Mike Vickers' Blog

July 22, 2016

Two weeks in The Western Isles – Barra to the Butt

Filed under: Land Ownership, Lesley Riddoch, Linda Norgrove, Music, Painting, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 7:30 pm

Barra

  • Wind, Sea and Vatersay seasky
    • New road across from Barra. But there in LR’s time
      • EU supported
  • Kisimil castle – right in the middle of Castlebay
    • Get there by boat
    • Lovely restored wee castle of the MacNeils Kilmil
  • Kisimil restaurant
    • Not to be missed – need to book
  • Weather had been bad on first day and in the North saw three Twin Otters land within the hour the next

 

South Uist

  • Ceolas at Dalburgh –
  • Music Summer school
  • http://www.ceolas.co.uk/summer/
  • Ceilidh
  • Two young accordionists
  • Patsy Reid- excellent Scottish Fiddle Player
    • Did not play much at the evening we attended but she may have continued later
    • Tutor in Fiddle
  • Step dancing – people just got up one by one and danced
  • Mountains all down the East Coast
  • Machair on the West
    • glorious flower drenched in the sun
    • machair

 

North Uist

  • Balranald RSPB reserve
    • Otters but we never saw it
    • Oystercatchers in profusion, ringed plovers, dunlins
  • BB with Jac
    • Excellent house
      • Got the sun room
    • Artist – colourful landscapes
    • Views from our window great
    • Not easy to find restaurant
  • Chambered Cairn cairn
    • Unfortunately entrance recently blocked
  • Trinity Temple
    • Believed to be oldest university in Britain
    • Dun Scotus University

South Harris

  • Golden Road
    • Built in 1937 – so called as so costly to build
      • Must have been recently rebuilt
    • Harris Tweed shops and museum
    • Community café – excellent
  • Coffin Road
    • Ground too hard to bury dead in East
    • More likely because people wished to bury their dead in the cemeteries of ancestors, which were on west
      • People evicted from Seilebost in west to stony, poor ground in the east
    • Excellent walk over bealach
      • resurfaced
  • Scalpay
    • New bridge opened by Tony Blair
    • Fish restaurant – quality fish at a price – locally caught
    • No lack of small boats in small harbours with small jetties
      • Run by Community
        • A general situation in the Outer Isles
  • More Harris
    • One eagle observed from Eagle Observatory
    • Sight of St Kilda from Huishinish – Far West
    • Luckentyre – lovely beach but two cemeteries
    • North Harris Community buy out
    • Harris is very mountainous
      •  All over

Lewis

    • Lewis is flat
    • Old Village at the end of the road, Orasaigh OldVillage
    • Ravenspoint museum
      • Unbelievable collection of old documents and photos off South Lewis
    • Callanish – stones fabulous
      • Callanish 1 2 3 etc
    • Black houses occupied till 1940
    • Harris tweed made largely in Lewis
      • Calloway loom – Hattersley 60 inch now out of production
        • Complex to set up
        • To be classed as Harris tweed it must be woven at home Hattersley
      • Norman Mackenzie
      • Isle of Berneray
      • Good walk
      • Iron Age House
    • Uig
      • Mangersta
      • Restaurant
      • Glen Bhaltois – geology
    • Butt of Lewis
      • Birds
        • Gannets diving, fulmars nesting, kittiwakes, shags fishing and nesting, terns, ravens
        • Fulmars unbelievable fliers when close to cliffs
      • Lighthouse TheButtLight
      • St Moluag’s Church ButtChurch
      • Crofts not being crofted
    • Pol’s Pantry
      • Excellent food
        • Chef saved a buzzard caught in barred wire Buzzard

General

    • Roads of good quality and surface
    • Communities very much on the move
    • Plant trees, protect them and they grow
    • Difficulty of cash machines – then we find them in Post Offices but they close at 5pm
    • Great that CalMac kept the Western Isles Ferry contract
    • For a better travelogue with people read Lesley Riddoch – On the Outer Hebrides

January 24, 2015

Nous Sommes Charlie – a Riddoch pod of two weeks past

Filed under: economics, Journalism, Lesley Riddoch, Politics, Scottish Independence, World Class — derryvickers @ 11:18 am

The pod can be found at:

http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/2015/01/no.html

Far too late to get anything on the web site so just a few thoughts.

The West is fighting militant Islam but this is nothing compared to what is being fought out between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Yes we all take more note of what is going on around us and ignore, other than from a newsworthy point of view, as to what is going on in Africa.

And we in the West are far from squeaky clean – drones in Afghanistan – torture in Iraq.

No mention of the massacre in Norway by Breivik (BTW what has happened to him?) and how the Norwegian government has coped.

