Title picture: Down the Minch - 27 February 2016

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit a reality

The UK out of the EU. A momentous decision with implications that few of us, certainly not me, can appreciate. I feel it is a wrong decision, made on the flawed premise that certain recent problems would not have occurred if the UK had not been a memberstate of the EU. In a nutshell, I feel that Europe has made a step backward by 80 years. We are headed back into the bad old days of nationalism from the early 20th century. Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland has as good as announced another independence referendum. Geert Wilders in Holland wants a referendum there to quit the EU. Current polls suggest he could be heading up a government after next March's general elections there. Martin Maguinness wants a referendum on the unification of the island of Ireland. Has he forgotten the Troubles? No, he can't have done, he was a bomber back then.

The far right is in the ascendancy across Europe. Why? A flood of migrants. How come? Wars, poverty. Who brings those people to Europe's shore? No answer. Nobody knows, nobody does anything about it. Certainly David Cameron did nothing. The Europe of 2020 could well see an independent Scotland, a much diminished UK, and the EU in meltdown following exit-referendums across several of its memberstates. That is precisely what our friend in the Kremlin, Vladimir Vladimirovich, wants. Be afraid. Be very afraid. For who will say that it is not at his behest that the civil war in Syria is being propagated and the people smugglers of the Mediterranean encouraged. It is the flood of migrants (not just from Syria, by the way) that has prompted this looming crisis in the European Union. The Union of the 27 now face a real and existential threat. Look east and you'll see from who.

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Even here in Holland, the Brexit Referendum is making the news. It could cost the Dutch economy 500 million euros (roughly £400m) with increased costs for trade etcetera if the UK were to leave the EU. Britain is Holland's third largest trading partner. Upon an actual Brexit, the UK could become part of the European Economic Area, of which Norway is one member. More info on the EEA on their website http://www.efta.int/eea. Thinking that being a member of the EEA is the same as being a member of the EU with all the perks but none of the obligations is factually erroneous. 

The EU is a flawed organisation, which is best improved from within. If the UK were to leave, it would have a hard time renegotiating a deal with the EU, if only on past form. For a long time, the UK has been regarded as an awkward customer, particularly since Margaret Thatcher. Many in the EU will regard a Brexit as good riddance. 

I think it would be a thoroughly bad choice, bad for Britain, bad for Europe and bad for the rest of the world. We'd be going back to the bad old days of a divided, nationalistic (in the nasty sense of the word) Europe. Do not forget that the European Union was initially set up as a trading block, to facilitate trade, enhance international cooperation in Europe. A Brexit would set us all back. Reform, change and improve the European Union. Cut back on its massive, inflated, hyperbolic bureaucracy. Cut down on some of the silly regulations. But, UK, help by being a constituent part of the Union. You cannot help to change a club by leaving it.

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.