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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

How we eat, how we are taught to eat in our home environments

People's eating habits are often defined by their childhoods and whether their own parents were 'conservative' or 'adventurous' in their eating habits. I am thankful that both my parents, specially my mother, were reasonably adventurous (not so much my father, admittedly), but both were good cooks and pre-prepared rubbish was never a part of my growing up. That's another thing, my father was not a stranger to the kitchen, so whilst growing up neither me nor my brother thought there was anything remotely strange about trying out new ideas in the kitchen. Obviously I am now somewhat older, so my childhood relates to the 1950s and 1960s, and I have become aware since then that for some of my contemporaries their home environments were radically different. One's home environment as children helps to define the adults we become, for good or ill. Some of the best people, however, are those who have transcended the most difficult early years - I can't say I'm one of those, but I sure do admire those who are.

I'm often astonished at the food 'dislikes' that some of my acquaintances exhibit - and I don't mean those who are vegetarian or vegan, for example, because I've eaten some delicious food of both varieties over the years. What I do mean though is those who are unwilling even to try anything 'different' from what they have ever eaten before, or people who, for example, live in places where abundant local delicacies are available, but who studuously avoid/loathe them in favour of heavily-advertised processed food instead, because that's what they were encouraged to eat by lazy parents. It applies also, incidentally, to those who don't wish to try vegetables or fruits different from the limited range they were exposed to by their own parents in earlier years, whether it might be an avocado pear, an asparagus spear, a pomegranate or a persimmon, etc., not that there's anything wrong with a potato or a carrot, of course. One thing I just cannot understand, though, is that many children (and perhaps their parents too) seem to find perfectly ordinary, nutritious and delicious green vegetables or salads "yukky"; even from my youngest years I LOVED things like broccoli and lettuce, for example, even if it took me a little longer to appreciate the joys of a fresh beetroot. I don't recall ever being pressurised to 'like' anything (well, apart from salted herring, which both my parents relished, for some inexplicable reason, ha ha), but it was never suggested to me that I was somehow being 'brave' when given a piece of broccoli or some Savoy cabbage to eat - my own parents enjoyed eating these so I learned from them - well apart from the afore-mentioned salted herring,the problem being not the taste or even the texture, but the fine bones.

In my area, with an abundance of fish and seafood, or excellent beef or venison, for example, I occasionally encounter people who HAVE NEVER EATEN FISH, for example, not that they have tried it and found they don't like it. I recall years ago being at a dinner party not far from here and one of the other guests, having said he had never eaten fish (having been born and brought up in a small coastal town not so far from here, with a major fishing industry), relishing a delicious salmon mousse and on being told what it was, admitting to our hosts how delicious it was. So my message is - try it, you may like a food unfamilar to you, you may not, but then at least you'll have knowledge rather than prejudice to guide you.

There are of course a few foods I don't like, or in a very few cases actively"loathe" (e.g. tripe), but I have formed my views by trying them, not whining "yuk" when first presented with them, but I don't discount the possibility that at some stage in the future I might come to tolerate if not actively "like" them, hopefully not at pistol point, ha ha.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Dredging planned at Nairn Harbour - Dredging News Online

I am sure many boat-owners will be anxious about this. In the long run I think it can only help matters, although I do wonder if more dredging of the harbour mouth is not required too, no doubt a very costly and probably only temporary solution, given the shifting sands over this part of the coast. I don't recall having seen dredging of the harbour mouth having been undertaken since soon after I first came to live in Nairn almost sixteen years ago. Read more here

Monday, 25 April 2016

Scottish Parliament election 2016 - more election literature received

Further to my article last Saturday (click here to view) I received this morning some additional election literature from three of those standing in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election. As I had not already received anything from the 'Independent' Regional candidate I am linking to it in the image below.

Click on the image to see a larger version plus an additional image

James Wilson STOCKAN (Independent)

Click on the image to see a larger version plus an additional image

The other two leaflets were from candidates from whom I had already received literature, but you can see the most-recently received material from them at the top of the linked pages below:
- Scottish Conservative and Unionist
- Scottish Liberal Democrats

For the sake of equity, I am also including links below for election literature already received from the other candidates too:
- Scottish Green Party
- Scottish Labour Party
- Scottish National Party
- Solidarity ("Solidarity Scotland's Socialist Movement")

If additional 'election messages' arrive in coming days I'll endeavour to put them online too.

A final message - If you have a vote, please use it, however you plan to vote.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Nairn - cricket and sailing on a cool but bright Spring Sunday afternoon

Nairn on a cool but bright and intermittently
sunny afternoon in the Spring
- what could be nicer?

Sunday, 24th April 2016

Click here to see enlargements.

