Christmas, Hogmanay and a 670 page referendum white paper seem to have cooled political debate somewhat. Even the Road to 2014 blog has only managed one entry this month. But the present calm surrounding Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum question does not mean that the issue is already decided.
It will all surely change as the September 2014 date comes within the public’s short-term scope. And then the results of the opinion polls may start to have more relevance. Certainly the Yes campaign needs a boost if they are to have any chance. The latest YouGov poll has the Yes vote at 33% while the No vote is well ahead at 52%. So despite coming after the white paper’s release there seems to be no change in voting intentions. Clearly if this was the situation in nine months time then the Scottish National Party (SNP) would take a major blow. The independence issue would be off the agenda for decades and Labour may be returned to power at the next general election. But then …
“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
Back after a short gap but still looking for something interesting to report. Comet ISON did not to survive its trip around the Sun so failing to give us the predicted spectacular display. This rather dented the impact of the BBC’s Comet of the Century special – but it still goes ahead this evening.
The UK Government’s announcement this week on a digital radio switchover date was another non-event. Neither FM nor DAB was dropped and instead the promoters will continue trying to convince us that DAB is a good idea. The fact that the target take-up may never be reached before the out-dated DAB technology is scrapped does not seem to have been considered. But clearly the BBC’s earlier announcement of spending on more DAB transmitters foretold what the outcome would be.
Next the Coldest winter in modern times and Big freeze to last three months that were headlines in the Daily Express last month have, like ISON, failed to appear. Wind and rain yes but not the coldest winter so far; even as we reach the solstice. Perhaps the weather soothsayers will be right next month … but then even random choices are right sometimes.
Finally it will be no surprise to Grandads everywhere that this year’s festive TV schedules are again packed with repeats – often repeats of repeats. In the case of the BBC they are sticking to the story that they lack the funds to provide enough new programmes. A story that is hard to square with, for example, the cost of switching last week’s Question Time venue from Swansea to Johannesburg at short notice. Especially with the BBC already paying for a larger team there than all the other UK channels combined. And even more difficult for TV tax payers to take when the media had also been highlighting the BBC’s over-generous severance payment record and their blocking of a critical report into their failed Digital Media Initiative.
This week the British Prime Minister has been in China on a trade mission. And has even raised Grandad’s idea of getting the Chinese involved in building the HS2 rail links. But all was not so useful. First it was the makeup of the British delegation. Few seemed likely to be involved in clinching trade deals that could put a dent in the China-UK trade imbalance. In fact the only one I saw interviewed was a man trying to sell his Kentish pork sausages. Hardly a multi-million pound trade deal.
Beijing and then Shanghai were on the delegation’s route but unfortunately the weather stepped in to make its own point. Clouds of stagnant pollution formed a heavy smog. Dense sheets blocked out the sun; exceeding world safety levels by over 20 times. Children were kept indoors and construction work was ordered to stop. It caused flights to be canceled as visibility fell to just a few metres. Even business vehicle use had to be cut. It was like an old-time London or Edinburgh except then the sources were mainly homes burning coal – rather than modern industry and power stations. Despite the obvious surrounding Victorian gloom no mention was made of the pointlessness of British Green Taxes when compared to the pollution generated by China. But perhaps the trip may have indirectly helped by bringing a touch of realpolitik to the UK Government’s green taxation schemes. Smoked sausages anyone?