Olympic 2012 – It’s Time for a Scottish National Lottery

February 26, 2007

Isn’t it time there was a Scottish lottery? It wouldn’t require separate machines, or a Scottish Camelot (Scotalot/Spamalot), let Camelot keep the license, just allocate the Scottish income to a Scottish pot and pay the relevant sums out of that – there’s even a name for it – Hypothecation.

Why? Are you blind? The Lottery is a soft touch for the Government which will use it to bail out the Olympic overspends that are coming our way, commentators take this for granted. The Olympics are going to make the Millennium dome look modest. And, Scottish good causes will be left unfunded as Scottish cash is syphoned down South to fund the Olympic fun.

Surprisingly it’s impossible to get proper information out of Camelot. Their press office won’t tell me what the Scottish share is, as a trend, of UK receipts. Their accounts lump normal distributions and Olympic sums together to prevent analysis. But, by searching through the data on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport website you find this:


NOT JOKING: That’s a pretty remarkable downward trend. One that Camelot deny is anything to do with them as they gave an increased amount to the Government in 2006. Indeed, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, applications may have been down in 2006, grants still being processed? But that wouldn’t explain the trend so I’m not buying it, with the volume of cash and the complexity of the processing, grants have to be distributed on a flow through basis. Any guesses where the missing millions have been syphoned off to? Anyone from Government want to deny this picture? There’s no point Camelot saying they’re giving more to good causes when the Department of Culture Media and Sport are just hanging on to it. It may be they just don’t keep their website up to date, but the shadow of the five interlocking rings looms large. This data shows that the Department of Culture Media and Sport is backpeddaling on handing over the money Camelot gives them, building up a cash pile – for what?

The Camelot version of “National” is also bizarre as in “serving the Nation’s dream”. Nobody thinks of Britain as a nation – do you? So exactly what are they talking about? The Olympics mean no Scottish, that is, NATIONAL teams – football, tennis, elephant polo(!) The Olympics mean we’ll be obliged to wave our Union flags and get caught up in the collective hysteria. The Olympics mean we’ll have to pay for it all- at the expense of the Scottish projects the Lottery would otherwise have funded. The lottery has always been a way of redistributing cash from the poor to the rich, the good causes provided a fig leaf. If that fig leaf is now to be spread over the East End of London leaving us naked, now is the time for a hypothecated Scottish Lottery – run by Camelot if you wish.

Just a shame it’s not going to happen, because gambling is a reserved matter which keeps us impotent, powerless and frustrated – once again. Welcome to the London lottery – dishing out a national nightmare.

Lot’s of love,

McGellie x

ps, since writing this, the Camelot press office have distanced themselves from the department of culture media and sport who handle the the distribution of funds, so I’ve clarified that. Also, note the graph is based on figures to 31st December not the Camelot year end of 31st March. I’ve looked at these figures on their year end basis and the trend is still there. Cash handed over by Camelot is not being distributed. Why not?


Mind Your Bloody Language – bring in the lawyers

February 25, 2007

I know a firm of lawyers in Paris who specialise in international border disputes. Their idea of a good day is when everyone keeps talking – they get paid more.

But it’s all about the words you use. One good thing is the Scots and the English share a common language – er – English. So the translators aren’t going to get in the way. But the metaphors might.

Is the end of the Union a divorce? Not unless you think Scotland and England are a married couple who’ve fallen out of love. But it’s just not like that. The people who signed up to 1707 are dead, things have moved on. The French are no longer the Enemy, the Empire’s been and gone, we’ve got electricity and running water, we’ve got Dr. Who and the Internet. It’ a different world and we’re different people – North and South of the border. We were never married, it was always just a metaphor.

Seeing as we have to find words, I’m going with the concept of a corporate de-merger or spin-off. Scotland is a going concern. Great brand, great resources, great assets, great people. So many small countries do so well. Information, intelligence, education  – our CV’s got the bloody Enlightenment on it.

If we get the corporate lawyers in, rather than the divorce lawyers, there’s hope for us all. Stop the bickering and build me a business plan!

Scotch Eggs – Deceptively Dodgy

February 23, 2007

Britain is a Scotch Egg

– a hard boiled egg covered in cheap sausage meat, rolled in crumbs and deep fried. 

High in calories, low in fibre, high in fat, devoid of greens and wrapped in plastic – generally just what we don’t need today. The natural precursor to deep fried mars bars – surely! Another food of shame for those fat dissolute Scots

Actually, not. The invention of Scotch eggs is attributed Fortnum and Masons in 1738. And since Fortnum and Masons was founded in 1707, I suppose this blog will give them an affectionate nod – but not for their Scotch eggs.