Click here to see enlargements.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Scottish Parliament election 2016 - election literature received

(Please see UPDATE at end)

As in some of the previous elections when I have had the time, I have found it fascinating this time to compare the different messages and ideas that the various political parties try to persuade electors to vote for. I'm also interested in their different presentational styles; some of the messages are not to my taste at all, of course, but even where this is the case some of the messages seem to me to be well presented given the limited resources they probably have available. Isn't there some saying about the Devil having all the best tunes?

The images below are of election literature which I have received through my letterbox, listed in alphabetic order. I have not received literature from all the political parties or groups standing at the election on 5th May, but if I do receive any of these in the next few days I will endeavour to include them in this, or a later, posting before the election. However I will only include literature which I receive through my own letterbox. Please note that I have 'edited' some of the images so that multi-fold leaflets show all sections the right way up. None of these modifications alters the basic message in any way I hope.

Click on any image to see a larger version plus additional images

Scottish Conservative and Unionist

Scottish Green Party

Scottish Labour Party

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish National Party

("Solidarity Scotland's Socialist Movement")


Material from 'Independent' Regional candidate
James Wilson STOCKAN (Independent)

Click on any image to see a larger version plus additional images

For full details of all candidates and parties standing in Highland Region or its three constituencies, please read my earlier article published in early April by clicking here.

PS/ I have already cast my 'FPTP' and 'List' votes postally; those who know me would have little difficulty in divining how these have been cast, but so far as I am concerned it is not a secret either, so I am quite content to acknowledge that both votes were for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party or in the case of the 'FPTP' vote, its candidate. Little surprise there, then.

UPDATE (Monday 25APR2016 20.15 BST) I received three additional items of election literature this morning, so have published an article about that here. As one of the items received was from a candidate from whom no literature had previously been received, I have updated the table above to include it, as well as including it in the later article. The other two items were from candidates that I had already received other material from and this too has been updated into the pages linked to in the table above. The later linked article gives complete details.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

"Morality" and the law as it relates to investment and taxation

Over recent days and the past few weeks a frenzy has developed in the UK about the "morality" of investing money outside of the UK; at least some of this frenzy has been as the result of a headline- and circulation-seeking media. Much of this relates, in my opinion, to base political point-scoring, with little regard paid to the likely economic implications for the national economy if some of the wilder ideas were to be carried forward into legislation. The article which follows is largely the text of a comment I placed this evening in another blog, but I think it merits being placed here too.

If a government, any government, wants to make what is currently legal, illegal, then all that needs to happen is for a majority to vote for it in Parliament. I really don't want differing views of what is "moral" or "immoral" to have any part of this. Tax evasion is a crime and if identified can/should result in punishment. So-called "tax avoidance" (whether "aggressive", or not, although I think attempts to classify some kinds of investment thus are completely spurious) has no legal status. Something is either illegal, or it is not. A government, this one or the previous one or the next one, could easily make various things which are currently legal, illegal, if it thought it worthwhile and it could command a majority for such measures in Parliament. Obviously, current notions of "morality", not to mention "easily malleable" "public opinion" will have at least some bearing on what tax legislation may be considered feasible and/or desirable.

Tax policy is however designed primarily to raise funds for government expenditure, not as some kind of "punishment" or "moral enforcement"; it has no other purpose. Having an ISA or owning Premium Bonds, for example, is no more (nor less) "moral" than having an investment in an overseas investment vehicle, although governments have often used legislation to encourage or discourage some behaviour or other. What were formerly PEPs, now ISAs, or savings bonds, premium bonds, etc, have traditionally been used as mechanisms to encourage the "habit" of saving amongst the general population, for example. What is crucial is that if one is a UK resident subject to UK taxation that one declares all taxable income to HMRC; not to do so is to "evade" tax and that is a crime. The UK (that's to say UK-resident individuals, organisations and companies registered in the UK) is amongst the largest overseas investors in various foreign countries and has been so for many decades and probably a few centuries; this is what helps to make the UK's "invisible earnings" so crucial in balancing the national accounts in the face of a long-standing (over at least many decades) trade deficit.

Some of the talk in recent days seems to want legitimate deployment of assets of UK-resident persons/organisations/companies outside the UK to be reclassified as somehow unacceptable or actually illegal. This is to display extreme ignorance of what makes an economy function and how the UK, somehow or other (with a fair bit of "borrowing" added into the mix) "balances the books".

Most people in the UK have traditionally had either a company pension or more recently a privately-organised pension plan, unions have such mechanisms too for pensionable employees, as of course do employees of public bodies. Most such pension plans have some of their funds invested outside of the UK (although pensions of public service employees, employed in the past, are generally paid out of current government tax revenue, just as those currently employed in public service will generally have their pensions paid from future current government tax revenue rather than investment income, when they retire). Is this wrong, or "immoral"? Merely to ask this question highlights just how juvenile has been much of the commentary on "financial planning", using perfectly legal mechanisms, in recent days.