I am not a believer in total free speech in religion – the Pope is reported to have said (and of course he is not independent in this matter) that one should be careful of unlimited freedom in religious matters. Politicians are fair game but religion is not – it is far too sensitive and always has been and it ain’t going to change soon.

Sorry I did not listen to anymore of the pod except the comments on Jim Murphy and the interminable battle between Labour and SNP – just ignore the economy it is not newsworthy enough. As to the oil price – it will go but how quickly is anyone’s guess – the growth of economy in the West is far to sluggish – but that raises a separate question – why is the only measure of prosperity in a western capitalist society the rate of growth – and that takes us back to Charlie and Lesley’s point that Charlie is next door and what about the poor in India and Africa – don’t they deserve of a slice of the cake to catch up even if we stagnate a little. Incidentally we were skiing in the French Alps last week at Courchevel and while we were in a modestly priced chalet, the town is full of shops Chanel, Dior etc along with Estate Agents and up market ski shops and the prices were out of this world.

And I got to thinking – we here in the West are said to live in the Capitialist society. Increasingly this is getting further from the truth; we are increasingly living in a totalitarian society, only that the tyrants are now the global corporates rather than the national tyrants.

December 4, 2014

Education policy and Scottish autonomy: the end of a common British tradition?

Filed under: Education, Left Politics, Lesley Riddoch, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 11:26 am

I attended this Royal Society of Edinburgh event on Monday (1 Dec 14) to hear Professor Lindsay Paterson give an excellent lecture followed by very good questions and apposite answers.

Paterson prefaced his lecture by stating that he wanted to cover three topics: free tertiary education, secondary schooling and the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.

Starting with free tertiary education whilst the tuition fees are free in Scotland and continue to saw in England, as bursaries are available in each country he considered the difference is more than it is cracked up to be.

To Secondary education he pointed out that the difference between Scotland and England is one of degree – Scotland introduced what were grammar schools first; these took in many who were unable to pay their fees; these have become half of the private schools in Scotland. The later ones such as Fetters are the equivalent of the English public schools. But most children continue to be educated by council funded schools.

To the Curriculum of Excellence again Scotland has stuck to its old tradition of providing a broad education through schooling whilst England has moved to specialisation much earlier in the school life time. Scottish education follows more closely the broad base while English education is now more capitalist oriented.

Paterson relates education to the welfare state which dates back to 1948. Education has changed since then but it remains largely democratic and in this respect Paterson considers ‘democracy’ works pretty well.

In summary Paterson felt that if education between Scotland and England was ideologically different then Scotland would have been right to become independent; in contrast he considers that education between the two states is one of degree. Scotland and England are both party to European Liberalism.

In support of this view Paterson reviewed the differences the recent surveys have shown between Scotland and England and concludes that while Scotland is to the left of England it is hardly statistically significant.

However Paterson recognises that such academic views as his, had little to do with the outcome of the Referendum and he was happy to quote Hume to a RSE audience ‘reason is the slave of passion’.

More specifically to the Referendum Paterson is scathing about the quality of debate; the No campaign was bereft of any substance while the Yes campaign was intellectually dishonest. The only politicians he had any time for were Nicola Sturgeon and Gordon Brown – in his view if you were to transport them back in time to 1948 they would both have been on the same side. If there is to be another Referendum then he quotes Pat Kane as saying there must be some hard thinking.

To some of questions he felt that

  • nationalism was inculcated pre-school
  • knowledge is education
  • gender equality is good in education and the public office but less so in private industry. It will take 50 years to really become a reality and then only if it is globally acceptable
  • Scotland never gave up its educational stance following 1707 and has always recognised there is a path from the parish school to the university
  • Oh and there was a quote from Lesley Riddoch but I didn’t take it down.
  • We tell ourselves that we are fundamentally different from England even if we aren’t.

But please note that Paterson spoke at a machine run pace and I may well have missed some points or misheard others. There is to be an audio recording on the web in due course so I will try and update the above when it becomes available.

July 7, 2014

Referendum – reason, choice and after

Filed under: economics, Lesley Riddoch, Politics, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:10 am

 

Three articles in today’s Scotsman – Monday 7 July 2014

http://www.scotsman.com/news/lesley-riddoch-no-guesses-who-gets-the-funding-1-3468071

http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-monteith-stop-throwing-money-at-prestwick-1-3468089

http://www.scotsman.com/news/leaders-more-debate-if-opinion-is-not-polarised-1-3468091

All somewhat related.

Lesley Riddoch does not accept that the great and the good – well the academics – are intimidated to come out and say No in case their research grants are cut after a Yes.