The reality is “Scotch” is an English contraction of ‘Scottish’ which thereby diminishes everything that is truly Scottish.

Britain is more of a curates egg than a Scotch egg.

Nuclear Insecurities #2 – the terrorist threat

February 22, 2007

Security of supply and the environment – so simple so compelling – let’s have a new generation of nuclear power.

 Shame the UK doesn’t have any Uranium, so that’ll be the security of supply issue laid to rest (see previous post)

 Whatever, the environmental case is sufficient on its own. Well, if CO2 is the only consideration… Certainly it puts nuclear in the same league as wind, wave, tidal although none of these can touch simply not using the energy in the first place by decent insulation or turning off the switches.

But hold-on a minute – doesn’t this overlook the biggest problem of all – THE TERRORIST THREAT. My challenge to you is to go buy a model aeroplane and fly it into a nuclear power station. It won’t do any damage (just say you’re making a Toyota ad) but it illustrates the point. Think twin towers – think symbolism. Think the familial relationship between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Nuclear energy is now the first stop(s) on the slippery slope to nuclear weapons. When Israel blew up a partially constructed Iraqi reactor, they weren’t making a statement about nuclear power. The current hoo hah over Iran is or is not about nuclear energy depending on which view you take. The reality is that the ‘us and them’ power play that renders the non-proloferation treaty forever impotent makes civilian nuclear power stations into military targets.

What would happen if terrorists flew a fleet of planes into the UK’s nuclear power stations? What would happen? Haven’t a clue, but I’m pretty sure withstanding the impact of a 737 wasn’t build into the structural designs. It’s not just the radiation, it’s the fact you could take out 20% of the engergy generation capacity of the UK and no doubt crash the whole system. Without electricity where would we be?

Nuclear power stations represent static centralised power solution vulnerable to terrorist attack. You might as well paint big targets on them. Say this is far-fetched, and I’ll say not really. In the post 9/11 scenario far fetched isn’t far flung.

Nuclear power is just one of the low CO2 energy sources (only low because you can’t ignore the CO2 released making the cement!), but it’s environmental credentials are compromised by its vulnerability to the terrorist threat – and that’s before the chronic unsolve problem of waste disposal.

What’s this got to do with 1707? It’s about building an energy strategy that’s fit for an independent Scotland 300 years later. The devolution settlement reserves energy policy to London. So, in an energy rich country – hydro, wave, tidal, wind, thermal, as well as oil and gas, why would we want to let London decide our energy polcy and panic us into building more nuclear power?

The fact we’ve got an arse about face risk averse strategy to investing and delivering medium to long term solutions is why we got into this mess in the first place. If we’d put the necessary investment into renewables back when the public enquiry into Torness was going on we’d be laughing now. But THEY didn’t. The renewables tide’s been turning but the incentives are all for shortsighted onshore wind – or nuclear which masquerades as secure and green when the uranium supply is insecure, the waste problem cannot be  solved and inconveniently every site converts into a dirty bomb. What kind of energy future do you want?


McGellie x

Nuclear insecurities

February 20, 2007

Security of Supply and the environment, these two issues would persuade any sane person to support nuclear power.

Unless this sane person was to point out that the UK has no indigenous uranium. If we have to import every gram of uranium from third parties, then by definition we do not have a secure supply. Especially since most of it has to come half way across the world. The countries we buy the stuff from, like Australia, may be friendly, but the open seas are not. If you compare the security of supply of a wind turbine or tidal generator with sailing radioactive muck across the oceans – the person who claims security for the latter looks to me like a fool. 



McGellie x

Anti-windfarm protestors are the footsoldiers of the nuclear industry

February 16, 2007

This is the kind of false dichotomy that actually works – at a glance. Many Scots have grown up believing that nuclear power is no solution to our energy needs. We protested againstTorness and got pissed over Dounreay – the £140,000 fine for trashing the place over 21 years is the same as a single full time employee on minimum wage! Back then we argued the case for renewables, so why should we change positions now?

Onshore wind energy makes sense if it’s handled with care. But the rush to wind is yet another unstable approach to energy policy. Who the hell understands ROCs? I do, do you? ROCs are the currency used to rig the rush to renewables – the indispensible ingredients that are great to have and impossible not to have – renewable obligation certificates. Given that onshore wind turbines are the cheapest way of getting at these, energy companies have to build them to avoid having to buy them in the market. It doesn’t actually matter whether the turbines are profitable. The short-term need to “have” certificates (that’s the meaning of obligation) means that investmentsin longer term solutions – offshore wind, wave, tidal – are not incentivised. The rigging of the market by Tony Blair’s government has generated a renewable equation that can only have one solution – onshore wind turbines.

