bookmark_borderGoing South

I recently finished reading Going South: Why Britain Will Have A Third World Economy By 2014 by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson.

While I enjoyed parts of the book, I don’t think I can really recommend it: it reads a bit like some articles strung together with a bit of editorial glue — there are too many repetitions and a lack of a coherent narrative to make it readable.

I also think they lack a scientific approach. If I had decided to explore whether Britain was developing a third world economy, I would first define a series of tests to distinguish a first world economy from a third world one, and I would then apply the tests to the British economy.

However, they’re generally just chatting along, and it’s not really clear whether they think it’s London, England, Britain, the EU, the English-speaking countries or all of the first world that is facing relegation to the third world.

They’re also variously criticising Britain for doing things differently from most EU countries and bemoaning the influence of the EU over the UK.

The over-all impression is basically two Englishmen sitting in a pub, convincing each other that the country is going down the drain and that everything was much better in the old days.

In spite of the shortcomings, there are quite a lot of interesting tidbits in the book, and I did enjoy the historical sections outlining the UK’s gradual decline since the industrial revolution, so if you’re a fast reader, it might be worth spending a few hours skimming through this book.

bookmark_borderWhat is Lamont doing to Scottish Labour?

If you’ve been hiding under a stone, you might have missed Johann Lamont’s recent speech. Amongst other things, she said:

A council tax freeze, for example, costs. It’s cheap to say, but expensive to fund. And if you don’t fund it properly, and John Swinney isn’t funding this one, I’ll tell you what it costs. In North Lanarkshire alone, another 1400 jobs at risk. […] That is potentially 1400 incomes taken out of the economy. When the Scottish economy desperately needs a stimulus, that is 1400 people spending less, supporting fewer jobs, buying fewer goods and services.


This is the stark choice that Scotland has to face up to: if we wish to continue some policies as they are then they come with a cost which has to be paid for either through increased taxation, direct charges or cuts elsewhere.

Because she’s a committed unionist, increased taxation is not the way she wants to go (it would increase, not decrease, Scottish exceptionality), and she’s just condemned the cuts. She’s therefore left with direct charges — she wants to abolish free care and bus travel for the elderly, introduce tuition fees and prescription charges and end the council tax freeze.

In other words, she’s abolishing Scottish Labour’s commitment to universality, which is strange, given that Labour in the UK and in Wales are still in favour of universal benefits.

Abolishing universal services is a slippery slope, as pointed out by George Eaton in New Statesman:

[U]niversal public services, to which all contribute and from which all benefit, are the essence of social democracy. Once this principle is abandoned, greater cuts will inevitably follow as the rich, no longer receiving, have less incentive to give (you could call it “nothing for something”). For this reason, as Richard Titmuss sagely observed, “services for the poor will always be poor services”.

There are different analyses of her motives.

My first reaction was that she’s trying to secure the votes of public sector workers, especially in local councils and in the NHS, who are fearful of their jobs and would rather that everybody else paid more in order to secure their jobs and generous pensions.

The Herald thinks the new direction is a consequence of the independence referendum, quoting Professor James Mitchell: “Labour is in a difficult place – it must either align itself with policies from south of the Border in order to emphasise its Unionism or with the SNP and its own previous policies but thus undermine the Union.”

The best analysis I’ve seen was probably this one by Robin McAlpine in an article for the Jimmy Reid Foundation (do read the whole thing!):

I tried to think who in Labour would like this. I concluded that Westminster Labour would be very happy. So local-government-Labour will like it and Westminster-Labour would like it. And that is two thirds of Scottish Labour’s warring factions. If – and it seems a big if to me – Scottish-Parliament-Labour can be persuaded that this is good for them, it solves Ms Lamont’s short-term problems, uniting the three warring factions of her Party.


