Mike Vickers' Blog

March 7, 2019

Public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

Filed under: 'Moot' Local Decision Making, Europe, Personal, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 10:34 pm

Towards Local Decisions

I have copied below an article forwarded to me almost verbatim by Malcolm Fraser entitled Bring Back the Moot

You can find his full article at https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13930/malcolm-fraser-bring-back-moot

Malcolm Fraser, architect and head of the 2013 Scottish Government town centre review, posited his “Town Centre First Principle”. [He believes that] Many authorities are doing good work in understanding and applying this principle, though he still reads horror stories of Councils moving colleges or “community campuses” out of town to lonely, disconnected places by the motorway.

He is now proposing four big measures within his underlying principle:

  1. Tax: buildings are an old-fashioned, easy to see and target source of taxation. They carry the burden of retail while digital sales get off extremely lightly, including dodging tax by moving sales offshore into low-tax havens. A simple change to a sales or consumption tax, adjusted to apply less to small retailers, would even out the burden between our high street and digital sales as well as ensuring tax was paid at the point of sale, not transferred offshore.
  2. Transport: the Labour Party proposed a five-point plan of which [he] particularly liked the idea of free public transport for the under 25s. Accessible, easily useable public transport is a key answer to a huge number of our contemporary challenges, including climate change and inclusive accessibility to the public services centres.
  3. Vacant Property: there’s great groups doing sterling work in revitalising their towns, including the pioneering West Kilbride Craft Town and the current work of the Stove Network in Dumfries, who are not only addressing the vacant shops in the town but the empty, former flats above. There is, apparently, so much need in Scotland for cheap space for artists and craftspeople, that vast old offices and industrial buildings are filled-up in our cities. We need to take the Craft/Stove model and set out how all our communities can apply it to their own towns, spreading their crafts entrepreneurs along our High Streets, into our vacant shops. And while there’s been great efforts to apply the Empty Homes initiatives to our housing crisis we should extend them: it might only cost £20,000 to bring back an empty town centre flat into use, whose occupier will support town centre shops and facilities, instead of maybe £100,000 for a green field new build. And we might note that, whereas there are upwards of 34,000 long-term empty homes in …., there are countless more above high street shops which are registered now as retail, ‘’’’.
  4. Local Democracy: finally, the lack of care in the health of our communities must be inextricably wound up with the lack of a functioning, empowered local democracy in Britain as a whole. Compared to our healthy European neighbours we, as citizens, are very remote from our politicians. We need to reintroduce a measure of power, and some funding, to Parish, Community or whatever-we-might-call-them Councils, and co-locate them with post offices, nurseries and other local services in parish churches, or old buildings revitalised by Community Asset Transfers, or devolved initiatives planned by local authorities. Medieval Scotland was full of public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

I am happy with all 4 measures but the one that appeals to me most is 4. on Local Democracy.  Local Democracy is sadly lacking in Scotland, even more than in England, and the UK as a whole is the most undemocratic in Europe.  I believe the people of towns and country need to have a real say in how they are governed; a cry of the heart I set out in a recent blob ‘Towards Local decisions’.

The best definition I have found of ‘moot’ is
“an assembly held for debate, especially in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times.”

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March 6, 2019

Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Music, Personal, Writing — derryvickers @ 3:32 pm

Goethe

In these trying times of Brexit and Austerity, worth a thought each day.

What can I do about it.

Goethe had the right idea

 

March 5, 2019

Frank Field – Independent Labour MP for Birkenhead

Filed under: Birkenhead, Brexit, Frank Field, Left Politics, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 9:04 pm

I was born in Birkenhead, well the posh part to the south, Bebington, not that that was that posh as it was just half a mile from Port Sunlight, the soap factory of Lever Brothers where just before going to Liverpool University I did a vac job for 2 months.

But back to Birkenhead, Field was after my time; after graduating I headed south wanting to go to Singapore with the IGY. No such luck, I joined the Scientific Civil Service near Windsor and moved into computing and spent my working life in many aspects of the subject. I am not complaining, computing was new and exciting in those days.

