Mike Vickers' Blog

January 17, 2012


Filed under: Scotland, World Class — derryvickers @ 3:13 pm

I feel elated – one of our client’s wife has this morning reached to the top of Kilimanjaro along with a party including perhaps Scotland’s greatest rugby player Gavin Hastings.

Why not visit and may be contribute a small amount to the Parkinson’s cause.


January 11, 2012

Independence – Referendum Date

Filed under: History in the making, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 12:09 pm

 Lesley Riddoch, a regular columnist to the Scotsman this week wrote a column on the popular discussion that Alex Salmond would choose to go for the Scottish Government’s referendum on Independence on 24th June:  the 24th June is the date of the Battle of Bannockburn when Robert the Briuce defeated Edward II Kind of England in front of Stirling Castle.  Lesley felt that the choice of such a date would be ‘inappropriate’ as it would focus on the wrong reasons for Scottish Independence from England.  Well more correctly the seceding of Scotland from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  You can read Lesley’s column at noreply+feedproxy@google.com; on behalf of; Lesley Riddoch chris.kit.smith@gmail.com.

I felt the need to comment – here it is:

Looking at appropriate dates for the referendum, not Bannockburn and not Flodden, it seems to me that neither is that significant.  Robert the Bruce was no more Scottish than Edward II was Anglo-Saxon; both were descendants of Norman Barons imported by William the Conqueror .  If we look at Flodden, it was a disastrous day for Scotland but I understand that the Scottish rout was masterminded by Catherine of Aragon – hardly an English lady – Henry was involved elsewhere trying to defend English territory in Northern France and not very successfully.  If Salmond wants a significant date then why not 23 August when Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered by Edward I.  And as Lesley says 25 January the birthday of Robbie Burns – along with ‘A man’s a man’ for the national anthem.  Or if we want a less contentious date go for 8 October when Linda Norgrove was killed by a US grenade in Afghanistan as an aid worker helping the common good.

But more seriously Lesley suggests the reason for not choosing a patriotic date is so that Scots are more likely to make a more considered decision based on all the good things that the Unionists keep on trying to come up.  I suggest this is just wishful thinking and these are unlikely to be determined one way or the other until after the Referendum is long gone – the best that one can come up with is ‘the feeling good actor’ that brought Salmond his parliamentary success.  Far more likely, Scots will take a decision based on the heart rather than the head. Lesley states that the Norwegians set up their constitution after being broken up from Denmark and ceded to Sweden after the Napoleonic wars but didn’t become a separate counrty till 1904.  I suggest that that the separation was less to do with the head than the heart – no doubt there was a build-up of nationalism between 1814 and 1904 – witness their voting.  People don’t work on purely financial terms as commercial firms – even commercial firms appear to work on very dubious commercial terms – witness RBS taking over ABN AMRO – more for RBS’s-aggrandisement.

To today’s war of words between Cameron et al and Salmond, I note particularly that Cameron has conceded that he will honour a Scottish decision for Independence even though any ratification to a breakup of the Union must inevitably be in the gift of the UK parliament.  This to me is a very significant concession.  Not one granted to Northern Ireland as I recall for the setting up of their Power Sharing Executive.

Finally who are the Scots who will be allowed to vote: anyone living in Scotland or must they be born in Scotland?  I note there is now a discussion for allowing all people born in Scottish, wherever now resident, to vote – this smacks of the West Lothian Question!

Footnote: Alex Salmond has subsequently declared that the date of the referendum will be in the Autumn of 2014 – just may be 8 October – a Wednesday.

January 8, 2012

A short coastal walk in Fife

Filed under: Painting, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 7:57 am

Why is that all of us who have been brought up near the sea need to refresh ourselves by just walking along the coast.  This weekend we walked from St Monans to Anstruther via Pittenween on the Fife coast and back.  A windy cloudy day with the occasional Sun breaking through – a big change from the drenching rain and gale-force winds recently.  For those of you who don’t know this part of the Fife coast of Scotland these small towns all used to be fishing villages but unfortunately the fish has largely gone, few boats are left, Pittenween still has a fish market.  Petty towns where the houses on the quays are mainly occupied by Edinburgh commuters or as weekend retreats for the more wealthy.  The remaining fishermen are largely at the tops of the towns in Council houses.

