Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Le U-Turn

 I have a small property in France and Mr Sarkozy recently came up with a plan to extract more money from me, and thousands of other people with a ‘holiday home’ there. His plan was to effectively double the local property taxes on any property owned and used part time by people living or working outside France on the basis that because they had no income in France they avoided french income and wealth taxes.

Now I can understand that some people might think that if you can afford a second house you can afford extra taxes, and holiday homes should be discouraged, but actually that’s not as clear cut as it would be in the UK. Having worked in jobs with no pension entitlements I have saved money all my working life towards retirement. When Brown started stealing the growth and the bankers extracted their bonuses, then the credit crunch mangled the pot still further it was time to think laterally. So the money went to France where it might hopefully still retain some value and Brown couldn’t reach. Now having retired the property will have to be sold, and while it’s not been the best financial investment it’s fared no worse than the stock market over the past 5 years, and at least it has provided some great times away and some fascinating insights. If the Euro collapses in a heap then I’ll look very silly, but so will every other person with small personal pension savings.

 In some rural areas of France property, particularly stuff needing renovation, is ludicrously cheap by UK standards - look at this or this and often there are many empty houses. This is partly because of the Byzantine french inheritance laws which lock property into multi ownership and partly because many french people work in jobs in the towns, many of which supply accommodation like a town flat, and hence they may keep a family property and live elsewhere or they buy a property that remains essentially unused until they retire to it. So the usual UK cries of ‘you must be rich’ or ‘you are blocking locals from housing’ simply don’t apply in these areas.  Indeed if the english, germans or dutch buy french property most of the locals are delighted, it brings deserted and unused property back into use and helps the local economy, even part time occupation is better than none.

Anyhow, Sarkozy’s plan was all sorted and has had people worried, until someone pointed out that it was discriminatory under EU rules, and apparently it even breaches french rules for people with dual nationality. So the U-turn has been announced.   

For those who think Cameron is unique in not understanding the EU’s power and is a world leader in half-arsed stupid ideas that are announced without having been thought through or properly researched we now know he has competition.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Dear Mr Salmond,

I have just got home from a wonderful few days in your country, visiting some old friends, hopefully making a few new ones, and thoroughly enjoying your country’s hospitality, sitting around enjoying a ‘wee dram’ (or maybe slightly more), having interesting conversations with thinking people until the early hours setting the world to rights.

I don’t suppose you want advice from a politically na├»ve Sassenach, you will probably think me somewhat impertinent, but I’m going to give you some anyhow. Feel free to ignore it.

Get yourselves independent from England as soon and as firmly as you can.  You may think that independence is important because you want financial and judicial control of your own country, but significant though they are, those things are not the important issues. What you need to do is to free your country and your people from the social controls that are stultifying and clogging their lives and dragging them into mediocrity, as they have already done to us in England. Do that and you will have the best country in the British Isles.

Westminster drives the UK political and social agenda and England is by now virtually a lost cause. The smothering orthodoxy of political correctness, health and safety, the entitlement culture, the idiotic elevation of the irrelevant over the important, added to the hypocritical nannying regulation that spews from Brussels to be gold plated and added to by Westminster, have tamed and emaciated our country, our people and our culture. The degradation is now so firmly established in England that it will take generations to rebuild our society and our personal self-reliance, if we ever can. You need to cut the ties before you sink with us.

As the contagion spreads out from London it’s taken longer to get to you and there is probably still time for you to halt it if you act quickly. You still have a sizeable rump of population who received a decent education rather than the pseudo-educational social brainwashing and ‘everyone must win’ entitlement and personal rights culture that has infected English education and much of the younger generation. You have resources, educated and independently minded people, a history of scientific innovation and commercial strengths in both manufacturing and exports. You need to set these assets free to work for you.