So why does this matter? It matters because Scotland is being staked out by speculators trying to get planning permission. They bring bribes of millions to small communities and hope to “cash poor” landowners up and down the country – some of whom previously sold out to sheep, then trees, then fishfarms. Windmills are just the latest get-rich-quick scheme for rural Scotland. There is no national political strategy. Instead there is the distinct possibility that the cumulative impact of multiple onshore wind turbines and their associated pylons will serve a change of use notice on the Scottish countryside. The sheep might not object, but the tourists will. Those who bang on about windmills being things of beauty are just lacking experience. I might say that a particular car is beautiful but when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on the M25, beauty is nowhere present. When we have turned ourcountry into an industrial generating plant VisitScotland is going out of business and so are all those rural communities which thought wind was an alternative energy supply not an alternative to tourism.

I want a rational energy policy that isn’t rigged by engineers and bean counters with no respect for people – so does that mean my opposition to the rapacious rush to onshore wind will let nuclear in by the back door? Obviously not. Nuclear is coming, whatever your views about wind. The government didn’t rig the consultation because it was worried about anti-wind turbine protestors. The linkage between windfarms and nuclear is spurious. So let’s not sacrifice the Scottish countryside in order to appease the mutant nuclear monster – it’s just not worth it. If you want to stop nuclear – that’s in a following blog.

So what’s this got to do with 1707? The rush to wind is just another symptom of the way Scotland is treated as a utilitarian appendage. The depopulation of the highlands means there are fewer people to object or greater reason why the remaining inhabitants should crave the few turnkey jobs the turbines bring. The reality is that Scotland only used 58% of its generating capacity in 2004 – the rest of the capacity was either idle or exported to England. Funny that you won’t get any more up to date data on Scottish exports this side of independence because in 2005 the system was changed to stop Scottish figures being separately identified. I’m not a conspiricist per se, but hey didn’t you know that energy is a reserved matter outwith the power of the Scottish Exec and we are becoming England’s generating plant whatever the cost to us. On the other hand, if Scotland had the confidence to go our own way, the surplus of supply would be a fine place to start from – even if Scottish Power is owned by the Spanish!


McGellie x

It’s the Scottish Times for Independence

February 9, 2007

And let’s not forget Rupert’s smaller title – the Times. If the Times came out for Independence at least the Scottish Labour party would be forced to actually make the case for the Union instead of the YA BOO SCARE YOU crap they’ve come up with so far. The News International stable could bring some intelligence, wit, debate and focus to the discussion. Since there’s going to be an upgraded Times anyway, with Melanie Reid, Graham Spiers already cherry picked from the Herald (and no doubt more to come), surely now is the time for something special to differentiate the New Scottish Times from the Scottish competition. And look at that competition:

The Scotsman is like a scrawny dog that’s suffered years of starvation at the hands of a couple of abusive owners and their “Scottish” idiot-in-chief. All they wanted was a big fat English bulldog so when the chance came, they just walked away having alienated much of their readership and the rest of Scottish civic society. Johnston Press may present themselves as saviours dress up in a self-promoting Nationhood Debate (smart move for a new English editor) but faced with a determined effort by a newly Scottish Times, people like my father in law are unlikely to return. Sorry.

Would the Scotsman be forced to follow suit and come out against the union? Well, haven’t you checked out their online vote? “Do you think the 1707 act of union was a good thing?” – voting is currently 76% NO. That must be a bit worrying given the bland establishment wisdom that the Union was good at the time even if it might be worth reviewing now. Perhaps the Scotsman really should listen to its readers!

As for the Herald, well, last year Ian McWhirter, great Scottish journalist and commentator, wrote a piece in the Media section of the Guardian bemoaning the downfall of the “Scottish” press. I see this being referred to with almost veneration as if the great man had said something profound. But really it’s bollocks. The damage to the Scotsman was done by foreigners and The Herald is owned by Gannett Inc, owner of USA today and many more. In the Scottishness stakes I have absolutely no idea why the Herald should be considered more Scottish just because it’s the UK’s oldest broadsheet. The lineage is betrayed by the ownership. A truly Scottish Times, sharing resources but not editorial direction with London and owned by Rupert Murdoch would be every bit as Scottish and a much better proposition than a cash strapped and rather dull Herald.

I’m looking forwards to a Times that speaks for the future of Independence instead of the Union of the past.

Come on Rupert – you know it makes sense, or should that be come on Steven Walker? I haven’t a clue why McLachie is gone, but transitions provide the opportunity for a change of tack.


McGellie x