She goes on to say Glasgow and Westminster are in cahoots on seeking and getting funding for the extension of the railway from Paisley to Glasgow Airport if No; and the SNP government  responding to say they will find funds anyway. Is the £500 million being well spent? Cross rail Queens Street and Central (I thought there is a bus service and why not walk the ½ mile)  and of course the more deserving local communities

Brian Monteith bangs on about the SNP government commitment to keep Prestwick open just to save a few jobs when no one wants to fly from Prestwick anyway. Loosing £800,000 a month and Ryan Air pulling out anyway – free rail passes to Glasgow Airport for the staff becoming unemployed.  Back to ‘Market Forces’

And the Leader pleading for all (including the great and the good) to make their views, Yes or No, known as the decision Yes or No is ‘too fundamental for issues to go unspoken’.

All this is of course relevant; but as Lesley and Brian point out where is the money to come from whatever the decision Yes or No – West Lothian Council say that they need to bear additional  £31 million cuts over the next three years.

The SNP in their White Paper can at best say ‘It’s the Oil’ and No to Trident 2 – well Trident 2 is futures anyway.  Westminster hasn’t a clue except that ‘Cuts are inevitable’.

What is required is for both sides to be realistic about the money – Utopia is not tomorrow with either choice – Utopia never has existed except in the imagination . St Thomas More lost his head for coming out with it (OK I know I fudge to make the comment).  What we want to ensure following either decision that we are not faced with a Dystopia.  In either case there needs to be a complete re-think of the Scottish economy – and one where there is more input from all concerned not just from the great and the good.

Incidentally Bill Jamieson ex Executive Editor of the Scotsman and an economist believes that when the electorate go to the poles, thoughts of the economy will be out of the window – votes will be cast on the basis of identity and belonging.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/bill-jamieson-a-matter-of-identity-and-belonging-1-3464823

And I agree – there has been far too many conflicting short-term economics thrown about over the last 18 plus months;  no one can think about the next 50 years never mind 300.  Get the Referendum over then start to map out Scotland’s future and then set out the economic strategy with all its risk.

August 21, 2013

Edinburgh Fringe on the Common Weal

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, Lesley Riddoch, Philosophy, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 7:11 pm

Discussion today, 21 August 2103 on the Common Weal at the Fringe.  If you would like more on the Jimmy Reid’s Foundation: Common Weal go to http://reidfoundation.org/common-weal/.

Also Lesley Riddoch has just published a book ‘Blossom’ on the Future of Scotland published by Luath.

The points I picked up at the discussion are;

Robin McAlpine

  • Buildable, share more.
  • Not big state, rather radical decentralisation.

In Scotland.

  • The majority of the population earn less than £20,000.
  • There is effectively no labour market.
  • Increase quality of jobs and the tax problem goes away
  • Start to start again from first principles.
  • New set of Institutions
  • Independence is not an identity problem
  • At present the Independence debate is more like Civil War.

Lesley Riddoch – the Nordics.

  • 80 years of Hydro, land ownership by the communities.
  • Communities are empowered.
  • In Sweden anyone earning less than £30,000 does not pay tax

Looking at Scotland;

  • ‘Stand there till I fix you’.
  • Cameron cherry picks the bits he likes
  • Forget average shift, rather shift average.
  • Human capacity..

James Meadway.

  • Sharpest fall in living standards in England for generations.
  • Papers say that England is booming, housing market overheated. In practice only London is booming.
  • The rest of the UK is suffering; the government in Westminster pays only lip service to the North East , North West.
  • Councils in England are without any authority, everything is centralised in Westminster.
  • We are only 20% through the crisis

Robin McAlpine again

  • Corporates v the Individual
  • Throw away the Tax Code  – start again
  • National Investment Bank

Lesley Riddoch again.

  • What is required is common sense.
  • Too many armchair theorists – get out there at the grass-roots
  • Good things are happening in Glasgow
  • It’s a question of self-help.
  • Scotland does not make use of its women, compare the Nordics.
  • It’s all about owners of assets

The points I took on board are:

All agreed that we need decentralisation desperately -whether in Scotland or the whole of the UK.

The Left has been asleep – Rumpelstiltskin.

We are not using our human capacity.

There was no good feeling that Independence would bring decentralisation. In my opinion Independence could lead to more centralisation; the government will claim that only that way can they save the economic problems they have inherited.

The problem is that major change as suggested by the Common Weal will only be brought about by major active political intervention. Unfortunately none of the political parties at Westminster at least are willing to take on radical reform. It was tentatively suggested that the Jimmy real foundation should form its own party.

We are looking at 50 years of hard slog.

April 24, 2013

Belfast – for better

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Lesley Riddoch, Personal, Travel — derryvickers @ 10:28 am

If you are keen on Ireland then you will enjoy Lesley Riddoch and Chris Smith’s pod:

http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/2013/04/mostly.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LesleyRiddoch+%28Lesley+Riddoch%29

I took lots of notes taken while listening to this Belfast pod. Much the same material as Lesley’s Scotsman Article but so much better as a pod.
I admit, as I’m sure I have done before, I am an Irish fan, though I also admit not much knowing about Belfast other than driving round it to get south of the border.

