Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 448

Issue # 448                                             Week ending Saturday 21st April 2018

If Stornoway People Are Nicking Shopping Baskets, They Are Off Their Trolley by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Let us pray. It’s OK, calm down. I have not taken to doing Thought for the Day. I am just trying to tell you about one afternoon at Sunday School when a loud wee four-year-old lad was getting very confused. His mother had told him to just sing and pray the same as everyone else there. “Just do and say the same as everyone else and you’ll be fine,” she said to him. But this big prayer was stumping him. For instance: “Give us this day our daily bread ...”. What is all that about? Still, all he had to do was learn it parrot-fashion.

He cracked that bit fine and his voice boomed round the room as called on the Almighty to send him the baked goods. But it got even more complicated after that with the lines which say: “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us”. He didn’t know what a trespass was and he didn’t care. After all, he wasn’t even attending school yet. But he had a go at it anyway and everyone there heard him clear as a bell saying: “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”

If forgiveness is necessary for putting rubbish into our baskets, what penance is necessary for making off with the entire wire baskets? That is what the good folk of Lewis are now thinking after a spate of thefts from Tesco has put the food giant down to the wire. No, it’s not the food being taken and not even the drink. It’s the wire baskets which are being manhandled out the door. What possible reason could sticky-fingered Stornowegians have for making off with them? Ah well, my friend. The love of money is the root of all evil.

Since the 5p charge for a wee plastic bag came in, the shopping baskets are flying out the door. That particular shop has been losing 15 of them every week. It is just a week or two since I was sat in the car-park and noticed a certain lady taking two baskets to her car, plonking them on the back seat and stooring off. Being an innocent, I assumed she would be back with them in an hour but now I am not so sure. And I see other stores in the islands say they have exactly the same problem. For just 5p? How many low-down, dirty, rotten thieves are on this island?

While other areas up and down the UK are having 14-day guns amnesty, the Stornoway Tesco has announced a shopping basket amnesty. Yes, the store has granted a temporary amnesty. You may escape the dawn raids and the humiliation of being named in the sheriff court by getting them back pronto. Meanwhile, the concensus in the court of the great unwashed - in other words, social media - is that the hoobering is all being done to save that measly 5p for a plastic bag.

Meanwhile, I am told decorated frameworks which seem to be the same shape as supermarket baskets can be seen around the islands strung together and used as rabbit hutches, being upturned and padded as baby seats and suspended from the gutters as, er, hanging baskets. Ingenious. Not classy but a tad inventive. Meanwhile, some of us - like my wife - are finding things really difficult. They shoot out of their cars and try to grab a trolley even if they are only going in for a toothbrush. You see, they feel really self-conscious getting something off the shelf if they have no basket or trolley to put it in.

On that long walk of shame to the nearest check-out, they could see as many as half a dozen people, all of whom may possibly think they are on the rob. Mrs X says she will adapt the plastic basket she uses on washing day, then superglue a couple of handles on it and use that rather than run the risk of meeting some of the posh people down the road in Ivorhill who could be thinking she is a tea leaf.

It will take about six weeks to get more baskets, they say. Hmm. You can get ones very similar to the stolen Tesco ones on a certain well-known auction website delivered within four days. They are only ordinary wire baskets but five of them cost about £25 plus carriage. But why the heck should they? Oh look, another shop has had stuff nicked. A ladder has been stolen from the hardware shop. The manager says that further steps will be taken.

$1 Million Gold Drilling Project Signed for Ayrshire

A $1 million gold drilling project has been signed for South Ayrshire.  Turkey’s largest mining firm, Koza Ltd (Koza), is to fund the programme near Straiton.  It was first revealed in 2016 how test drills were to be carried in hills above the village. Now a joint venture with GreenOre Gold Plc (GreenOre) will see 4,000m of drilling take place.  GreenOre managing director, Gavin Berkenheger, hailed the announcement as a “significant milestone”. He said: “Our job is to package up ground and now Koza have partnered with us on this project in Ayrshire.  They are the biggest gold mining company in Turkey and their knowledge of the field is vast.  They see the potential in the site, and the value of gold to the Crown could be billions of dollars. “It would mean hundreds of jobs if the gold exists in the quantities we think.” Last year’s test drills, across a 3km area, targeted historic finds and a new outcrop discovery.  Highlights included gold at 3.8 grammes per tonne found three metres beneath the surface.  That has now opened the door to a “major” drilling programme, following a site visit by Koza chairman, Akin Ipek.  The $1million spend is to further “define the style of mineralisation and targets for continued exploration”.  Koza has the option to earn 80 per cent of the project, for a $1.95million spend.  Mr Ipek said: “We are delighted to continue working with GreenOre on this very exciting project.  We look forward to seeing the results of our further exploration.”  Former SNP list MSP, Chic Brodie, who helped broker initial interest in the site, said: “Perseverance has paid off.  Now Ayrshire looks set to reap the rewards.”