But again, back to Birkenhead, I can still remember cycling around Birkenhead Docks; there were docks in Birkenhead then for cargo ships that overflowed from Liverpool on the opposite side of the Mersey. The docks were exciting places to cycle around with ships from all over the world. But many’s the time I got my front tyre stuck in the embedded dockside railway lines and fell off.

It also built ships at Cammell Laird’s; I watched the launch of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal

You can get an overview of Birkenhead at wiki

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birkenhead.

Everyone worked in Liverpool, a ferry boat away, or you could risk your life cycling through the Mersey Tunnel; fine going down to the middle but hell cycling up the other side with lorries trying to inch past you; I did it for a year but after that got the ferry and the tram. I did well predate the Beetles

All that’s by the way, although I have seldom been back I still feel an attachment to Birkenhead and I am proud of Frank Field and independent Labour soul who chairs the the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

He is quoted “In December 2017, during a debate on Universal Credit, Field described the impact that Universal Credit changes had had on his constituents. His observations moved Work and Pensions Select Committee member Heidi Allen to tears”.

He is an avid supporter of Climate Protection and features the protection of rain forests; all excellent, but I cannot agree with his attitude to Brexit even though I can see where he is coming from.

But you might like a piece in today’s “I” on “Ending benefits freeze to ease poverty”.

You may admire a new sculpture in Birkenhead Part of the exhausted solder in remembrance of WW1.

March 3, 2019

Gina Miller to the Rescue

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Gina Miller, Personal, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:31 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/gina-miller-eu-delay-brexit-no-deal

Matthew d’Ancona thinks it less likely but it does look like a way forward out of the swamp of the Brexit mess.
And as Ancona says Gina Miller has already proved she can bring about the Unexpected and she has the determination to do so.

So here he goes:

Armed with a legal opinion written by Kieron Beal QC and three other senior lawyers, the co-founder of the pro-remain campaign Lead Not Leave will argue that the EU council of ministers could itself, unilaterally, extend the article 50 deadline.

Why should it even contemplate doing so? First, because – as Miller’s legal paper points out – “the wording of article 50(3) presupposes that the European council take the decisive lead with the consent of the withdrawing member state”. Second, because the EU has a legal duty to all its member states to ensure that any such withdrawal is not damaging to what article 13(1) of the treaty on European Union calls the “consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions”, or to the principle spelled out in article 13(2): “Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation the EU and the member states shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out the tasks which flow from the treaties.”

Miller’s point, of course, is highly political as well as specifically jurisprudential. By circulating this opinion at the European parliament and in Brussels, she hopes to remind the EU that the legal, practical and moral obligation to prevent a catastrophic no-deal outcome is not confined to Westminster. Her message is addressed to figures such as Donald Tusk, the president of the council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, his counterpart at the European commission, but also to the EU body politic as a whole.”

“But she is reminding the 27 other member states that they cannot, as a matter of law as well as of supranational ethics, play Pilate and wash their hands of this mess. We are, to coin a phrase, all in this together

If she makes the case and the EU acts, then Gina Miller deserves a statue in Parliament Square alongside Churchill.

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Immigration, Left Politics, Nick Cohen, Personal, Politics, USA — derryvickers @ 6:31 pm

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred

Nick Cohen in today’s Observer

A difficult read. I had to read it twice get the gist of what Nick Cohen was saying and when I did, I found his message uncomfortable for me to accept.

And what he is saying, wakes me out of my comfort zone.

Just a few extracts:

On this reading, our leftwing inquisitors who squint through mean, little eyes as they hunt for the tiniest traces of heresy, or conservatives who scream they are on the side of “the people” as they stuff their rich sponsors’ pockets with tax cuts, are US-inspired tricksters who divert their credulous followers from what matters.

Brexit is such an affront because it is a battle in a culture war as surely and pointlessly as Trump’s wall. It solves none of our old problems, just adds new ones.”

