount Isa where happiness awaits. Really, beauty is only skin deep. Isn't there a fairy tale about an ugly duckling that evolves into a beautiful swan."

I'm sure you'll agree this is pretty heroic stuff! Perhaps poorly expressed, but the gender imbalance does seem pretty extreme (819 females aged 20-24 out of a total population of 21,421) and poverty is obviously not the problem, as the place sits above "one of the world's biggest underground mines", but I daresay the remoteness and harsh climate is a difficulty. All joking apart though, maybe someone needs to help the mayor refine his ideas, rather than simply laugh him down - he's obviously only trying to improve the local situation for young men in the area, not to mention the long-term viability of settlement there.

Pakistan and its topsy-turvy politics

We really are in 'Alice in Wonderland' territory here; President Musharraf of Pakistan has just announced he will resign in the face of impeachment attempts, over charges he violated the constitution and for 'gross misconduct' whatever that means in this context. Official Pakistani 'English' is a gloriously majestic and archaic thing; I remember a long time ago listening to the then President of Pakistan declaring the objectives behind their military action against rebels in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and how the 'miscreants' would be quelled; this never happened, largely because the Indian government declined to allow over-flights across its territory so the Pakistani military had to take the long route south around the tip of India.

Well of course he violated the Constitution! He took power originally by means of a [bloodless] military coup, whilst he was the military supremo of the country. His conduct since then has been to change the rules to 'justify' him remaining in power (see the time-line in the linked story). If and when his resignation becomes effective, then we will know he has actually relinquished power. Whether whoever comes after will be better or worse, only time will tell.

Open justice in Scotland?


Friday 15 August 2008

What kind of wine are you?

My first quiz 'thingie' in quite a while; the result for me is pretty accurate, I'd say, specially the bit about being sophisticated (but if you were really sophisticated, you wouldn't have remarked on it - Ed.)

You Are Pinot Noir

Sophisticated and worldly, you probably know more about wine than most drinkers.
You have great taste, and you approach all aspects of life with a gourmet attitude.
You believe that the little things in life should be cherished and enjoyed... and of the best quality possible.
And while you may take more time to eat a meal or tour a city, it's always time well spent.
Deep down you are: A seductive charmer
Your partying style: Refined. And you would never call it "partying"
Your company is enjoyed best with: Stinky expensive cheese

(thru Much Ado About Monty..., in turn thru Tom's Place, in turn thru - it's an internet meme, it goes back a long way I expect!)

Thursday 14 August 2008

Flags flying in the Netherlands

Well, I am now safely ensconced in my house in Spain, arriving here in the middle of Monday-night/Tuesday-morning; the flight into Alicante (from Maastricht-Aachen) arrived bang on schedule at 11.30pm and my luggage was delivered fairly rapidly. However, I then had to stand in the queue to get my rental car and whilst there were two counter-staff on duty at the company I am using, one had to leave the office on a couple of occasions to sort out problems for previous renters. In any case, by about 1am I was on my way, arriving here at about 2.30am (ouch!) - the sensible thing would have been to get off to bed more or less immediately, but I was too 'hyper' to do that, so ended up unpacking my suitcases and getting some other things out of boxes and storing it all away, then I read for a while in bed before finally putting the light off at at 4.10am . Oh, did I mention there was no water when I arrived? There was power, though, so I was able to put the air-conditioning on as it was still very warm, probably about 26 degC outside and several degrees higher inside. Up again at about 7.30am, surprisingly refreshed and apart from a brief nap in the afternoon, made it through the day and evening more or less normally. However, I had a good sleep on Tuesday night!

My journey from Scotland began last Wednesday morning (6th August) with a flight down to London Luton from Inverness, with a delayed departure of about 90 minutes, but as I had such a long time to wait for my Amsterdam flight at Luton, it made no difference to my connecting flight, which left on schedule. After a lengthy walk through Amsterdam airport (and a scrum waiting to get through passport control), I got a train (clean and, of course it being the Netherlands, absolutely bang on schedule) for Sittard in the Limburg region in the far south of the country, not far from Maastricht and by just after 10pm was sitting in my brother and sister-in-law's house. The next five days were given over to entertaining and parties, with an excursion onto the water on my brother's boat, mainly to celebrate his 60th birthday and their fifth wedding anniversary, as well as her birthday, which all fall withing about a month of each other. Today 14th August is in fact his actual birthday, although the celebrations were held last weekend so as many as possible could be there (roughly 80 people attended the main party in the village hall last Saturday evening) and as it's the custom in the Netherlands to fly flags outside homes to mark significant events in the lives of the families who live there, my brother and sister-in-law followed this very nice tradition, as the photograph taken of the front of their house last weekend shows:

To celebrate a 60th birthday, a 5th wedding anniversary
and a birthday

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not a supporter of Scottish independence/separation from the UK so I would of course have flown the Union Flag, rather than the Scottish 'Saltire', although I am just as proud of my 'Scottishness' as I am of my 'Britishness', just as I expect most English, Welsh and Northern Irish people are proud of their respective heritages too. However, my brother used to live in the Westminister constituency of Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and currently First Minister of Scotland and there is no doubt that his voting history is one of the reasons for the handsome majorities that Mr Salmond has achieved both as an MP in Westminster and latterly as an MSP in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, even though like Sean Connery he has chosen not to live in the country whose political separation from its current arrangements he supports; this is just a friendly brotherly 'dig', of course - and shows that within families there are healthily differing viewpoints on many matters without affecting the basic friendliness of our relationship. Happy Birthday!

The UK government and the Lisbon Treaty

I signed a petition on the Number 10 website a while back suggesting that the Government abandon the Lisbon Treaty in the wake of the Irish 'No' vote in their referendum; the petition was in the following terms:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to respect the result of the Irish referendum and abandon the attempt to ratify the Lisbon Treaty."

Details of Petition:

"The Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty has resulted in a decisive no vote. However, politicians across Europe are calling for the ratification of the Treaty to go ahead. The British Government are planning to put the Lisbon Treaty to its third and final reading in the Lords next Wednesday 18 June. This would complete its ratification in the UK. We believe that the Prime Minister should respect the result of the Irish referendum and abandon the attempt to ratify the Lisbon Treaty."

The Government have now responded as follows:

In the UK, the Lisbon Treaty has now completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament in the UK following 25 days of debate. The Bill received Royal Assent on 19 June and the UK ratified the treaty on 16 July.

We believe the treaty would be good for the UK and good for the EU. This treaty adjusts existing treaties, in the same way as previous EU amending treaties.

However, European treaty change rightly requires unanimity across all EU Member States. That is why the ‘no’ vote on the treaty in the Irish referendum on 12 June is important, and needs to be respected.

As the Foreign Secretary made clear in the House of Commons on 16 June:

"The rules of the treaty and the EU are clear. All 27 Member States must ratify the treaty for it to come into force. …There is no question of ignoring the Irish vote or bulldozing Irish opinion. Ireland clearly cannot be bound by changes which it has not ratified. Equally there is no appetite for a return to years of institutional negotiation. The EU as a whole needs to find a way forward for all countries that allows the EU to focus on the big policy issues that confront us."

The Irish government has made it clear that they need time to analyse the result and its implications, and to consult widely at home and abroad. At the European Council on 19/20 June, EU Heads of State and Government agreed with the Irish Government’s proposal that they should reflect on the result of the referendum and then submit a report to the European Council in October. In the meantime the Council, including Ireland, has noted that the ratification processes are continuing in all of the other Member States

The Government STILL does not want to accept what has happened! It is really very simple; most referenda are advisory, not compuslory, on a Government [the Irish government in this instance]; the Irish government could probably go ahead and ratify the Treaty, despite the 'no' verdict of the Irish people, but it knows that to do so would most likely be disastrous for its electoral prospects in a future election. Although our Foreign Secretary plays 'lip service' to the fact that, legally, the EU cannot proceed without unanimous ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, it is equally clear that the Irish government is being put under pressure to find some way of ratifying it - the continuation of the ratification process in other countries such as the UK, despite the Irish 'no' vote, is clear enough evidence of of what is being planned and worked towards. What does the Irish government need to analyse? That is 'euphemism' for what is likely to be a sustained domestic propaganda exercise within Ireland to try and persuade the Irish people to change their minds to a view more akin to the European Commission's desire to continue 'willy-nilly' with implementation of the [already rejected by France and the Netherlands] European Constitutional Treaty, thinly but unconvincingly disguised as a 'Reform Treaty', known colloquially as the Lisbon Treaty.

