Former RBS chairman backs Alex Salmond

A jumble of thoughts about Scottish independence.

Sigh. Salmond plays banker in vital election battle. Labour is probably too cushy, and does need a shakeup, but voting in the SNP sounds like sacking the not-great CEO and replacing them with the grouchy janitor.

I find it strange that the SNP can back more oil and gas drilling while also backing the lowering of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Does the SNP would support increasing emissions in other countries while enriching Scotland in the short-term? What is the SNP’s plan to phase out dependence on oil? And how would that impact the economy? Since the price of Scotland’s oil and gas is uncompetitive because the industry cannot get enough workers (because they don’t appear to be interested in hiring anyone who doesn’t already work there), how can Scotland’s oil and gas industry BE competitive and deliver all these economic riches?

Tourism leaders slam SNP strategy — “Adam said Alex Salmond’s leadership would be enough to direct the tourism sector, even at one remove from cabinet.” That’s what I call ‘cult of personality’ — marketing tool of dictators the world over.

It’s time for a fairer and lower income tax — “The SNP will abolish the unfair Council Tax and replace it with a local income tax system based on the ability to pay. The local tax will be set at a rate of 3p on income excluding savings income.” And dole bludgers get another free pass while taxpayers get hit harder. Why the fuck should anyone work? I don’t see any SNP policy on how they will tackle benefit fraud and instill a motivation to work.

What will Scotland’s currency be? — “The currency shall continue to be sterling until such times as the Scottish Parliament decides to change that position.” And so Scotland will continue to be beholden to another country’s economy? And when / if it adopts the Euro, will dependence on Europe’s overall economy become the next problem?

Westminister should probably devolve more decision-making on Scottish issues to a Scotland-based legislature, and the current state of that parliament is pretty woeful. All they seem to be interested in is creating news-making soundbites, and not engaging in meaningful debate on matters they can decide.

I have a question. As Scotland is part of the UK at the moment, it’s in the EU. If Scotland becomes independent, will it automatically remain part of the EU? It appears not.

Mr Happold said the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would remain the nation state, a member of the EU, a member of the United Nations, NATO and other international organisations and Scotland would be seen as seceding from it. Scotland would then have to apply for membership of each international organisation it wanted to join.

Mr Happold warned that Scotland would almost certainly lose its share of the shrinking UK budget rebate, that it would lose anything that remains of the EU’s structural fund money, that it would lose power and influence and would have to compete with other emerging European states from Eastern Europe for attention and resources.

That means that an independent Scotland’s nationals couldn’t just go over the border and work in England like the Eastern Europeans. They’d have to go through the torturous and expensive process of getting a visa, like I did.

All in all, I’m sure Scotland COULD go it alone. But are the Scots ready for all the insecurities that independence brings? Singapore went independent and it’s doing much better economically, but the nation went through a lot, and is still going through a lot finding its feet. Does Scotland want the sort of government Singapore has to bring about economic growth and ‘harmony’?

And more on the environment from a non-greenie

Those in the UK know and dislike (for the most part, I bet) the move by the councils to reduce the frequency of waste collection from weekly to fortnightly.

(With the stunning decreases in services, they still increase council tax. Go figure.)

A government report says there are no hygiene concerns as long as food is wrapped properly.

And there’s the conspiracy! It’s packaging manufacturers who have masterminded this dastardly plan! They want us to invest in all this packaging to keep the flies off our garbage as we wait for the garbage collectors to ignore our bins every fortnight because “they’re too full” (that’s a novel excuse).

Seriously, though. The amount of packaging we find today is abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous. This morning I opened a packet of Quaker Snack Jacks, minding the warning to make sure I close it up properly, so I expected to open the bag and find naked, cold, and shivering rice cakes. Instead I found another plastic bag that I had to open. So my rice cakes were insulated.

If it were at all possible, people should vote with their wallet (my mother’s favourite phrase). Stop going to the supermarket, where their products consist of ridiculous amounts of packaging, visit your closest farmer’s market for fresh food and compost the leftovers. Try to avoid plastic bags when shopping, use a backpack or whatever fabric shopping bags instead. Use your recycling bin for… recycling! The garbage bins can be used for other rubbish.

(To be a hypocrite, I use a lot of those small plastic freezer bags when I bring my mountains of food to work. I think I need a lunch box with lots of compartments, because pitted prunes and cheesy Snack Jacks wouldn’t taste good being rubbed together. Maybe I should make some washable, closeable waterproof bags for this purpose. Or just use a number of Tupperware boxes. I have loads of options.)

