Mike Vickers' Blog

June 26, 2010

Tough Choices (West Lothian Council Proposals)

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association — derryvickers @ 8:16 pm

As I read the Tough Choice figures the comparison of expenditure (£,000)  2010/11 with 2103/14 is

  2010/11 2013/14 % Saving
Partnerships& resources 19,975 16398 17.91
Education 146238 138006 5.63
Culture & Leisure 15,165 12664 16.49
Social Policy 81,620 77462 5.09
Health & Care 1,169 941 19.5
Voluntary Organisations 4,074 3,505 13.97
Services for the Community 2,594 1,958 24.52
Environment 48,155 42,023 12.73
Development & Transport 9,008 6,991 22.39
Total 327,998 299,948 8.55


Looking at these figures the highest expenditure is for education followed by social policy. 

Workers in both these areas are already ‘outsourced’ and are much less amenable for 4 day working.

Also note that these are the least cut.  Service for the Community and Transport and development come out worst

June 25, 2010

Linlithgow in 20 years

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association — derryvickers @ 1:53 pm

The Linlithgow Civic Trust is in the final stages of publishing their new Vision for Linlithgow – see draft for discussion http://www.lct.org.uk/planning/vision2.htm.  The Vision is a fine, well planned and thought out document.  It looks forward to how Linlithgow may continue to be the tourist ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of West Lothian yet accommodate the ever pressing demand for new housing.  Its planning horizon is 20 years.  I for one am ambivalent as to how much the world will change in the next 20 years and how much such change will impact on Linlithgow.

Drivers for changes I foresee are:

  1. The potential collapse of the world’s financial system particularly as it affects the West and the unhealthy dependence of the UK economy on it
  2. The dependence of the world and again the West in particular on cheap energy and the demise of oil and gas as an energy source.  Oil of course is the major source of plastics and what we will now do without them
  3. The rise of China, India and Brazil as capitalist wealth creators but also as energy consumers.  China in particular is using its increasing clout to dominate such continents as Africa – up to recently the preserve of Western Europe
  4. The impact of climate change which will undoubtedly be horrendous although increasingly brushed under the carpet at the G20
  5. Potable water is getting increasingly scarce.  This is due to the inexorable increase in world population and to the increase in world temperature from climate change.  This of course leads to an increasing scarcity of food
  6. The sheer impact of ICT (Information & Communications Technology) on how we communicate with one another

A few will deny these drivers but I suggest most won’t.  They will however suggest that change happens slowly and they have much to support this view over the last 50 years, atmospheric CO2 being one exception.  A key writer in my past has been the late Stephen Jay Gould,  evolutionary biologist and historian of science who had a theory called punctuated equilibrium where evolution proceeds with long periods of stasis followed periods of  rapid change.  I have a great deal of empathy with this theory: who can remember the ubiquity of the coal mining industry in the UK? And what about Clyde Bank where even Irn Bru is no longer made from girders.

So if we assume that the drivers to change are there, how might they affect Scotland and Linlithgow? 

  1. The UK economy has bankrupted itself bailing out the two banks both based in Edinburgh.  This must affect jobs and commuters in Linlithgow
  2. More expensive energy and scarcity of oil will make living away from work an increasing  burden
  3. The economic and manufacturing power house of the East and South will increasingly take away the remaining jobs in the West.  Finance may remain with us the longest
  4. Land prices in desirable countries such as Scotland may shoot up yet immigration, legal and illegal,  from underdeveloped countries may start in real earnest
  5. On the other hand we will be increasingly able to work from home rather than commuting daily to Edinburgh and Glasgow
  6. Jon Newey regularly points out that it’s not the supermarkets that undermine the High Street shops but  Internet shopping.

So back to the start, what do you think are the powerful drivers to change that will radically change we live and work in Linlithgow and when will they start to bite? 

Interestingly the same question was put to the s2 pupils at the Academy and they came up with many different views.  Most were eco friendly with energy from solar and wind power, some had a pedestrianised High Street and most considered the Palace would still be there.

Any new post graduate in Geography who is looking for a thesis which could have real impact on our lives?

June 8, 2010

Linlithgow – A Vision 2010 – 2030

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association — derryvickers @ 10:18 am

The Linlithgow Civic Trust, in coming forward with A Vision for Linlithgow 2010-2030, has set itself a difficult task – the last version was only for 10 years.  Most of us can see the next 5 years – it will be much as now; a few of us may speculate what may happen in 40 years ie to 2050 but it is clear that it will be very different from now – think 40 years back and air travel was just for a few; to go to a far country we went by ship.  We could not have imagined the PC, the Internet and their impact on all our lives even thirty years ago.  On the other hand no one has since walked on the Moon.  But 20 years! 

