What About Us?

As the SNP prepare for a non-binding vote on leaving the UK next year – they have also put in a demand for another £98,000 million from the UK Treasury to fund regional business recovery.

Before going any further lets just have a basic fact check to put things in context.

Man3Scotland has a population of 5.4 million – exactly the same as Yorkshire. So that extra £98,000 million equates to £18,148 more for every adult and child in Scotland. A huge amount that has to be paid by us all out of UK-wide taxation. Note that this is in addition to a range of other benefits, some unique to Scotland, that are paid out of UK-wide contributions.

For those Grandads with grandchildren hoping to get to university – it is only those families resident in Scotland that will get their tertiary education for free. The tens of thousands paid out or borrowed by students in England will – in Scotland – be funded by … UK-wide taxation.

And for anyone who currently has to pay for prescription medicines the fact that Scotland uses tax income from the UK to give them out for free does not go down well.

This generosity is sometimes claimed to be justified because Scotland’s tax payers pay more than in the rest of the UK. But this claim is clearly shown to be false because the scale of the benefits received is far higher than any marginal tax variations.

Take the example of the BBC. The 2.5 million households in Scotland are able to receive not just additional national programs but also have a dedicated channel – BBC Alba. The fact that BBC Alba often has tiny audiences does not matter since the TV Licence payments that fund it are UK wide. So no need to live within their income limits.

Meanwhile in England the regional content for our same-sized example – Yorkshire – is being cutback from a level that was already well below that of the Scottish services. A situation repeated in local government. With Scotland having a very expensive modern parliament building and a full house of MSPs plus their support staff while poor relation Yorkshire has to make do with a few elected mayors, no building and minimal funding.

Just to add icing to the cake it was announced yesterday that Scotland has become the only country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products. It is estimated to cost about £8.7m a year and will not be means-tested. Not a big cost – if accurate – but then it’s just one more little extra for the tax-payers to fund.

The budget estimates for any newly independent Scotland are going to need to be very creative to cover all of this expenditure with no more than 2.5 million households to tax ..

Update 30-Nov-2020 Untroubled by having to worry where the money will come from the SNP have agreed to fund free breakfasts and lunches for all primary school children – all year round. [Who needs parents?] And because the UK Government intends to reduce overseas aid the SNP have increased theirs by £2 million – despite still not having overseas aid as a devolved power. But their big idea for a golden future is for everyone in Scotland to move to a four-day working week while keeping their full five-day pay. So that’s 100% pay for 80% work … An interesting approach that has its advocates and lobby groups – to quote one of them One day in the future, hopefully soon, when the full-time working week is four days or less we’re going to look back on this period and think what on earth were we doing. Too true – but for quite a different reason…

Mischief Night

In northern England it used to be the case that the night before Plot Night – Bonfire Night – was when children would play tricks on people or raid supplies for their bonfire from any near-by competitors. But like most folk traditions the practice is long gone – probably because bonfires do not go well with tarmac roads or burning rubbish in the street!

USPres2020-1In 2020 we have instead the political grandchild of Mischief Night – the counting and disputing of votes in the US presidential election.

With the only two realistic candidates having a combined age of over 150 years it seems that the US voting system is not producing the best choices. And this year the US voters only had the option of picking between two grandads – one who thinks he is on some reality TV show and the other who gets too easily confused to safely act as commander in chief of the US military. What a choice ..

But then who are we to complain. Britain – and indeed Europe – does have more than its fair share of political players who easily justify the title worse than useless

Nightmare On High Streets

It’s Halloween – and as darkness fell the latest political response to the Covid pandemic was being prepared for broadcast to the nation; with suitable scary effect.

BoJo2After repeated delays the announcement came of closures of all non-essential retail venues and we took another step towards our town centres becoming ghost towns. The aim is to improve the situation in time for Christmas – but in practice the four weeks of closure will blast a big hole in the viability of many retailers. It will, after all, fall in the pre-Christmas shopping peak – a time that would normally see them through a quiet February and March.

Restaurants, clubs and pubs will all be closed – despite them spending millions on providing extensive virus security measures. The office Christmas lunch is most likely cancelled. True the furlough scheme will be extended but that will not save many retailers from collapse.

However with schools, colleges and universities still open the virus still has a route out to infect new victims – and may prove to be a big gap in the lock-down plans.

This year has been bad but 2021 will start off worse ….

Going Downhill

At the beginning of the 19th century advances in medicine lead to the establishment of specialist fever or isolation hospitals to treat patients with infectious diseases – such as scarlet fever and smallpox. Early examples in England being the Liverpool Fever Hospital (1801) and the London Fever Hospital (1802). Such hospitals became common in England when laws were enacted requiring the notification of infectious diseases by public health officials.

