Since the storm cloud of the 21st Century is now visible on the near horizon, and in view of all the sorrow and farewells expressed in the European Parliament over this last week at the departure of the UK’s MEPs, I post below what may well be the last ever bulletin from the Scottish MEPs we elected recently. The majority of “leave” votes over “remain” votes in the referendum – which was not of itself an executive act – was about 1¼ million people in a population at that time of approximately 64.9 million and with an electorate of 46.5 million. And by the peculiar reasoning which only Governments can produce this majority has been considered to be enough to wrench us out of the European Union and destroy nearly 50 years of patient building. This is what is laughingly known as “Democracy”.
And as a tailpiece, I might add that in the last (say) ten years I have seen and experienced more and better use of the much maligned social media by MEPs than by our useless Westminster specimens who seem either not not know what it is, or to have no intention of communicating with those who elected them whatsoever.
This week was our last in Strasbourg (at least for the time being). While it’s been a tough week there were a number of key votes, not least on the European Green Deal where we helped to secure crucial amendments on the role of the European Investment Bank in the Green Deal, and underlined the need for binding national targets for both renewables and energy efficiency. Europe is busy getting on with tackling the issues that matter as we are being dragged out of the door against the people of Scotland’s democratically expressed wishes to remain inside the EU. twitter.com/…
The Parliament also stood up for EU citizens and passed an important opinion on the UK Government’s actions. In particular we are worried about the application-based approach used in the UK EU Settlement Scheme, the absence of physical proof for successful applicants, and its accessibility. The Parliament will continue to play a role in supporting EU 27 nationals after the UK has left the EU, and you can read more about the opinion here: europarl.europa.eu/…
Many of you have expressed interest in ‘associate citizenship’. Unfortunately, whilst this was suggested earlier in the negotiations it has not progressed any further, despite the European Parliament pushing it as far as possible. Tragically – and we wish we had better news – the bottom line is simple: when the UK drags Scotland out of the EU we will no longer be EU citizens.
Looking further into the future, the EU has already started to lay out its position for the future negotiations with the UK. Front and centre of this is going to be the EU’s ‘Level Playing Field’ proposals. These are designed to stop the UK undercutting the EU and will include non-regression clauses on state aid, taxation, labour, environmental and social standards. The detail of these will form the backbone of all the talks for the next year and the question will be simple:
Does Boris value access to EU markets and protecting our existing quality of life? Or would he prefer to put up barriers and set up Singapore-on-Thames?
We fear we know the answer, so we all need to get out and talk to people about Scotland becoming a normal independent country which can rejoin the EU. This is now not just the best future for us all, but the only way to avert Scotland being dragged down with the UK.
If you want to read more about the Parliament’s position on the European Green Deal Investment Plan and Just Transition Mechanism, you can do so here. ec.europa.eu/…
You can read the other EU positions that were released this week. They are a wee bit technical, but the details will define the deal the UK gets.
Personal data protection (adequacy decisions), Cooperation and equivalence in financial services: ec.europa.eu/…
The Scottish Government has been laying out its position to defend the powers of the Scottish Parliament during the upcoming negotiations. As the First Minister said: “These arrangements aren’t just about who we trade with, they are about how we trade and how we maintain the highest possible standards. We want to minimise trade friction while ensuring consumer, environmental and worker protections are not allowed to suffer. news.gov.scot/…
The First Minister also chaired a meeting with economy and business leaders, the first of a series of roundtables to discuss the future path of Scotland, and the challenges of Brexit. twitter.com/…
The EU has again emphasised the solidarity that an entire continent has with Ireland. twitter.com/…
A report from Bloomberg Economics estimates the cost of Brexit since the EU referendum result at around £130 billion rising to £200 billion by the end of the year. It is remarkable how the UK government can find the money for this but not for the countless worthwhile services across the UK that they have cut. bloomberg.com/…
Katy Hayward wrote a good piece in the Guardian on the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly theguardian.com/…
Le Monde covered the recent independence march in Glasgow. lemonde.fr/…
The UK’s migration regime negatively affects the lives of transnational couples, according to Clive Sealey (University of Worcester) and Daniel Nehring (East China University of Science and Technology). blogs.lse.ac.uk/…
Dr Anna Jerzewska published an important piece on the future of the UK’s customs regime. blogs.sussex.ac.uk/…
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.