I was privileged to talk with Derek Halden, a transport consultant who lives in Linlithgow, and he had presented the S2 year pupils of the Linlithgow Academy three PowerPoint slides as part of getting them to think what would Linlithgow be like in 2050 and how they could contribute to it.  Simply:

  • Slide 1 illustrates that pre 1800 our economy was based on ‘land and labour’ between 1800 and 2050 it was based on ‘Production and Consumption’ but now it is based on ‘Knowledge and Experience’. 
  • You could argue with Slide 1 being too simplistic but it is  much more difficult to argue against Slide 2 which shows that Peak Oil was at 2000 and oil production is already 25% down from the peak
  • And Slide 3 shows that the hectares per capita in 1950 was 5.15, in 2005 it was 2.02 and the estimate for 2050 if will be down to 1.14

Derek also pricked another of my preconceptions that Rail travel is environmentally friendly.  In his opinion in order of decreasing C0 2, Rail is the highest, then comes Bus, then Aircraft and then Car.  When working out C0 2 you have to take account of the total C0 2 production and that includes the making the rails and all the other infrastructure.  (He has subsequently modified his view in that if the infrastructure is there already better to use it.)  As a rail buff I don’t take all of this; looking the other way round – taking Service as a criterion rail and buses provide a service to the community, aircraft less so if you take Ryan Air as a model and cars no service at all to the community.   Yes, cars will not be petrol powered – they will be electric powered.  I commend to you the MIT Smart City 2020 car – more like a souped up supermarket Trolley (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLeLCzwlraw) – you buy the right to use one as and when.  

 So to the Vision.   

The Vision is very much in the 5 years plus mould – more of the same as the last 20 years.   And this may right.  The Vision accepts that the town will grow whether we like it or not so let’s make the best of it.  I wholly commend the sheer detail that has gone into preparing the Draft.  Clearly Ron Smith has been at work!

However I note that the LCT website states that the Civic Trust ‘aims to encourage the conservation of the town’s built and natural heritage’. Not much about ‘growth’

If I paraphrase the comments so far (and for this I apologise in advance)

  • Some want no development – very much in the spirit of the Aims
  • Others also wants no development in Linlithgow itself but propose a New Linlithgow out East
  • Climate Challenges view is that the town must become more environmentally sustainable.  However it remains unclear as to what effect this will have on the conservation of the fabric or on town growth.

To repeat, 20 years is very difficult to forecast for.

First I would find it valuable for an appendix to the 2010-2030 Vision, listing the changes that have taken place since the last Vision 2005-2015.  I know changes are largely embedded in the text, but it would be nice to have it in one place.

So if I put a finger in the air what do I see in the next 20 – 40 years for Linlithgow:

  1. The Palace will still be here largely untouched.
  2. The High Street will change its face as land prices in Linlithgow continue to rise and commercial organisations vi for a space, unfortunately driving out the smaller organisations such as shop keepers
  3. I can see an underground car park but cars will be electric and more of the MIT Smart City 2020 car type. 
  4. The town will be bypassed with a full motorway junction at Burghmuir
  5. An idea I would foster, NIMBY-like, is to move the main station to White Cross where 1500 houses are planned and to re-open the rail branch to Bo’Ness to passenger traffic.  There is no lack of rail space there.   Yes Linlithgow station to remain but only for stopping services from Dunblane
  6. But will there be so much commuting to Edinburgh and Glasgow? I doubt it – transport will be increasingly expensive.  Electronic communication will increasingly take over the need for office working in large cities.  OK there is still a need to fly.
  7. I’m very pleased with the beefed up section in the Vision on Business and Employment.  For Sheriff Court House read Bus Station. Also why not lease space from Sun / Oracle as high tech area. It does seem to me that unless Scotland becomes a design centre for the World we will increasingly become a 2nd or 3rd rate country.  And why not Linlithgow as a key design centre for Scotland?
  8. Will be more cosmopolitan – I thing Yes
  9. Will Linlithgow have a good social balance between all members of society?  The Vision again reiterates the need for social housing and this is right but where to put it.  In a New Linlithgow as one comment suggests.  Geography remains one of Linlithgow’s problems.  If the hill sides are not to be cluttered, development is East West so geography might dictate expansion towards White Cross – heaven forbid that’s Falkirk District
  10. But will we still be controlled from Livingston?  – I doubt it

Sorry, I realise I am well off the point.  The Vision is a great document for the next 5 to 10 years and will need revision again in 5 years time when the money becomes clearer and the balance between social and commercial expenditure sorts itself out.  As Derek Halden also says we don’t only need environmental sustainability, we must have economic sustainability also.

Finally there will need to be a lot more working together between all parties in Linlithgow and if the Vision is a catalyst so much the better.

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