The Catherine-de-Barnes Isolation Hospital was established in 1907 near Solihull in the West Midlands. It stayed operational into the 1980s – becoming the last in service when the six other remaining NHS isolation hospitals were closed down in 1981. But then in 1987 even this hospital was closed, fumigated and sold for luxury housing. An event that ended almost 200 years of putting patients with highly-contagious diseases in dedicated hospitals.

Back then it was thought that we would never need isolation hospitals again. All the world health challenges were either under control or far away.

NHSNightingaleNWBut in 2020 all the rules changed – to the extent that this year has already seen the Covid worldwide toll reach some 38 million infections and around 1,086,000 known deaths – over 43,000 of them in the UK.

Early in the outbreak the UK government raced to establish seven temporary hospitals for Covid patients – with no expense spared. A move that could have re-established the isolation model that had worked in the past.

But no!

Instead the approach has been to free-up space in existing hospitals so that infectious Covid patients could share resources – and viruses – with those too sick to be included in the bed-freeing-up strategy. The results of which were death sentences for care home residents, a lack of resources for other serious conditions, cancellations of elective surgery and a reluctance within the general population to go anywhere near a hospital.

According to the Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago NHS chiefs had already been urged to assign all Covid patients to isolation hospitals in order to curb the spread of the virus, but the scientists involved were told that the move – though adopted in other countries and used effectively here before – was “too difficult” for the current NHS to achieve!

So we are now facing growing numbers of cases being handled in a repeat of the same approach that caused so many problems before. While we have new, purpose-built hospitals sitting empty and unused since June …

The front line NHS staff have been working very hard – but the ability of their leadership seems to have really gone downhill relative to other countries and those 19th century pioneers.

The phrase lions lead by donkeys comes to mind …

Another Broken Promise?

Here we are at another deadline in the EU relationship saga. And it is sobering to reflect that there are eight year-olds who have spent their entire lives with Brexit on the national agenda.

MunsterManToday’s question is will the UK government, that is the Prime Minister, walk away from the fraught trade negotiations by midnight tonight – as promised? Or will they allow the EU politicians to impose their timetable instead?

By tomorrow we should find out.

But there is a feeling that this is a critical tipping point. Anything other than the UK landlord calling last orders tonight will show everyone – on both sides – just how weak and ineffective the UK leadership has become …

Update 19-Oct-2020
The cynics win again. Bluff and bluster but the deadline is not enforced and so the talks continue …

It’ll All End In Tiers?

It’s autumn and already the supermarket shelves are being stacked with Christmas specials while the British media tries to generate the false impression that there are shortages of essentials due to panic buying. For this Grandad mince pies are high on the essentials list – but with the raw materials to make them already stockpiled there are no concerns on that front.

Man38However taking a somewhat broader view there are plenty of things that could go badly wrong for Britain. First the infamous, but non-existent, trade deal with the European Union is needed by both sides – but not at any price. And those that expected the EU to take a pragmatic and fair approach have been rudely shaken out of their dreams. We have to hope that the politicians can stop playing their political games and come to a sensible solution. But it’s not something that has happened very often, or very quickly, in the past – and the EU has a worse than average track record; mainly because there are so many different countries trying to come to a common consensus. What suits Spain does not suit Germany, etc, etc.

With just three months remaining before the end of transition and just a few weeks before the next final deadline any businesses relying on importing or exporting across the Channel must be crying out for definite border policies and procedures. The optimistic view is that exports from the EU to UK will be VAT free and cheaper but the pessimistic view is that something as simple as buying an item on Amazon will involve extra processes that increase the final price significantly. Who knows? Certainly not Joe Public. And most probably not Joe Public’s member of parliament either.

Then a close second comes Covid-19 – or rather the various attempts by our leaders to solve a health pandemic by issuing random rules, laws and slogans. Today’s news that even if a vaccine is found and approved by early 2021 it will take all of next year to treat most people. So we face starting 2021 with both Covid lock-downs and massive hold-ups at all the ports. But our government has things under control, it says, and is looking to make things clearer by putting Covid restrictions into three tiers …

Some distance behind these two we have threats of political rebellions in Scotland and Ireland – plus even within Scotland – and an increasingly unstable situation within British royalty. With the head of state being in a high-risk age group, the heir apparent being past retirement age, the Duke of York being tangled up in US litigation and Harry, formerly known as Prince, having become a minister of the Woke-ist religion there is a minefield of potential disasters not far ahead for the House of Windsor.