Lamont wants to unite Labour by cancelling devolution. That’s the only way I can read this. She has systematically gone through every area where the Scottish Parliament (largely through the actions of Labour itself) has differentiated itself from Westminster politics and she has abolished the differentiator. The big selling point of devolution was Scottish solutions to Scottish problems. Scotland’s biggest problem has been that it really likes a strong welfare state and adheres to the principle of universalism. It has voted this way over and over. Yesterday it seems that Lamont called time on this experiment. She has signalled her intention to pull the party in line with the UK Party, means testing everything, breaking down universalism, championing fiscal conservatism.


It is like she has absorbed so much ‘Better Together’ rhetoric that it is now her defining belief in politics, that Scotland must be pulled into Britain, that Labour must become first-and-foremost unionist.

It is a retreat into two comfort zones from different decades. From the late-1990s she takes Blairism which was superficially effective (although not in Scotland). From the 1980s she takes a model in which the real power of Labour is held in two places – Westminster and local government. Both are fantastical memories of times past, neither seem to me to offer a way forward.

Much as this strategy might appeal to Labour apparatchiks and many of their core voters, I simply can’t see how it will help them win either the referendum on Scottish independence or the next elections to the Scottish Parliament.

bookmark_borderJobs wasn’t there to say no to Apple Maps

Steve Jobs was great at saying no: “Focus is about saying no. And the result of that focus is going to be some really great products. Where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

When I read about the Apple Maps fiasco, I can’t help thinking that Apple’s problem is that their new CEO isn’t nearly as good at saying no. That Jobs would have looked at Apple Maps for five minutes and said “this is shit“, and then the Maps team would have had to go back to the drawing board.

The way I see it, Apple could only get away with having overpriced products because everybody knew they always worked, which was because of Jobs’s perfectionism.

I do wonder what will happen to Apple’s share price if they start releasing products before they’re ready.

bookmark_borderInternational support for Scottish independence

The March and Rally for Independence in Edinburgh last Saturday was full of people from all over Europe supporting Scotland’s quest for independence: There were fifty Flemings, a large group of Venetians, and smaller groups of people from Catalonia, the Basque Country and Padania (North Italy).

However, there were no Danes (apart from me and my daughters, I presume), no Estonians, no Croats.

In other words, the international supporters were all from other non-sovereign nations seeking their independence, not from countries that are already internationally recognised independent states, even if that independence was only achieved within the past twenty years.

I guess it’s natural — Scotland, Euskadi (the Basque Country), Catalonia and Flanders all face similar obstacles, and they can help each other overcome them.

However, it’s a bit of a shame that the sovereign countries don’t want to get involved.

In the case of the neighbouring countries, such as Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark, the emergence of an independent Scotland would have a significant impact on their world, and they might well find Scotland easier to work with than the current UK, so it could be in their interest to support the Scottish independence movement.

In the case of the countries that gained their freedom within the last couple of decades, they must have gained a lot of experience in the process, experience which could benefit us in Scotland.

I suppose sovereign countries will get in trouble if they support other countries’ independence movements openly. However, I don’t believe there’s anything that would prevent private citizens in other countries from forming groups to support Scottish independence.

Perhaps I should simply start up Danes for Scottish Independence on Facebook?

bookmark_borderMarch and rally for independence

Today Phyllis, Léon, Anna, Amaia and I got up early and drove to Giffnock, where we got on a vintage bus that drove us to the Meadows in Edinburgh.

Once we got there, Léon and Anna got a face-paint, and we then marched with at least 10,000 other people down to Princes Street Gardens, where we listened to speeches by Alex Salmond, Margo MacDonald, Dennis Canavan, Aamer Anwar, Alan Bissett and many other interesting people and listened to music by Dougie MacLean, Gleadhraich and others.

The purpose for this? It was the March and Rally for Scottish Independence. The event will be repeated again next year, and then again in 2014, just before the Independence Referendum.

It was a great event, and I hope many of you will join us next year!