Church Merge for Farr and Tongue Parishes Now Likely
Changes are afoot within the Church of Scotland parish of Tongue and Melness, which looks set to lose its resident minister, Rev Stewart Goudie, at some point this summer. On his departure, the parish will be linked with Altnaharra and Farr, a change which has been in the pipeline since the appointment of Rev Beverly Cushman to the latter charge last year. At the time of Rev Cushman’s appointment, what is known as a “deferred linkage” was set up between the parishes, which means that both congregations were involved in selecting the new mnister. Mr Goudie explained: “The important thing is that the congregation chooses their minister, and nobody forces a minister to go where they don’t want to go. That’s why, when it’s decided to go down from two ministers to one minister in a place, it’s quite a long, complex, drawn-out process, because everybody gets their choices. When Rev Beverly Cushman was appointed to Bettyhill, that was done with Melness and Tongue people as well: both congregations said yes.” Mr Goudie, who worked as an electronics engineer for thirty-five years before entering the ministry, was inducted to Melness and Tongue in August 2010. This was his first pastorate. “It’s generally understood that a minister should stay in their first place for five years if possible to give them that breadth of understanding and experience before moving somewhere else,” he said, although he concedes that he has drawn on his previous career to inform his approach to church work. “In engineering, we have to try to figure things out and work out why things aren’t working, and try to make them better. It seemed that God was leading me into ministry to try to use those gifts and skills that I’d developed in engineering and use them in the church instead, to help the church develop some creative solutions to try to be the church of the future.”  Mr Goudie describes change as something which has been “a challenge for the church for over two thousand years” and attributes its survival to an ability to adapt. “Clearly the pressure for that goes up and down,” he suggested. “Changes go in cycles and seasons and sometimes the church slows down as the impetus goes and then we realise we’ve fallen behind and we need to respond.” He went on: “We have seen quite a lot of change here in Melness and Tongue church. Some of that is driven by the changes that are going on within the community all the time, with people growing older, moving away and passing on. We’ve introduced a lot of changes, gradually, to help our Sunday worship experience and activities to be more close to everyone’s daily lives. We use more modern language; we have a much more relaxed and open style than the way we’ve done things before, and as part of using new hymns, we’ve moved to using computers to project the words on screen, so we don’t use hymn books.”  Over a pastorate of almost eight years, Mr Goudie has identified two principal challenges for the church within his parishes. “The first is that we have a great love and respect for our buildings,” he said. “They go back generations, sometimes hundreds of years. And yet, if we’re not using those buildings as much as we have in the past, then it’s very difficult to maintain them, and to make the church more modern and more relevant. In addition to the challenge of the buildings, there is the challenge to find people that are willing to step up to that commitment: to keep our buildings and to modernise the church, instead of sticking in a rut in the past which only means that the buildings will disintegrate or be turned into some other use.”