Baldly stated, a major country such as France (and to some extent the Netherlands) could not be pushed around; one of the smaller countries such as Ireland is an entirely different matter. It has after all happened before; the Irish initially rejected the Nice Treaty, but were later persuaded to go ahead with it when sections affecting Ireland's military neutrality were rewritten. As Irish objections to the Lisbon Treaty are much wider, there is considerable doubt that a similar volte face can be achieved. Similarly, Danish voters initially rejected the Maastricht Treaty, but were later persuaded to accept it when four 'opt-outs' were proposed by the Edinburgh Agreement.

It appears that in practice, and despite what David Miliband may want us to believe, different rules apply when a piece of EU legislation is rejected by one of the 'smaller' member states; after all, no-one seriously proposed trying to get the French to change their minds after their rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty; if the Netherlands alone had rejected it, no doubt matters might have been different.

As I never tire of pointing out I am fundamentally in favour of the EU and its further integration; however, that does not mean I want to see this happen against the wishes of significant numbers of its peoples as the European Commission, aided and abetted by most EU member state governments, seems determined to do. Whatever legislation is proposed for further EU integration should be readily comprehensible by most EU citizens who have an interest in informing themselves about it. My fundamental objection to both the European Constitutional Treaty and the European Reform Treaty (aka 'Lisbon Treaty') is the extreme complexity of these documents, seemingly almost designed with the intent of making it very difficult for ordinarily intelligent and interested people, such as me, to grasp the scope of these peices of legislation. I am probably one of the few people I know who is confident he understood the scope of the European Constitutional Treaty, and that because I studied it closely over a prolonged period, but I must confess that the 'hot-potch' that is the European Reform Treaty (aka 'Lisbon Treaty') was even less easy to understand, despite my best efforts, but people a lot more expert than me (for example the principal author of the European Constitutional Treaty, former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing) believe the effect of the two documents to be almost indistinguishable. The type of document that should be aimed for, in my opinion, is a relatively short and relatively easy to understand document such as the US Constition, a document that has provided the fundamental legal framework for one of the greatest nations in human history and which has required only 27 amendments so far in the roughly two and a quarter centuries since it was ratified; I cannot believe it is beyond the wit of legal draftspersons working for the European Commission to come up with something equally transparent and long-lasting, even given the unusual brilliance and clear-sightedness of those who drafted the US Constition.

Monday 4 August 2008

Nairn to Spain (via the Netherlands)

I'm away for about a month beginning Wednesday, intially to the Netherlands for some family celebrations (birthdays and an anniversary), then at the beginning of next week on to Spain, where I'll be until early September. For only the second time since I moved to Nairn from Culloden (near Inverness) in 2000, I shall be away during the Nairn Highland Games weekend, so hope that this year there will be better weather here than there was (especially) two years ago and last year, too, when it wasn't much better (the last occasion I took photographs was in August 2005, and I got some reasonably OK photographs in 2004, too).

Anyway, the theme of this post is 'Nairn to Spain', so here are some photographs of the two places I call 'home':

'Chez moi' in Nairn
- Click on any image to see an enlargement -

Mi casa en España
- Click on any image to see an enlargement -

I shall be taking a laptop with me, so whilst there may be a 'hiatus' until next Tuesday, until after I've arrived in Spain from the Netherlands, after that I should be able to resume my usual [recent] level of sporadic posting. However, I have quite a lot of things to do today before I can contenplate getting on that 'plane early tomorrow [Wednesday] morning ...

(PS/ Whilst the time-stamp for this posting is late on Monday evening, it was in fact published early on Tuesday, the delay as a result of a software 'glitch' when uploading images to the Blogger host, resolved since I went to bed it seems)

The pulse of a nation

An amazing visual representation of the activities in, over and around Britain is shown in a short video clip being used as a trailer for a forthcoming series on BBC1 television fronted by the ubiquitous Andrew Marr, using data from satellite tracking and data communications networks.
(thru Andrew Sullivan)

Sunday 3 August 2008

... "except for viewers in Scotland"

Specially for anyone who has ever groaned on hearing this phrase!

- I thought this was a particualrly opportune moment to bleat on about this matter [again], having recently become aware just how interesting have been some recent national 'Newsnight' programmes after the 11pm watershed, when we lucky people in Scotland get to watch the usually less-than-scintillating 'Newsnight Scotland' from the Kremlin on the Clyde. The BBC iPlayer is a great innovation - it allows me to escape the chuchter mafia's electronic clutches, if a little tardily.

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