Interesting times …

Equinoxe

The day counter on the Daily Mail web site is showing 183 days so that’s half of the year spent living under constantly changing restrictions. From the Spring Equinox to the Autumn one the whole country has been subjected to an unprecedented torrent of instructions about our daily lives from on high. Even the Queen has been severely restricted by advice and laws which supposedly protect us, our economy and our health service from the terrors of Covid-19 infection.

Man37But today’s announcement to parliament by our Prime Minister (and Covid victim), Boris Johnson, set out not just more rules to be followed but also the prospect that they will be in place for a further six months.

Quite what will have improved the infection rate by then is not at all clear. One assumption is that there will be an effective, economic and safe preventative vaccination by them. But that’s a big ask when the common cold corona virus still has no vaccine after decades of attempts. Plus there are reports that natural antibodies to protect us from Covid-19 only have a limited life – so calling into doubt the value of any mass immunisation programme even if a vaccine is found.

The current picture suggests that nothing will actually remove the Covid-19 virus from the planet by then. Government measures can restrict its spread but the virus is like some invisible flood water that will break into anywhere that is unguarded. And even New Zealand’s success cannot guard every one of its citizens all of the time.

But it is also clear that after six more months of restrictions the national economy will be in a terrible state and those bountiful government handouts for everything from overseas aid to winter fuel payments; from high-speed railways to child benefits; from arts funding to state pensions will be facing the axe.

Messers Whitty and Vallance may have been painting an extreme scenario with 49,000 cases per day by 13-Oct-2020 but it seems more likely that by 2021 our high streets will be ghost towns and their civil service pension funds will be facing collapse or at least a major devaluation. Then they may have to concede that Sweden has played the hand dealt to it by fate much better …

A Lifetime Ago

Seventy-five years ago today Japan’s years of aggression and brutality across Asia and the Pacific were brought to an abrupt end by their realisation that allied atomic bombs could destroy entire Japanese cities.

For my uncle the news signalled an end to his time in the British Army fighting in the jungles of Burma – and the prospect of getting back to his family in England unharmed.

Song_On_the_Road_to_MandTo mark the anniversary there are various events today; the main ones being covered by the BBC. And normally the BBC do make a good job of covering such state occasions. Sadly this year the BBC seems to have failed by excluding the iconic Army marching song On The Road To Mandalay – apparently because part of one line might be considered offensive (to person or persons unknown?).

But I’m pretty sure that none of the families of those that served in this forgotten army objected to the words. In fact their only objections seem certain to be over the exclusion of this traditional song … despite it featuring in previous anniversary broadcasts.

To make up for weakness of the BBC’s cancel culture woke squad here is the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem –

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

Update 23-Aug-2020

Just to compound the BBC’s descent into absurdity comes the news that Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia are likely to be dropped from the Last Night of the Proms on the whim of Dalia Stasevska this year’s conductor. Not sure why a single Ukrainian born, Finnish national should take priority over a much-loved tradition at this once per year celebration of British heritage. But then the BBC seems determined to kill-off anything – and anyone – that stands in the way of its complete wokewash.

Update 28-Aug-2020
Ms Stasevska’s management company has now issued a statement insisting that she had no part in the BBC’s decision to cut the patriotic anthems. This seems to imply that the conductor was used as an unknowing decoy for the BBC management to hide their revisionist agenda behind. The wokewash continues …

What’s Going Wrong?

As a fan of cycle racing the virus restrictions have meant that so far this year there has been no chance to watch hours of live TV from around a variety of scenic European venues.

CaptainBlogsBut today it was back to normal with Eurosport showing live coverage from Tuscany of races rescheduled from Spring. With a packed programme scheduled for the coming months being trapped at home will be a bit more bearable – despite the threats of infection from second waves and the constant stream of new rules to restrict our behaviour.

So how did Tuscany cope handling a sports event within the pandemic restrictions? No problem – the crowds were just as dense as previous years. No one in the crowds or amongst the officials was seen wearing face coverings. And the competitors were definitely breathing heavily by the finish. True it was outdoors which might help but the sheer numbers packed into the centre of Sienna meant that social distancing was non-existent. However it seems that no one was breaking the rules. Tuscany is functioning pretty close to normal. And based upon this afternoon’s observations the financial impact on this part of Italy will be far less than it will be in the UK.

Back here we have the Chief Medical Officer warning that restrictions cannot be relaxed as we have reached the limit of what can be allowed. The government are reversing the lifting of some restrictions with very little notice – and there are threats that pubs will have to shut in order for schools to reopen after the summer break.

What’s going wrong? Italy was hard hit at the start of the pandemic – so how come it is the UK where the restrictions are much worse and the financial impact greater? Clearly there are serious problems – but whether these are caused by the Goverment, the public servants, the medical professions or simply a stupid, non-compliant public is anyone’s guess …