So wrote Charles Dickens in “Little Dorrit” roughly descriptive of the scene as he saw it in 1855 – 1857. Things have improved since then haven’t they ?
They haven’t ? Oh Dear . . .
I paste in below the written answers given by out local MP who also happens to be the Secretary of State for Scotland, so you can see that Scotland is indeed in safe hands and that nothing will go wrong on Mr Jack’s watch because nothing will ever get done on Mr. Jack’s watch, except that something, somewhere, will eventually collapse under the dead weight of his written answers . . .
Results 1–20 of 200 for in the ‘Written Answers’ speaker: Alister Jack
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Trade Unions (15 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: My officials and I regularly meet with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that Scotland has a voice in Westminster. The Government publishes a list of all ministerial meetings with external bodies on departmental business on a quarterly basis and is available at gov.uk.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Freedom of Information (14 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: There is no obligation to publish responses to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Where requests relate to matters of wider public interest we consider publishing the responses on a case by case basis.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Freedom of Information (14 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: In 2018, the Office considered carefully whether or not it should retrospectively seek to publish online all of the responses to FOI requests since August 2014. We concluded that we did not have the resources to do so, and that the benefit to the public would not be proportionate to the cost.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Social Media (14 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: The Department spent the following on social media advertising since June 2019: 2019-2020 Twitter Facebook & Instagram Total Expenditure June £1,861.02 £1,777.52 £3,638.54 July £747.30 £807.06 £1,554.36 August £239.60 £1,340.96 £1,580.56 September £768.74 £595.78 £1,364.52 October £ – £1,924.11 £1,924.11 November £ – £1,307.89 £1,307.89…
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Officers: Information Officers (14 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: The Office is resourced to deliver all of the communications functions and activities expected and required of a Government Department in its own right and on behalf of the UK Government in Scotland. The number of staff in communications reflects this requirement. As well as frontline communications functions, such as media handling, the Government Communications Service Modern…
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Travel (14 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: The costs incurred in each quarter for travel by Ministers and officials in the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland is enclosed. Table – PQ 415 (Word Document, 30.44 KB)
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Sovereignty: Scotland (13 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: The Prime Minister has received the First Minister of Scotland’s correspondence of 19 December 2019 seeking a transfer of power from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Parliament to allow for an independence referendum. The Prime Minister will respond in due course. The UK Government remains committed to respecting the result of the 2014 Referendum as set out in the Edinburgh Agreement.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Fisheries: Scotland (8 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: I am in regular contact with representatives from the fisheries sector in Scotland on a range of issues, including the challenges they face with recruitment. The Hon. Member will be aware that the Government is currently designing a new immigration system, and it’s important that the new system takes account of the needs of all regions and sectors of the economy, including those of our…
Written Answers — Scotland Office: United Kingdom (8 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: Strengthening and Sustaining the Union is a key priority for the UK Government. We want 2020 to be a year of growth and opportunity for Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom, not one of further division and uncertainty.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Food Banks: Scotland (7 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: I did not visit a food bank in my capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland in December 2019.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Food Banks: Scotland (7 Jan 2020) Alister Jack: I currently have no plans to visit a food bank in my capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland in January 2020.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: International Men’s Day (5 Nov 2019) Alister Jack: The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland has no particular plans in place at this time to mark International Men’s Day on 19 November 2019.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Honours (5 Nov 2019) Alister Jack: The Government is committed to ensuring that the honours system is fully representative of UK society. The proportion of women and people from ethnic minorities receiving recognition on each honours list is available on GOV.UK as is a breakdown of ethnicities of recipients is published on the Ethnicity Facts and Figures website at: …