If I might offer some positive criticism, here are some point to improve on for next year’s march and rally:

  • Advertise it much, much more! I know many people — even those that had signed the Yes Declaration with their email address — were not told about it, and the mainstream media largely ignored until yesterday.
  • Find a larger venue. Although we just fitted in Princes Street Gardens, people on the back rows were complaining the couldn’t hear the speeches, and if there had been twice as many of us, it would have been a disaster. Find a venue with enough space for 50,000 people next time.
  • Think about catering and breaks and such things. Many people started drifting away after an hour or so. I’m sure it was partly caused by hunger, thirst and sore bottoms. If the weather had been worse (which is quite likely in September), I can imagine even more people would have given up soon after arriving.
  • Put an end to the official programme relatively early, even if there’s an unofficial programme afterwards. If that was done, people could be asked to remain until the end of the official programme — that’s harder to do when it stretches from 11am to 4pm.

bookmark_borderWill the Scottish-English border look like this?

There’s an article on Yes Scotland’s website today about border controls in Scandinavia (or rather the lack thereof).

At first I thought it was a rather pointless article, given that the absence of actual border controls is the norm in most of Europe these days.

However, as the article points out, “for those who travel infrequently, or who usually fly rather than make land crossings, the concept of moving between neighbouring countries without having to show any form of identification, or even stopping at the border, can be hard to envisage.”

So to illustrate how easy it is to cross a national border in the EU at the moment, I’ve found a small video on YouTube showing how to drive from Germany into Denmark:

Will the Scottish-English border look like this after 2014?

bookmark_borderNorges Riges Grundlov skal oversættes fra dansk til bokmål og nynorsk

Originally uploaded by kjelljoran

Norges grundlov har altid været skrevet på dansk, fordi dansk var Norges sprog, da den første grundlov blev skrevet, og man har ikke hidtil villet gå tilbage og omskrive eksisterende paragraffer.

Pudsigt nok sneg der sig i årenes løb mange norvagismer ind, og 2004 rettede man nogle sproglige fejl (PDF). Fx ændrede man “Den udøvende Magt er hos Kongen, eller hos Dronningen hvis hun har ervervet Kronen efter Reglerne i § 6 eller § 7 eller § 48 i denne Grundlov. Naar den udøvende Magt saaledes er hos Dronningen, har hun alle de Rettigheder og Pligter som ifølge denne Grundlov og Landets Love indehaves av Kongen.” til “Den udøvende Magt er hos Kongen, eller hos Dronningen hvis hun har erhvervet Kronen efter Reglerne i § 6 eller § 7 eller § 48 i denne Grundlov. Naar den udøvende Magt saaledes er hos Dronningen, har hun alle de Rettigheder og Pligter som ifølge denne Grundlov og Landets Love indehaves af Kongen.”

Men denne situation bliver der lavet om på nu. Stortinget nedsatte for nogen tid siden en arbejdsgruppe, der skulle oversætte grundloven til bokmål og nynorsk, og gruppen har nu færdiggjort sit arbejde, og resultatet her er: “Rapport til Stortingets presidentskap fra Grunnlovsspråkutvalget
om utarbeidelse av språklig oppdaterte tekstversjoner av
Grunnloven på bokmål og nynorsk” (PDF)

Her er et typisk eksempel fra rapporten:

Gældende tekst Bokmål Nynorsk
§ 110 c
Det paaligger Statens Myndigheder at respektere og sikre Menneskerettighederne. Nærmere Bestemmelser om Gjennemførelsen af Traktater herom fastsættes ved Lov.
§ 110 c
Statens myndigheter skal respektere og sikre menneskerettighetene. Nærmere bestemmelser om gjennomføringen av traktater om dette fastsettes ved lov.
§ 110c
Dei statlege styresmaktene skal respektere og tryggje menneskerettane. Nærare føresegner om gjennomføringa av traktatar om dette blir fastsette i lov.

Som dansksproget føler jeg et vist vemod, men det giver med norske øjne nok god mening.