UK Westminster Government Launches Supreme Court Challenge Against Scotland’s Continuity Bill
The constitutional conflict over Brexit has escalated with the UK Westminster Government launching a Supreme Court challenge against Holyrood legislation. Theresa May’s top lawyer has referred rival laws on exiting the EU from the Scottish and Welsh administrations to the most senior judges in the country.  The SNP pushed its alternative to Westminster’s Withdrawal Bill through the Scottish Parliament last month amid a row over the destination of powers returning from Brussels.  Announcing the legal challenge to the Continuity Bill, the Attorney General Jeremy Wright, said: “This legislation risks creating serious legal uncertainty for individuals and businesses as we leave the EU.  This reference is a protective measure which we are taking in the public interest. The (UK) government very much hopes this issue will be resolved without the need to continue with this litigation”.  Scottish ministers say they were forced into delivering their own legislation because of the UK Westminster Government’s failure to protect devolution in its bill.  They claim the Withdrawal Bill is a “power grab” on competences that are devolved. A minority of the 111 returning powers – including those relating to food labelling and livestock movements – need to be run initially from Westminster to protect the British single market, according to Tory ministers. They say that would provide time to forge common frameworks that ensure regulations on the likes of animal transportation do not deviate between the home nations.  Both sides have said they are committed to resolving the dispute over the destination of EU powers, which would allow SNP MSPs to approve the Westminster legislation. Michael Russell, the Brexit Secretary, said Scotland’s Lord Advocate will be arguing in the Supreme Court that Holyrood has the power to “prepare for the consequences for devolved matters of UK withdrawal from the European Union”. “Our Continuity Bill is an important and necessary piece of legislation to prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit while protecting the powers of the Scottish Parliament that people voted for,” he said.  “While the Scottish Government is not opposed to UK-wide frameworks in certain areas when these are in Scotland’s interests, this must only happen with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.”

Edinburgh Coffin-Doll Mystery 'Cracked At Last'

They are some of the most macabre artefacts ever discovered in Edinburgh, whose mysterious origins have baffled and enthralled historians for more than a century and a half. In 1836, a group of boys hunting rabbits on Arthur's Seat stumbled across a cache of miniature coffins, each complete with a wooden doll 'corpse'.  In total, 17 of the ghoulish items were discovered, but despite the case being probed by the great and the good of the capital's learned society, no answer was ever found to explain where they came from. Over the years it has been suggested the dolls were the work of witches, or represent the bodies of sailors lost at sea.  It has also been suggested that they are a memorial to the victims of the notorious and murderous bodysnatchers William Burke and William Hare, who carried out their gruesome deeds in the capital during a 10-month spree in 1820.  Crime author Ian Rankin took inspiration from the story for his novel The Falls, and a selection of the coffins remains on show at the National Museum of Scotland.  But now an author and amateur historian believes he has cracked the mystery, and says that the dolls - eight of which survive - may be linked to an act of political insurrection which rocked Scotland before being largely forgotten.  Scottish-American writer Jeff Nisbet, who was born in Edinburgh before emigrating to the US aged 11, has spent months studying the case and has suggested it is a memorial to the event known as Radical war of 1820.  During that year weavers and other workers across the Central Belt were moved to acts of civil disobedience because of worsening economic conditions and launched protests and strikes calling for better conditions and rights.   The disturbances, which threatened to spiral into open revolt, came to an abrupt end when they were put down by the authorities, and three of the ringleaders were executed while 20 more were transported to Australia.  Unemployed weavers were later put to work building a path around Arthur's seat - known to this day as 'Radical Road' - and Mr Nisbet believes that the coffins were a coded memento left by those who wanted to see the movement 'rise again'.  He said: "By the time the coffins were discovered, the rebellion had been largely forgotten, save perhaps by those whose loved ones had been lost to either the hangman’s noose or a ship bound for Australia.  And so it's my theory that the artefacts’ raison d'être was to honor the Radicals, and that they were later "resurrected" in an attempt to keep the flame of rebellion lit in a land too quick to forget — an attempt that ultimately failed."  The author added: "Shortly following the uprising, Sir Walter Scott proposed that unemployed weavers be kept busy building a footpath around the Crags, since known as “The Radical Road.”  Scott's proposal was not born of his benevolent heart, however, since the hands of a weaver would have been punished by the work.  From the Radical Road, visitors can still look out upon all of Edinburgh and the one ocean that connects us all, no matter how far-flung we live. What finer spot to hide a tribute to the transportees than along a road planned by a Scottish nobleman, but built by Radicals?"  Mr Nisbet claims that the dolls, which all appear to be male and have their eyes open, represent men not yet dead. Another clue, he says, can be found in their clothes -  made from a type of cloth the weavers would have been familiar with.  The writer also points out that many of Burke and Hare's victims were women, making it unlikely the dolls are connected to them.