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Digital Technology (4 Nov 2019) Alister Jack: The Office does not have a dedicated member of staff wholly responsible for digitisation. The Office works closely with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to make a wide range of digital information available to the public through gov.uk and the www.deliveringforscotland.gov.uk microsite also provides clear digital routes to many key public services provided by the Government.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Invergarry-Kyle of Lochalsh Trunk Road (A87) Extension (Skye Bridge Crossing) Toll Order (Variation) Order 1999 (31 Oct 2019) Alister Jack: The Skye Bridge Crossing is not a reserved matter under the Scotland Act 1998. Extant records on the Skye Bridge tolls, whether pre-devolution or post-devolution, are therefore held by the Scottish Government or the National Records of Scotland.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Whisky: Scotland (31 Oct 2019) Alister Jack: Scotland’s Whisky industry plays a vital role in both the UK and Scottish economy. The Scotch Whisky industry invested more than £500 million in capital projects over the last five years and for every £100 of added value the industry produces, another £45 is generated in the broader economy. Overall, this industry is estimated to have contributed £5.5 billion to the UK economy in GVA in…
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Whisky: Scotland (31 Oct 2019) Alister Jack: The Scotch Whisky industry is strategically important to the economy of Scotland. As a result of continued industry investments, Scotch Whisky tourism saw record numbers of visitors in 2018. Over 2 million tourists from over 20 different countries visited Scotch Whisky distilleries for the first time. Also, spending at visitor centres was up by 12.2% to £68.3m – additional £7.4m compared…
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Public Appointments (29 Oct 2019) Alister Jack: The public appointments that the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for making are set out in the Schedule to the Public Appointments Order in Council 2019: https://publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/wp-content/u ploads/2019/04/2019-Public-Appointments-Order-In-Council.pdf
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Scotland Office: Living Wage (28 Oct 2019) Alister Jack: No staff working for the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland based in London are paid less than the London Living Wage. The Government Property Agency is responsible for all contractors that service the department’s London building. Information on those contractor rates of pay is not held by the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Written Answers — Scotland Office: Food Banks: Scotland (25 Oct 2019) Alister Jack: I currently have no plans to visit a food bank in my capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland in November 2019.
I think the answers that really get up my nose are his replies about his plans not to visit Food Banks. That seems to me to be a plain straightforward failure to carry out his duties both as the Secretary of State for the whole of Scotland, and as the member for a Scottish Constituency (Dumfries and Galloway) in the Westminster Parliament. His Master has shown his contempt for rules and conventions, not to mention the Law, and Mr. Jack is a loyal follower of his I think.
In the current issue of “Computeractive” magazine (not shown above, by the way) the Editor asks for our opinions on the many and varied ways which are available for the receiving and viewing of TV programmes these days. He finishes by asking us for our thoughts on the TV Licence, which is of course, not really a licence at all, but a flat rate tax levied on all TV set owners which goes mainly to fund the BBC. And, so different from the home life of our own dear Lord Reith, more and more people are becoming more and more disenchanted with the BBC which I think has got to pull its socks up if it is to survive.
Dear Mr. Booth,
Here is something for your inbox as awaited . . .
My wife and I are now on the cremation side of 85. I am deaf in my right ear, and for reasons into which we need not go, it cannot accept a hearing aid. My left ear is nearly as bad but I do have an NHS hearing aid for that side. My wife does not as yet have hearing aids but she has nearly as much difficulty in hearing the TV set as I do.
So, although you often inform us of the many and various ways of receiving TV with or without a licence we have found as the years have gone by that we watch less and less. This is due in part to the difficulties already listed, but also because we find that the programmes on offer do not interest us very much. The latter is obviously subjective, but I do wonder sometimes what other oldies think about this.
When there is something we want to see we have to grapple with the thorny subject of sub titles. With pre recorded programmes these can be satisfactory in a technical sense, but too often display the ignorance of the editors whose knowledge of steam locomotives for example, seems to be stuck at the Thomas the Tank Engine stage. But the unresolved problem is that of sub titles on live programmes. We do like to watch the weather forecast, but the sub titles are usually way behind the forecaster and have “interesting” but erroneous words. The sub titling then stops while someone does some checking and when restarted they are either even further behind reality, or a chunk has been omitted in order to avoid that.