Toyota Prius does more environmental damage than a Hummer

This’ll get Mark and Kristen’s attention.

It turns out that the actual cost of a Prius is much more than a Hummer (and has a shorter expected lifespan, too).

Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

The smelter built a ‘Superstack’ to try and disperse the toxic gases that caused the damage, but “much of the environmental damage to the Sudbury area is permanent, particularly to exposed rocky outcrops, which have been dyed jet black by acid rain in a layer which penetrates up to 3 inches into the once pink-gray granite.”

Once smelted, the nickel is sent to Wales, then China, then Japan, before the Prius battery emerges. The carmakers (Toyota, and now Honda) would have us believe that these hybrids are miles (haha) more fuel-efficient than normal cars, and so we should pay more money for them.

But some experts doubt whether the Prius even wins the argument over fuel consumption.

Robert Fowler, of the Battery Vehicle Association, said: “It is questionable whether it does any more miles to the gallon than a good diesel.

“The hybrid system has a very small battery so most of the time it’s operating as a petrol car, particularly out of town and above 30mph.”

The Prius appears to do the same mpg as my wee Pug. If and when we get a small diesel (second hand), it’s gonna be even better.

The M8, rubbish tip of Central Scotland

All the streetsweeping machines in the world couldn’t keep up with the amount of rubbish I’ve seen being tossed out of car and lorry windows on the motorway.

Yesterday I witnessed part of a sandwich meet its doom. My favourite so far has been the cigarette butt, immediately followed by an Extra gum wrapper. The mint freshness ain’t gonna disguise your smoking habit, honey.

If there was a way to convert garbage on the motorway into tarmac-like surfacing just by rolling over it, the roads would be bloody perfect.

Entitled to special treatment all the time

Every day I read or hear something that just floors me, and I had clung to the hope it was only China’s shenanigans that could do that. Today it’s news that MSPs plan to scrap ‘automatic early release’:

Prisoners currently serving under four years are automatically freed half-way through their sentences.

Under the plans, convicted criminals would be required to serve at least half their sentence behind bars but this may be increased to three quarters.

Erm, shouldn’t early release be the EXCEPTION, not the norm? WTF is going on here?

The Scottish Executive’s plans to overhaul sentencing are expected to be passed despite Conservative objections.

Well, then, they see some sense. But wait:

The Conservatives, who originally introduced early release, said the executive’s reforms were not tough enough.

So they were for it before they were against it.

IMHO, if you’ve been convicted of a crime and are sentenced to four years, you do four years. Maybe it’s partly custodial and partly community-based, depending on what the crime was, but you do your time. Where’s the logic in sentencing someone and then immediately eliminating half of their punishment? How did it become law in the first place?!

Lending to people with bad credit means you get bad debts

Possible US slowdown sparks international stock market fall.

This latest round of selling has been sparked by concerns over the US sub-prime mortgage market.

Sub-prime lenders, who target consumers with poor credit histories, have been hit by an increase in defaults and bad loans.

And no one could see that coming? Why am I not a highly-paid financial adviser that points out the bleeding obvious? Why, God, why?

Anonymous can sue me

Scotland’s overcrowding problems aren’t as bad as London’s, but the news of tacking on more carriages to existing trains is, frankly, underwhelming. I think people would be happier with more frequent services using these new carriages. We were discussing at breakfast how the less-clever proposal to add more carriages and renovating (and lengthening) platforms rather than adding services could be (given that I don’t know much about train scheduling and safety) due to a politician being lobbied by someone who’s got a bung from some construction company.

This would be a defamation alert, if I actually had any names to name.

smart2go

Further to my bookmarking post about smart2go, I’ve since downloaded and installed it*. The maps I’ve got are for Scotland and Singapore.

If I’d also installed the screen capture software for my phone, I’d be able to show you some. But it’s basically like using Google Maps on your phone without connecting to the Internet. I did opt out of installing OpenBit, because I don’t need the temptation (or, for me personally, the pointlessness) of buying extra services.

I’m happy. I’ve got a map app on my phone**. If you’ve got a Windows Mobile 5 device and aren’t obsessed with GPS but, like me, have no sense of direction, smart2go is abso-fucking-lutely faboo.

* How did I manage to fill most of my 1GB card with music? I only use it for the gym!
** Yes, I know it’s not real-time and not necessarily the most up-to-date. But I only need the basics.