Crime and Thrills on Black Isle this Weekend
The scene has been set on the Black Isle for another Crime & Thrillers weekend hosted by Cromarty Arts Trust. The April 20-22 event includes talks, book signings, Q&A sessions, writing workshops and a movie night as well as a gala night play and supper on the Friday on the theme of fairy tale villains.   Now in its sixth year, it is again designed to appeal to more than just aficionados of the crime-writing genre of novels.  Ian Rankin, who has a home in Cromarty, was instrumental in the original plan and has stuck with the festival throughout. He kicks off events on Saturday morning with the intriguingly entitled talk, "Why Crime Fiction Is Good For You".  He’s followed by Mary Paulson-Ellis and William Matchett, a former police officer with 30 years’ experience in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and latterly the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He had an insight into the intelligence processes and elements of what has come to be known as The Troubles that are generally not known to the public. His talk is entitled "The Book Nobody Would Publish", he promises an insight into how IRA activities were disrupted, saving hundreds if not thousands of lives.  An update on the fascinating and gruesome local archaeological find of Rosemarkie Man will be offered by Mary Peteranna. Prof Dame Sue Black  will talk about her new book, All That Remains. She’ll join Ian Rankin in presenting prizes of the first RSE@Inverness: Young People’s Short Story Competition, with readings from the winning stories.

SNP Reject Claim They Held Meetings with Cambridge Analytica
Controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica held a number of meetings with the SNP , a former employee has claimed.  Brittany Kaiser, who was the firm's business development director, said it had not done work for the political party but there had been "pitches and negotiations" at meetings in London and Edinburgh.  The SNP denied the claim and said talks were held once through an external consultant who deemed the company to be a "bunch of cowboys".  Cambridge Analytica has come under fire over the use of Facebook users' personal data in Donald Trump's race for the US presidency.  Ms Kaiser made the comments on Tuesday while giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee's inquiry into fake news.  During questioning from SNP MP Brendan O'Hara, Ms Kaiser said: "I do know that we have been in pitches and negotiations with UK parties in the past, such as the SNP.  I believe that there were meetings that took place in London where individuals came down from Edinburgh to visit us in our Mayfair headquarters and that further meetings were undertaken in Edinburgh near the parliament." Ms Kaiser, who left the firm in March, added she did not know who was in the meetings but could "probably look through some old emails" and find names.  In a statement released later, an SNP spokesman said: "The SNP has never worked with Cambridge Analytica.  An external consultant had one meeting in London. His assessment was that they were 'a bunch of cowboys', which turned out to be true. No further meetings were held."

Islanders Demand Urgent Meeting with Humza Yousaf Over Ageing Fleet

Tourism bosses are demanding the Transport Secretary personally intervenes in Scotland's ferry network as businesses are suffering widespread disruption just weeks into the season due to its increasingly ageing fleet.  The body that represents tourism operators in the Outer Hebrides are demanding that Humza Yousaf travels to the islands and want him to reinstate a vital ferry that has been withdrawn from a popular route.  It comes after Caledonian MacBrayne warned that passengers are facing widespread disruption on the network due to potential breakdowns and delays The start of the summer timetable has already been hit by severe disruption as the operator was forced to move ferries around the network to make up a shortfall in available ships.  The average age of ferries serving CalMac’s lifeline routes is almost 22 years and the operator has admitted the peak tourist period is a test for the 32 ferries that serve 51 ports on 49 routes.  CalMac has redeployed bigger vessels to busy routes such as Uig to Harris and North Uist and Oban to Coll/Tiree and Colonsay.  A bigger ferry has also been moved to serve the daily Oban to Lochboisdale on South Uist.  But the knock-on effect has seen other services cancelled or run at a reduced capacity which is hitting local businesses hard.  Now Outer Hebrides Tourism are demanding urgent action as easy access for tourists is “critical” to the local economy. It added: "But those travelling to and from the Outer Hebrides islands are suffering yet again from CalMac juggling ferries services due to ‘operational reasons.  In the few weeks since the start of the peak tourist season, capacity has been sacrificed at short notice from the ‘Uig triangle’ ferry route with a vessel too small to even deliver an effective service for pre-booked passengers and the ‘Lord of the Isles’ has been removed from the Mallaig - Lochboisdale route, until further notice. OHT is also extremely concerned over the recent recurrent warnings from Calmac that their vessels are too old to guarantee service reliability so asks what steps are being taken to provide, at absolute minimum, a fit-for-purpose ferry service for the future to the Outer Hebrides.” OHT has a target with its partners to generate £74 million from tourism for the islands economy by 2020.  It comes amid concerns a 10-fold increase in traffic is already causing severe problems for island communities.  Last year, CalMac carried more than five million passengers, nearly 1.5 million cars, some 80,000 coaches, and just under one million metres of commercial traffic.  The huge rise in tourists follows the introduction of a Scottish Government scheme to make island ferry fares more affordable. Road Equivalent Tariff was introduced to boost remote economies - and worked so well the number of cars on one route is up by more than 80 per cent. It fares on the cost of travelling the equivalent distance by road and has cut fares by up to 55%. But the rise brought severe disruption last year and island communities are already braced for further delay. Across the network, car traffic has increased by just over 25%, which is causing severe problems as islanders struggle to book ferries and increased traffic contends with many single-track roads.