I know that your editorial is about TV, but I think it is pertinent to mention the rise and rise of the podcast. Once upon a time “Help” videos on You Tube were de rigueur but pretty much useless to those with hearing loss. Now more and more organisations are telling us to keep up to speed by listening to their podcasts which is very inconsiderate of them and doesn’t sit easily with protestations of compliance with disability legislation.
So, knowing that “Action on Hearing Loss” estimate that there are some 12 million people in the UK population with some form of hearing loss it would help people like me if, from time to time, you tested such things as earphones (particularly the hearing through bone variety) with a view to their use by hearing loss readers. And mobile phone reviews might say how hearing loss people got on with them. How good the camera is, or how fast the processor is, or how marvellous the finish of the case appears is irrelevant to the phone’s main purpose – which is the transmission and reception of the human voice. Remember too that “hearing loss” is just that. It is not a case of not enough volume (shout louder), often too much volume is the culprit. It is neural loss in the inner ear and so in my case, although in good circumstances I can hold a conversation with someone close by, music is closed to me because it is essentially all about frequencies which the failed hearing organs can no longer resolve. So when you review these things rope in some deaf people and see how they manage.
Lastly, you ask us about the TV Licence. The days when technically minded young people built themselves wireless telegraphy apparatus and which needed a wireless telegraphy licence are long gone. For some time the question has narrowed down to “How do we fund the BBC ?” and the answer has been, “Via the TV Licence”. Well, I think that the BBC has got to grow up. If it wants income for what it transmits then we must have TV sets that can identify BBC material and log the time occupied in receiving it. And then we pay for what we watched. If it were it be suggested that we might all pay a flat rate for our electricity or gas supplied I think there would be an outcry. Yet we are expected to do just that for our BBC television programmes. At this point we are usually treated to unsubstantiated arguments about what a wonderful institution the BBC is, and “you should see what TV is like in such and such a country”. I don’t buy any of that. I think I might have done 80 years ago, but not any more. We are much more discriminating now and if rubbish issues from the TV set it gets switched off regardless of channel. I am quite willing to pay for the few BBC programmes I watch, but I decline to subsidise those who have the TV on all day long as wall paper.
Well, as the Editor of the Church times used to say, “That should annoy somebody !”
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on Letter to the Editor . . .
Having left it to the last possible moment, today we set off for Dumfries Museum on a first ever visit to see their exhibition about Miss Pullinger, the lady engineer and the Galloway Car that she built. We found it without difficulty – thanks to detailed study of Google Maps and Street View – they really are a great boon – and Lo ! we arrived just as they closed for lunch. So, undeterred – volunteers must eat sometime – we set off to find lunch ourselves. Gracefields Arts Centre car park was full to overflowing, so after some disagreement, we pitched up more or less by accident at the Station Hotel. There we had a very decent bowl of soup (could have been hotter) and a good beef and horseradish sandwich, also a good glass of beer from a brewer unknown to me. The building, I imagine dates back to the days when the railway was construct, but it seems to be in good shape structurally and decoratively, but like many present day pubs and hotels it dearly needs some capital investment in its furniture. The built in sofa where I was sitting was threadbare with its innards coming out. Not a good way to welcome the visitors the tourist authority wants to attract. And I suspect a few more customers would not come amiss to boost the income a bit. But it sufficed in our hour of need.
The museum was open when we returned and we were made most welcome by the staff. We found the display we were looking for which was mainly descriptive panels – very few artefacts at all apart from photocopies of brochures from the Arrol – Johnston car period. But there was enough to fill out the sketchy picture I had of the Pullinger family before the first World War and into the second and after it.
The museum is jam packed with interesting stuff and well worth more visits, but it would be essential to be very disciplined and confine oneself to one small section, because there is just too much to take in.
The day began, for us, with a visit to our Dentist. Having had an obvious tooth extraction I am now going through the process of having plate made and our Dentist is making a series of impressions to determine how the extraction site and the bone of the jaw above is settling down and rebuilding itself. So nothing painful happened today, just a lot of spitting out bits of pink plastic stuff which leaked out of the mould. I am to go again in two weeks time and there will apparently be several such visits until she and the laboratory are satisfied that it is OK to go ahead with the final design.
