Title picture: Down the Minch - 27 February 2016

Sunday, 15 May 2016

EU referendum

On June 23rd, voters in the UK will go to the polls to decide whether to stay in the EU or not. I am not eligible to vote, but will nonetheless summarise my stance on this important issue.

The European Union was started in 1957 as a trading association between Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux nations (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) in the aftermath of the Second World War. It has ballooned into a political force, comprising of 28 countries, 17 of whom now have a shared currency, the Euro. There is plenty wrong with it, bureaucracy being the worst aspect of it. Why does it need to have three headquarters, Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg? Each has a full complement of civil servants etcetera. Why does it need to do with regulatory affairs encompassing all member states? Some aspects are best left to individual countries, as nuances may differ across nations.

The UK has always had a fractious relationship with the EU. Although a desire was expressed to join the EEC (the precedessor to the UK) in the 1960s, it was France's General de Gaulle who stymied that desire with his infamous 'non'. The EU has caused severe disruption within the Conservative Party, which has had major fallings-out over the issue. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher lost her position over the EU in November 1990. The UK has negotiated a 'special deal' and a rebate from the EU, although I have never properly understood what made the UK eligible for such a special deal. And all that haranging, with handbags or without, will have decreased the likelihood for other EU leaders to give the UK leeway in any future discussions about its status. 

Current PM David Cameron has felt compelled to call a referendum, although he himself is backing the In campaign. Senior government ministers in his cabinet are all for Out. However, I would be for In, if I were able to vote. I have indicated that there is a lot wrong with the EU, and change will need to happen. It is far better to effect change from within. The Out campaign are playing on base fears such as the fear of strangers - immigrants from near and far and base emotions such as sovereignty and national pride. The job of any government is to decide on a way forward which will be the best for its people. Again, in my opinion, it is in the best interests of the UK for it to remain a member of the EU.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Election 2016 - the outcome

Scottish Parliamentary elections have yielded an interesting outcome. The Scottish National Party increased their share of the votes, but decreased the number of seats in the chamber. That is due to the vagaries of the system of first-past-the-post and proportional representation which rule here. This means the SNP will rule as a minority administration, with support from other parties. As a result, the likelihood of another independence referendum has receded. Fortunately, that is my opinion. The Labour party, once the strongest party in the land, was relegated to third place by the Conservatives, who once were very impopular, in the wake of Margaret Thatcher's reign in the 1980s.

Here in the Western Isles, the SNP's Alasdair Allan retained his seat, but with a decreased majority.

Next: the EU referendum on June 23rd.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Elections 2016

10.20pm. The light fades on election day as the polls have closed. Scotland's Parliamentary elections are supposed to be a foregone conclusion. I have never seen such a ridiculous campaign, with two parties vying for second place, to be the most effective opposition. What a defeatist attitude. The next few hours will see journalists, politicians and know-alls talking amongst themselves whilst the votes are counted. A couple of hours into Friday will find us facing the results, with the remaining hours of that day filled with more endless talk. The next 7 weeks, we'll have politics coming out of our ears with the EU referendum. Once the result of that is in, there WILL be interminable talk of another independence referendum in Scotland. In other words, we'll be plagued by referenda, elections, politics for more than 5 years. And even longer if there is another independence referendum. For crying out loud, give us a break. Oh, unless David Cameron quits after the EU poll. That's when the fun will start all over again.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

May Day 2016

We leave our cold April behind and head into our cold month of May. As I type this, on a quiet Sunday evening, it's overcast, breezy and wet. The first day of May has been a difficult day for me since 2008, when my mother passed away. I think I have come to terms with that fact, and will continue to (endeavour to) move forward. Over the years I have spent in Stornoway, I have made a major contribution towards the remembrance of the Fallen of the Great War, quite important in this island. Of the 6,200 men who set off for war, some 1,300 did not survive. I have also digitised the Napier Commission's Report into the conditions of Crofters and Cottars, which was compiled in 1883 and 1884. It continues to be of relevance, but I fear that politicians are failing to keep up with developments in landownership and land usage. The obsession with independence, as displayed by the nationalist Scottish Governments since 2007, is standing in the way of addressing other issues that are of far greater importance. There are elections to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 5 May, and the nationalists are expected to be returned to power. Seven weeks later, on Thursday 23 June, voters in the UK will go to the polls to decide whether to stay in the European Union or not. Another fraught subject. If the Brits decide to leave, this could precipitate another independence referendum in Scotland (I thought that the 2014 No vote was to be the answer for a generation, but the pipedream never dies), with even more uncertainty.

Uncertainty is also the watchword for your blogger, who is shifting from one area of focus to another, one that is vastly different to the one of the last decade or so. Preparatory work is underway, and steps to implementation will follow later in the year.




Friday, 29 April 2016

Visit Scotland

Scotland is a scenic place and we should all encourage people to come and visit. I do agree with our esteemed Member of Parliament, Mr Angus Brendan Macneil, on that. During a speech in the Commons on the occasion on the Queen's 90th birthday, he invited everybody to come and visit his constituency (Na h-Eileanan an Iar). He should have added a call for people to come and WORK here, set up businesses and create sustainable employment.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Thursday 28 April

I have not been making regular postings on this blog in recent weeks, and I am not foreseeing that happening again any time soon. Over the past week or so, I have been down with a nasty cold, which is only just beginning to shift. Today has been singularly cold, something I don't really mind. The day opened with snow and a very hard frost for late April, -4C. I have completed the upload of war grave pictures on findagrave.com, 813 memorials and 1,836 photographs. The pics aren't just of gravestones, they also include portrait photographs. This is supplementary to the information on the Scottish War Graves forum.

My blogging has shifted to Facebook, which does not lend itself to lengthier postings. In a way, a shame. But times change. In the past, this early morning photograph might have featured the MV Isle of Lewis. That is now the MV Loch Seaforth.


Ten years ago this month, I had some fun on the Arnish Lighthouse blog with the dating extravaganza at the Dell Fank. This (doctored) picture was to have been the conveyance for amourous couples to the Fank on 1st April 2006. Ahem.


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Echo from the past

In a Dutch graveyard on-line, I discovered a reference to a name of infamy in WW2 history. The woman dubbed "the Black Widow" has her gravestone inscribed with the words "Waarheid maakt vrij". Dutch is closely related to the German language, and the German version of the above line is "Wahrheit macht frei", not far off that chilling line at Auschwitz: "Arbeit macht frei". What does it all mean? The line on the gravestone means "Truth liberates" and the Auschwitz line means "Labour liberates". However, the Black Widow, who died 9 years ago, was the wife of collaborator Rost van Tonningen, who headed up the Dutch Central Bank during WW2, assisting the occupying Nazi forces whichever way he could. After liberation, he was incarcerated in Scheveningen jail at The Hague, and jumped (his widow always maintained that he was pushed) over the parapet of a balcony, from which he fell to his death some 17 feet below. The truth that she refers to is slightly different from the commonly held view. Common parlance is not to speak ill of the dead. On the subject of the Black Widow, I shall therefore be silent henceforth.