End of the Line for Islands' Miniature Railway?

A miniature railway line used by thousands of tourists and locals every year could be forced to close if no-one can be found to run it.  Ill health means the owner of the Ness Islands ride, Ian Young, has been left with no option but to sell up the railway which he created and has operated for more than 35 years.  Without a buyer, the retired electrician fears it could be the end of the line for the popular attraction.  The station, engine shed, shop and 0.8-mile track are situated on the banks of the Ness at Whin Island, about a mile from the city centre.  It regularly draws admirers from around the world as well as the Highlands. On a good day, the miniature locomotives and carriages can carry as many as 600 passengers along the circular track which winds past colourful carvings of exotic animals and across a bridge saved from the salvage yard when it was due to be scrapped by city authorities.  Mr Young, a former Air Training Corps officer and professional railwayman, lives with his wife Jan in Inverness. The 75-year-old said: "I’ve recently received a diagnosis which means it will be impossible for me to continue.  My son Barry and daughter Julie are successful professionals with their own children and busy careers. Both live many miles from Inverness and, as a result, there’s no possibility of them being able to take over. I’m looking for somebody else to preserve the tradition."

Fury As Council Hikes Up Parking Charges

A decision to increase fees in council-run car parks in East Dunbartonshire have sparked an angry reaction from  residents and local business.  The council is set to scrap free parking for the first two hours and at weekends.  From June 18 this year, motorists will be charged £1 for up to two hours, £2 for two to three hours, £3 for three to four hours and £5 for more than four hours.  The charges will apply  every day from 9am-5.30pm.  People responded with fury on the council’s Facebook site, accusing the local authority of driving away business from the town centre.  The revised charges will also mean motorists popping in to borrow a book at William Patrick Library in Kirkintilloch will now have to pay.  The other car park affected in Kirkintilloch is Barleybank Car Park in the town centre. Blue badge holders will  remain exempt from charges. Fees were introduced at five other EDC car parks in July 2016 – Roman Road (Bearsden); Douglas Street, Mugdock Road, Stewart Street and Woodburn (Milngavie). According to a council spokesperson, the average daily turnover of spaces in charge-levying car parks has increased as a result, “providing more parking for potential customers and visitors”.  He added: “Drivers will no longer have to enter their vehicle registration details when obtaining a ticket, addressing feedback from people who have experienced issues.” Any additional funds raised will be used for roads and transportation, he said.  The council recently approved a Revenue Budget for 2018/19 which included required savings of £13.6 million (a shortfall of £15.8m prior to the Council Tax rise).

UK Westminster Government Suffers Double Defeat Over Key Brexit Legislation
Peers have inflicted a double defeat on the UK Westminster Government over flagship Brexit legislation, amid claims they are attempting to prevent the UK leaving the EU. Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Crossbenchers and backbench Tories formed an alliance over amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, with one seeking to retain the option of a customs union with the EU and the other to protect people’s rights post-Brexit. When one of the customs union amendments was pushed to a vote, peers voted overwhelmingly in favour by 348 votes to 225 – majority 123 – with another, linked amendment approved unopposed.  The House of Lords Library reported the 573 peers involved in the vote was the seventh largest turnout ever in the chamber’s history, and included a sizeable Tory rebellion. A total of 24 of the party’s peers supported the amendment, including former cabinet ministers Lord Heseltine, Lord Lansley and former minister Lord Willetts.  The Department for Exiting the European Union expressed its disappointment at the result. Brexit minister Lord Callanan said the Government did not support the customs union measures as it would require it to report to Parliament on the steps taken towards delivering an objective it has “clearly ruled out”.  He signalled the Government’s intention to overturn the measures at a later stage, saying before the vote it had no intention to “reflect further” on the matter. A later vote on amendment 11 – a cross-party move from peers to ensure that existing protections across a range of areas including employment, equality, health and safety and consumer standards cannot be changed except by primary legislation – was approved by 314 votes to 217, majority 97.  The division list showed there were 14 Tory rebels on this vote. The Bill transfers EU law into UK law but concerns have been raised over the use of so-called Henry VIII powers, which would allow ministers to amend EU rules and regulations when they are transferred on to the UK statute book with little parliamentary scrutiny.  Tory former Cabinet minister and European commissioner Chris Patten also supported the proposal, noting there were times in a political career where party loyalty “comes way behind trying to stand up for the national interest”.  Labour’s Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town said the amendment was “good for the governance of this country” and would save the economy £24 billion over the next 15 years.