From there we went to Kirkcudbright Galleries to see the “Utopia” exhibition. How to describe it ? The theme “Utopia” has been interpreted in very different ways by all the artists and makers involved as their displayed explanations show. One is left wondering just how much of the descriptions of their thought processes really describe anything – to me they did not – or whether they are as abstract as their works of art. This is “modern art” and I have to say to them with respect most of it impressed me not at all. In some pieces one could see that the work was excellent in its technical construction whether in paint, or wood, or concrete. But there was only one artist who did what we would once have referred to as “fretwork” who really made an impression on me and whose work I would have taken home if I owned an oil well or two and was able to keep the income. So, worth going to see as a curiosity, but I did not come away feeling better about life as I did after two visits to the Charles Oppenheimer paintings. Disappointing.
However, we made our way to the café and stoked up on some of their soup and other “specials” and that cheered us up. The café is run by the Selkirk Arms hotel and really is very good
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on Kirkcudbright Galleries and food for the soul, or not . . .
This evening we went to a talk on Kirkcudbright Poorhouse at the Parish Church Hall, at 7.30 pm. I append below the text of the Kirkcudbright History Society’s post on Facebook . . .
At the January meeting Donald Cowell gave a fascinating account of the Kirkcudbright Poors House. As part of Poor Law Reforms, made in Scotland in 1845, parishes were able to combine to build Poorhouses to care for the “disabled” and “destitute”. The site of the Poorhouse in Kirkcudbright posed a problem for the town council as people did not want it built in the centre of the town. A map of 1843 shows that a poor people’s house had existed on the High Street probably to provide temporary shelter for homeless poor. It was agreed to build the Poorhouse at the Nursery ground half a mile from the centre of the town. The Poorhouse which opened in early 1851 was a large, plain U shaped building, 3 storeys high, on a 2 acre site with a capacity of 250 poor inmates although it rarely exceeded 80. Food was plain and simple and in the early years based on oatmeal, porridge and a simple meat and vegetable broth. A more detailed account of Don’s presentation, with more images, can be found on www.kirkcudbrighthistorysociety.org.uk
We went along although I knew that I should be unable to catch very much of what was said as I never can at public events unless there is a hearing loop, which there did not seem to be. However, I got the gist of the thing from what I could hear, and from the Power point slides the speaker put up. The audience were very attentive and from time to time they laughed, but of course I could not tell why. The subject was and is of interest to us because our house (and those of our near neighbours) stands on part of the Poorhouse site and as we go to and fro we pass the its last remaining gatepost.
It is good to get out to such things as even if communication is difficult the sense of being in society is good, as hearing loss is a very isolating disability.
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on Kirkcudbright Combination Poorhouse . . .
Following a successful visit to the Steamboat Inn on my birthday last December we decided to try it again and make further explorations into their menu. We went via Beeswing and the unclassified road from thence to New Abbey. We did this because having travelled that road last December we knew that there were then a series of meadows at the roadside with various breeds of less common sheep and we wanted to see if they were still there. We only found one occupied meadow and that had Herdwicks in it.
Having stopped (in the perishing cold wind) to take some photos, and noticing that some bright spark has tossed their Christmas wreaths into the burn with ribbon that looked suspiciously like plastic on them, we pressed on to the Steamboat.
We found the same two Gents who were at the bar previously still there, in exactly the same seats, and we spoke with them and they told us that they were there every day. What a nice life ! The local buses come and go right outside the pub, and at a given time they issued forth, climbed onto the appropriate bus and were born away to – presumably – Dumfries.
Food wise, I went for the fish and chips – they always give it a fancy name – but fish and chips it is. It was beautifully cooked – the fish and its batter, and the chips too, and it came with little ramekin dishes of mushy peas and caper sauce. Very nice. Mrs. S. had Fish Mornay in a big round dish with lovely freshly cooked mixed vegetables and said it was also very good. It certainly looked like it.
We followed the coast road, the A 710, home in the fading light, stopped in Kirkcudbright for a few bits and pieces – and so home.