And that takes me to Unionism in the UK and in Ireland – it’s the geography again. The UK could reasonably split between Carlisle and Newcastle. Ireland can’t be so split geographically but it has been split largely by an influx of Scots in the time of King Billy.
It is well to note that at a professional level – the professional classes have been working together for a long time and then there is the Irish Rugby team.

However listening to the programme it comes over to me that perhaps despite the Peace Walls there is now some sort of enduring spilt between the five counties and the rest of Ireland – perhaps as Lesley says a realism of real life in Northern Ireland rather than the somewhat phony blarney of Eire – and perhaps the south will move to the realism of the north following their financial troubles.

Yes Belfast picking itself up – I can’t forget the Paisley McGuiness chuckles. And a couple of quotes from the pod: Point of departure to where you arrive well, and the Titanic: it left here fine!

January 17, 2013

Iceland – a Rebirth

Filed under: economics, Lesley Riddoch, Politics, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 1:20 pm

Really a couple of asides – I have read Lesley Riddoch’s article in the Scotsman

http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/2013/01/bumble-bee-economy-flies-again.html

and read a short transcript of a Newsnight programme  by Joe Lyman of the BBC on a visit to Reykjavik.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20936685

Roughly the same reports although Lyman provides a few downside stories of people struggling.  But one is never sure how many people need to be interviewed to get the downside ones.

But

To English – I spent five years in what was then West Germany and likewise everyone wanted to speak English to me – which certainly didn’t do my German any good.

While listening to the pod I looked up the History of Iceland because a comment that ?Lesley made implied that Iceland was a vassal of Norway – which was true before it was handed over to Denmark.  Only after WW2 did Iceland become independent.  What I hadn’t realised was the Brits occupied Iceland at the beginning of WW2 – then the Brits were overtaken by the US.

A recent Belle Caledonia queried what would happen to poor Northern Ireland when Scotland becomes independent – the writer said they would have no choice but to remain in the Union (Formally of course they are not part of the Union – it’s the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland) or join the Republic of Ireland (sorry I understand that Eire is no longer acceptable).  The Protestants have no wish to join Eire any more than a lot of Scots want to be part of the UK.  But it would seem to me that Northern Ireland could follow Iceland and become a nation on its own – that would at least avoid the number of days the Union Jack is flying over Stormount.

January 16, 2013

It’s Shetland’s Oil?

Filed under: Lesley Riddoch, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 2:23 pm

Brian Wilson has picked up his pen as an erstwhile editor of the West Highland Free Press and has provided a lovely article on, I paraphrase, ‘It’s Shetland’s Oil’ .

http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-wilson-shetland-has-the-right-to-go-it-alone-1-2739336

Yes, why should Shetland, Orkney or for that matter the Western Isles wish to be part of an Independent Scotland which, I suspect Wilson knows better than i , the moves that the SNP are taking to centralise power in Edinburgh.

I don’t suspect that Lesley Riddoch will fully agree with Wilson’s motives behind the article but the outcome looks very similar.  Scotland, if it is to be workable country, must recognise the need to distribute power downwards.  I think I remember right; at one of the Nordic Sessions, an MSP within the Highlands and Islands acknowledged that the Highlands & Islands Region is far too big covering as it does all Wilson’s island and a lot more, to properly represent its very wide range of interests.

November 3, 2012

Kathleen, Michael and Jean – a pod by Lesley Riddoch

Filed under: Lesley Riddoch, Music, Personal, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 9:02 pm

To get the benefit of this blog you need to listen to Lesley Riddoch and Chris Smith’s pod at

http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/2012/10/a.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LesleyRiddoch+%28Lesley+Riddoch%29

Some things come over much more positively when you hear them rather than read them.  This is the heart-breaking story of Kathleen and the work of such people as Charlie.  And I hear the heart breaking despairing sound in Lesley’s voice.  Not saying that the column in the Scotsman on Monday didn’t affect me – it did – I sent off a small donation to one of my favourite charities – but the pod was so much more telling.

To Michael Marra – sorry I had not heard of him and I admit I don’t listen to much folk music largely because I don’t come across it much – one exception is Corran Raa and that’s only because I meet one of the players on a skiing holiday .  But back to Michael whilst listening to the pod I looked up his name on the web and came across this nice obituary in the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/nov/01/michael-marra

Finally to Jean Urquhart, glad to hear she is remaining at Holyrood.  It’s not the SNP that will run Scotland should Independence happen – its people like Jean Urquhart.  The SNP being a single issue party will just evaporate and hopefully there will be a social democratic group coalescing from all of the existing parties in Holyrood to take Scotland forward.

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