Ground-breaking Pentland Firth Power Scheme Passes Milestone
Tidal power specialist Atlantis Resources has hailed another milestone for its ground- breaking MeyGen scheme in the Pentland Firth. The Edinburgh-based group announced yesterday that construction had been completed on Phase 1A of the project with the turbines -officially entering a 25-year operational period.  With a six-megawatt (MW) rated capacity, MeyGen is the world’s largest tidal stream array.  The latest development -follows on from an extended period of operation since the turbines were reinstalled last year. The array has generated about six gigawatt hours of energy to date and last month set a new world record for monthly production from a tidal stream array, generating 1,400MWh.  The firm said that completion of the construction of Phase 1A combined with the ongoing production and reliability levels achieved “help to progress the viability of tidal stream energy as a clean and predictable energy source”. It noted that it had an “international portfolio of opportunities” for further tidal array projects.  The MeyGen project alone has 392MW of further development capacity, with consents and grid connection agreements in place.

Nicola Sturgeon Hits Out At UK Westminster Government Over Scottish Shipyard 'Betrayal'

Nicola Sturgeon has condemned a decision to open up a £1 billion order for military ships to overseas tenders – branding it “nothing short of a blatant betrayal of Scottish shipyards”.The UK Westminster Government is allowing foreign yards to compete for the chance to build three Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, despite union leaders claiming the deal could support 6,500 jobs in Britain. Ms Sturgeon said the move was an “absolute betrayal” in light of promises made in the run-up to 2014’s independence vote.  Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said: “That work should be on the Clyde, I argue that that work was promised to the Clyde and should definitely go to the Clyde.  We should be very clear. What we are now seeing develop around that work and the future of the shipyards is nothing short of a blatant betrayal of Scottish shipyards.  During the referendum, promises were made to those shipyards by the Tories, and indeed, by all the unionist parties—the shipyards were told of promises of work for years to come.  The unionist parties specifically said that, if Scotland became independent, it would not be able to secure that work for the Clyde, because contracts could not go to “foreign countries”.  It is an absolute betrayal and I hope that we will hear all parties across the parliament stand up for shipbuilding on the Clyde.” The GMB union has called for a UK-only competition to win the lucrative contract, which it estimates would return £285 million to the taxpayer through income tax and other benefits. The Ministry of Defence said all its warships – such as the Type 26 frigates currently being built in the Clyde – are reserved for UK yards. But the new vessels are not covered by this policy because they are civilian-manned support ships.  Ms Sturgeon’s comments came after UK Business Secretary Greg Clark was quizzed on the issue during a Holyrood committee. Scottish Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie claimed awarding the contract to a UK company “could create or secure more than 10,000 jobs”. She added: “But Tory ministers appear content to let these jobs and investment go overseas. It is absolutely disgraceful that Greg Clark refused to commit to building these ships in the UK. Scotland’s shipbuilders are world renowned and deserve every support from the UK and Scottish governments. The UK Westminster Government must urgently reverse this decision to tender this contract internationally.”
Comment -R
The UK Westminster Government's broken promises made in 2014 look like they are now motivated by malice and not simple incompetence.  The 2014 vote has obviously emboldened the Tories into ignoring any of their previous commitments, promises or guarantees.            