The UK economy is closely integrated into the world economy, so unless it is being proposed that exchange controls be re-established and that a “protectionist” economy is reinstalled, the idea that the restriction of investment of assets outside the home country (in this case the UK) is in any way viable is “for the birds”. Not if we in the UK wish to be able to continue to buy goods and services abroad (for example an annual holiday abroad, just as one minor example). Such a society was accurately portrayed in the dystopian nightmare world of the novel "1984". That's where the current leadership of the Labour Party (and some other ideological bedfellows, eg the SNP, the Greens and the various 'socialist' parties, not to mention "Momentum") seem to be wanting to lead us, if their rhetoric is any guide. I hope calmer heads, able to see beyond the next headline, will prevail and help us avoid the abyss these economic ignoramuses seem to want to lead us towards.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Scottish Parliament election 2016 - constituency and regional candidates in Highland Region

The next Scottish Parliament election will take place on Thursday 5th May 2016.

All of the information about the individuals and political parties standing for election in the Scottish Parliament election has been taken from the official lists of nominations published in the Highland Council website, with pertinent data available in its website here. See also the 'News' page here.

There are 3 constituencies in the area, where the vote is 'first past the post'; the first shown below is the constituency in which I can vote and the other two are shown here for information:

Inverness and Nairn
- CADDICK, Carolyn Ann (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
- EWING, Fergus Stewart (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- MOUNTAIN, Edward (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party)
- STEWART, David (Scottish Labour Party)

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
- FRANCHETTI, Leah Esther (Scottish Labour Party)
- MACKIE, Struan (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party)
- ROSS, Gail Elizabeth (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- STONE, Jamie (Scottish Liberal Democrats)

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch
- CAMPBELL, Ronnie (Independent)
- FORBES, Kate (Scottish National Party [SNP])
- MACLEAN, Angela Margaret (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
- MUNRO, Robbie (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party)
- STEWART, Linda (Scottish Labour Party)

Voting also takes place in a regional 'List' system under a form of proportional representation, for me this region is:

Highlands and Islands Region ('List' candidates - using the d'Hondt method of voting, the Additional Member System)
listed in alphabetic order by political party or individual name
Details of registered parties and party list candidates
RISE – Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism
"Scotland’s Left Alliance"
(Jean Urquhart / Conor Cheyne / Suzanne Nicola Wright / Louis McIntosh)
Scottish Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
"Christians Together"
(Donald MacLeod Boyd / Andrew Henderson Shearer / Isobel Ann MacLeod / John Cranston Lister)
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
"Ruth Davidson for a Strong Opposition"
(Douglas Ross / Edward Mountain / Donald Cameron / Jamie Halcro Johnston / Struan Mackie / Cameron Smith /
 Robbie Munro)
Scottish Green Party
"Re-elect John Finnie"
(John Finnie / Isla O’Reilly / Fabio Villani / Ariane Burgess / Steve Sankey / Anne Katherine Thomas / Donnie Macleod /
Michèle Rhodius / Topher Dawson)

Scottish Labour Party
"Choose kids, not cuts"
(Rhoda Grant / David Stewart / Leah Franchetti / Sean Morton / Sarah Atkin / John Erskine / Robina Barton / Gerard McGarvey)
Scottish Liberal Democrats
(Jamie Stone / Carolyn Caddick / James Patterson / David Green / Alan Reid / Angela MacLean / Jean Davis / Ken MacLeod)
Scottish National Party (SNP)
"Nicola Sturgeon for First Minister"
(Maree Todd / Laura Mitchell / Mike Mackenzie / Liz MacDonald / Richard Laird / Danus Skene / Angus MacLeod /
 Hugh Moodie / Ken Gowans / Donna Heddle / Antony Harrison / Muriel Cockburn)
Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement
"Tommy Sheridan - IndyRef2"
(Liz Walker / Ryan Malcolm McGuinness / William Robertson Henderson / Findlay Robert Walker)
UK Independence Party (UKIP)
(David Adam Coburn / Arthur Leslie Durance / George King / Philip Andrew Anderson)
Details of individual regional candidates
STOCKAN, James Wilson

I will refrain from making any partisan political comment in this article, although most who have read my blog over the years will know well where my own political leanings tend to lie. I will however permit myself one observation about the ways that most of the registered political parties describe themselves by using a "slogan", described in the Highland Council official list as "Description of party (if any)"; I find these descriptions are mostly meaningless and all are fatuous and add nothing at all of value - only one political party has had the good sense and intellectual integrity to eschew this particular 'grandstanding' technique and even although that party is not one I have ever supported I wanted to record this observation.

The only other thing I wish to say here is that I hope that everyone eligible to vote will use that right so that the result reflects as closely as possible the wishes of the whole electorate. If you couldn't be bothered to vote, but could have done so had you bothered, please don't carp. Whilst it is entirely possible, if not absolutely certain, that I will be very unhappy with the result, I certainly plan to use my own right to vote - and so should you if you possibly can.

PS/ You can see the election literature I have received in a later article dated 23APR2016 here.