To do that you need to set your people free. Free to act, work and think without cloying regulation, nannying, nudging or social engineering and with a minimum of authoritarian and behavioural controls. People cannot be expected to innovate or think independently when every single aspect of their lives, from what they say in the pub, what car they drive, who they choose to employ, even what they are expected to think, is subject to externally enforced rules imposed by people who think they know better how other people should run their lives. All these controls do is reduce freedom, reduce independent thought, reduce innovation, reduce motivation and encourage sheepish mediocrity. You must listen to what your people want, advise them how they can do it, help them, but most importantly then you must trust them to get on with the job, not control and micromanage.

You need to sort out your attitude to social issues, for example alcohol. Nobody denies there is a problem that some individuals misuse it, causing personal injury and anti-social behaviour. Those people need help, or maybe some need punishment. But you need to stop believing that you can help them by punishing (by price) and imposing restrictions, limits and controls on the majority. It won’t help those needing help but is just another step along the road of infantilising and controlling the majority. Stop listening to shrill single-interest pressure groups which frequently have hidden commercial or political agendas and find a sensible solution that recognises the need not to penalise responsible people and recognises the ‘unintended consequences’ of heavy-handed blanket controls. In your case the obvious, but unspoken, unintended consequence will be your whisky industry, probably the most high profile association the world has with Scotland. How does it look to a customer nation when you try and sell them whisky while demonising alcohol at home and imposing price limits and controls because it’s so dangerous to your home population they can’t be trusted with it? Good luck with a sales pitch like that!

You need to look hard at all the other mindless and stultifying nannying controls . Salt, eggs, tobacco, 5 a day, third hand smoke, coffee, fat, fast food, sugar. Half of that list are scientifically unproved or have been disproved. Tell people the truth, just be honest, then trust them to act accordingly as responsible adults.

The other big issue you need to reconsider is the demonising of CO2 and attempts to control it. Recognise that many serious and knowledgeable scientists think man-made global warming is no more than a political and commercial scam. An unproven theory, publicised and used by pseudo-scientific people with vested interests then talked up by political and commercial sponsors to promote an agenda that is not in your interest. So at the very least get some proper independent scientific advice rather than follow the EU and Westminster groupthink. While you are at it take a very hard look at the economics, the consequences and the effectiveness of what you are doing. Wind power is neither free nor clean. In fact all power materials are essentially free at source. Miners don’t have to put money in a slot to get a lump of coal out of the ground, oil rigs don’t pour money in one pipe to make oil come out another. In every case the cost is made up of extraction, taxes, commercial profits, transport, infrastructure and the like. Wind is free of extraction costs perhaps, but using it involves huge setup and infrastructure costs, very high maintenance costs and poor reliability. It is more expensive by far than conventional power. So called green jobs are mostly non-productive maintenance work. Employing thousands of extra people to do something currently done by many fewer people is economic madness. It is no more sensible than making the police give up cars and go back to bicycles to reduce efficiency and thus create ‘blue jobs’. As for pollution, wind generation uses rare materials extracted at huge environmental cost and has complex high pollution manufacturing requirements. The fact that the pollution takes place in Africa and China makes the process completely hypocritical. It displays the same morality as a man who throws all his rubbish into his neighbour’s garden then brags about how clean his house is. Except your house won’t be clean because you are polluting one of your greatest assets with a visual blight, the open unspoiled countryside is why so many people love to visit Scotland. Destroy it at your peril.  Also realise that any difference you make by imposing all this cost on the environment, the people and your businesses is so miniscule as to be un-measurable. It’s a vastly smaller proportion of the atmosphere than the smallest homeopathic remedy.

I could go on longer but you probably aren’t listening by now, but one last suggestion. Do something about those bloody midges!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Full cars less queues

The above nannying slogan was set in large illuminated letters over the motorway into Glasgow last week. When I was at school we were told that "less"  (like "amount") should ony be used for descriptions of quantity - so less air or less sand but anything that can be counted should use the word "fewer".  We can possibly blame Tesco for promoting the linguistic decline with the famous "ten items or less" (it should be fewer) but it's a shame when it appears on public signs.
PS - is Scottish 3G coverage really this bad everywhere?