Commonwealth Trade Push Harks Back to Days of Empire and Will Not Solve UK Brexit Woe
by Ian McConnell
Amid all the Brexit uncertainty, not much is predictable. However, it would be remiss not to acknowledge that at least a few things are as reliable as clockwork in the post-Leave vote world.  This fact was underlined this week, with Prime Minister Theresa May waxing lyrical about the potential for the UK to benefit from increased trade with the Commonwealth. It was inevitable, as the UK Government flounders around and Brexit draws nearer, that she would seize the opportunity presented by the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in London to make this sales pitch.  It is a most tiresomely familiar refrain, but seemingly also a real favourite fairy tale of the Conservative Cabinet. This fantastical refrain is repeated ad nauseam even as some Brexiters try to continue to claim exiting the European Union is not about harking back to days of Empire and throw their toys out of the pram when anyone dares to state this is what it is about.  The problem is that Conservative ministers believe the idea of a Commonwealth-related export bonanza is grounded in reality. Back in the real world, the evidence of the actual effects of Brexit, as opposed to the imagined and still utterly elusive benefits, continues to mount. The International Monetary Fund’s latest forecasts this week put the UK near the bottom of the pile among the major advanced economies in terms of projected growth rates for 2018 and 2019, way adrift of the US, Germany, France and Spain, although ahead of Italy. The IMF highlighted again its expectations that business investment in the UK would “remain weak in light of heightened uncertainty about post-Brexit arrangements”.  UK Westminster Government ministers have made much of high-profile glad-handing trips to Commonwealth countries since the June 2016 Leave vote. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, for one, seems to be pinning a lot of his hopes on the Commonwealth.  However, nothing of substance has materialised from these trips. Fine words butter no parsnips, as the saying goes. The Commonwealth, beyond the Games and a bit of pomp and circumstance of the type we are seeing this week, is not really that much of a thing in the modern world.  In contrast, the EU is a very big thing indeed when it comes to future prosperity of the population at large. One paragraph in a story by Reuters on Mrs May’s Commonwealth trade push summed up the situation well: “The Commonwealth, headed by Queen Elizabeth, is not a formal trading bloc with a free-trade agreement. In 2015 it accounted for only 9% of British exports while by contrast the EU, which Britain voted to leave in 2016, accounted for around 44%.” Whenever Mrs May and her Government try to big up the potential from exporting more to Commonwealth countries, it is crucial to remember just how much more important the EU is when it comes to the UK’s international trade.  These vastly different proportions of UK exports going to other EU countries and the Commonwealth were highlighted in an article published by the Office for National Statistics last year, which observed: “The Commonwealth makes up a relatively small part of UK trade.” The ONS noted in last year’s article that UK goods exports to the Commonwealth totalled £25.1bn in 2015. In the same year, UK goods exports to other EU countries were worth £134bn.  It has also been disheartening this week to hear former prime minister David Cameron reveal he does not regret calling the referendum on EU membership in the first place, even though he wishes the result had gone the other way. He tried to claim the decision to hold a referendum was not entirely political but was rather about giving people a say.  However, in essence, nothing he said provided any new material to explain why on earth there had to be a referendum.  His lack of regret is perhaps also interesting. It would be easier not to regret the decision, it could be argued, if you are not one of the millions of households in the UK to have seen their financial woes, arising in many cases from years of Conservative austerity misery, exacerbated by the Brexit vote.  The Leave vote sent the pound tumbling and inflation surging, as well as dampening business investment and reducing further what was already extremely unimpressive UK growth. Business economist and former Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Andrew Sentance put it rather well yesterday on Twitter when he declared: “David Cameron may not regret the Referendum, but about half the electorate does. A disastrous act of national self-harm, which has already led to the UK slipping from 5th to 7th in the global economic league. And we haven’t left the EU yet!” A rare chink of light this week on the Brexit front came from an embarrassing defeat in the House of Lords for the Conservative Government on the EU Withdrawal Bill in relation to its sheer bloody-minded determination to leave the customs union, regardless of the consequences. None of the reasons have anything to do with internal Conservative Party struggles or the type of high-brow but esoteric debates that might be heard in the elite tier of private schools in the UK or at some universities. Most of the reasons relate to the reduced living standards of, and curtailment of opportunities for, millions of people. And, if the best the UK Westminster Government can come up with so long after the Brexit vote is to bang on about the Commonwealth, there are also myriad reasons to worry deeply about the future.



Last Updated (Saturday, 21 April 2018 05:31)