A very pleasant places to walk through.  Just a few shots:



Pittenween’s  main street has a delightful café featuring hot chocolate and all things chocolate, open literally all the year round and there is a very pleasant artists shop next door – as you can imagine it’s a small artists’ colony.

Pittenween Main Street

At St Monans in the 1750’s, the local coal company built salt pans on the shore and used the local Fife coal to boil off the water, salt being an essential commodity for food preserving .  You can still see the remains of the saltpans – Just look at the plaque on the shore next to the remains.  Life was not easy!

St Monans and Saltpans

Saltpans Plaque

Sea birds and Volcanic Plugs

Sea birds and Volcanic Plugs

As you walk and look out to across the sea you get distant views of  the East Lothian coast with the extinct volcanic stubs of the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law and round to the right the Island of May.  On the Fife shore itself there are, at this time of year, small flocks of eider ducks, shags drying themselves, the occasional curlew and godwit with a passing cormorant; on the nearby land there are  redshanks – small waders with surprisingly red legs!  And more interestingly herring and black back gulls apparently just aimlessly flying.

I am curious to know why gulls just fly, they don’t appear to be flying to seek out food; the stronger the wind the more they fly, I understand they sleep as they fly.  It may they fly to keep warm, yet this would use up energy unnecessarily although they clearly get much assistance from the wind just as yachts do.  Or do they like us enjoy the sheer joy of being out along the sea shore.  We humans are an arrogant lot, we tell ourselves that only we have ‘consciousness’, but how do we know.

January 1, 2012

2012 – A Year for Dialogue

Filed under: Communications, History in the making, Politics, USA — derryvickers @ 11:50 am

This is the year when:

  • A new President of the US will be elected or Barack Obama will hold off the onslaught. Should the US go back to its Constitution as written? – well not quite
  • The Euro will survive or not.  Germany wants to lay down strict fiscal rules of belonging – Is Angela Merkel the Bismarck of the 21st century?
  • There will be still no resolution between Israel and the Palestinians.  An interesting series of three programmes on the BBC on the 4000 year history of Jerusalem  highlighting the continual struggle between Jews, Christians and Muslims for control ‘illustrated the difficulty.
  • Scotland will move further away from the UK and England in particular or not.  Will an independent Scotland be more left of centre than England and will it become more like Norway?
  • More locally will our town of Linlithgow remain an historic town or develop into a ribbon commuter town for Edinburgh and Glasgow.  A commercial company wants to build a satellite town just to the east – because Linlithgow is one of the few towns under demand for new property.

These topics are all about centralisation or distribution, liberalisation or direction, freedom to do one’s own thing or be guided by rules.  Is your life better off with or without them.  The dilemma is that one man’s freedom is another’s loss.  An article in last week’s UK Guardian illustrates the point (though a few more examples would have been useful) – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/19/bastardised-libertarianism-makes-freedom-oppression

We in the West live in a capitalist society- we appreciate it – well most of us do.  But capitalism has its down sides.  Ha-Joon Chang’s book ‘Things They don’t tell you about Capitalism’ is a good reminder of the impact of our capitalism on others less fortunate than we.

If 2012 is to be a good year then there needs to be meaningful (sorry for use of this word) dialogues between the participants.  Can I commend to all a great book now 50 years on Political Dialogues by Maurice Cranston, published by the BBC.  The book reports on a number of constructed dialogues between philosophers of the latter half of the last millennium; dialogues include Savonarola and Machiavelli on the State,  Stuart Mill and Stephen on Liberty, Maine, Arnold and Morley on Democracy and one particularly interesting of someone living in Scotland Voltaire and Hume on Morality.  All these dialogues are just as relevant today as they were 50 years ago and when they were ‘conceived’ in the time of the philosophers themselves.  A key aspect is that there is no resolution of differences just a better understanding between participants; and, as Michael Sandel finishes his great series of Harvard lectures on Justice, the best we can hope for.  After all we all live in a democracy – not a totalitarian state and if ‘men of good will’ do not have the right to differ we are lost.

A Good New Year to everyone and keep up the dialogue!

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