“America is no longer an aberration. America is our future. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997, 60% of the English population was white and had left school without A-levels. When Theresa May lost her majority in 2017, that proportion had fallen to 40%. Over the same period, the share of the English population who were university graduates, members of an ethnic minority group or both went from 17 to 40%. In Britain, as in the US, progressive politics will be drawn to appeal to minorities and the educated, while rightwing politics will be drawn to appealing to “the whites”.”

“From the point of view of Chris Williamson, though, “trolling the Jews”, as the Jewish Chronicle neatly put it, could help him if he runs for Labour leader. With both main parties taking away from MPs the power to elect their leaders and giving it to activists in US-style primaries, inflaming the prejudices of hardcore party members rather than appealing to the wider electorate is the opportunist’s way ahead.”

“But [Nick Timothy] can smell out the prejudices of the right like a tomcat smelling out sex. He told Telegraph readers that when the (black) MP David Lammy attacked May as “suburban”, it was a racist “dog whistle” to rally the left against the millions of suburban whites who support her. “Because what does he mean by ‘suburban’ if not white people?”

Lammy meant nothing of the sort. But notice how easily now the hucksters from right and left palm the race card from the bottom of the deck and resolve, that if you want to live in a halfway tolerable country, our first duty is to stop them.”

The full article

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred | Nick Cohen https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/as-immigration-from-outside-europe-rises-hucksters-foment-racial-hatred?CMP=share_btn_tw

BTW I note this is my 200th Blog.  But its taken a few years to do so!

 

February 28, 2019

Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Community Council

Filed under: Communications, Linlithgow, Personal, Planning, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 12:10 pm

As a member of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Community Council I have tried to set out what I see as our role in the following Mind Map.

Double click map to bring up as full screen.

I welcome comments from other Community Councillors in Scotland and the UK more generally.

BTW Linlithgow is a lovely place between Edinburgh and Glasgow from where you can visit Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. And we are only 20 kms from Edinburgh Airport.

Find more about us @ MyLinlithgow

September 24, 2018

Brexit is an obscenity.

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 9:36 pm

We may have fought in Europe for centuries .

But

We are part of Europe.

We were born out of Greece.

Watch Andrew Graham-Dixon and the Art of Germany in ‘The Shadow of Hitler’.

And in particular the work of Joseph Beuys.

And why we must avoid war in Europe , if possible, in the future.

Brexit underpins this objective.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wlrzx/art-of-germany-3-in-the-shadow-of-hitler

Brexit is an obscenity.

 

August 31, 2018

Jon Mccain – A Eulogy by Joe Biden

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Personal, USA — derryvickers @ 8:59 pm

I keep being reminded this week of John McCain.
Joe Biden through the Eulogy reminds us, well me at any rate, that there is a deeply positive side to the US that McCain personified.

A side that the US is being subverted through the tweets of Trump.
Here is the eulogy in case you missed it:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=johm+mccain+eulogy+joe+biden#id=4&vid=0ef4037ed3d76c9c612564d0a06f9ed9&action=view

August 23, 2018

The Handlebards

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, Music, Personal — derryvickers @ 6:57 pm

The Handlebards play this year at the Edinburgh Festival is Twelfth Night. If you have not come across them, they are four young men travelling the country on bikes performing Shakespeare (known as the Bard). They have been doing so for at least four years. They carry all their props, usually little more than a few costumes and a curtain to change behind which they do all the time, as the four of them play ALL the parts.

Their blurb states We are a troupe of cycling actors who carry all the set, props and costume needed to perform extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the globe’. Their diction is perfect Shakespeare and they are word perfect.

To Twelfth Night it’s a silly comedy where twins Viola and Sebastian who get shipwrecked on a small island and are parted in the Storm (a typical Shakespeare theme). The sister dresses in men’s clothes so much so that they are indistinguishable and get involved in love affairs between the two important people on the island Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia. It all finishes with Viola pairing with Duke Orsino and Sebastian with Countess Olivia. But there is much fun and confusion in between.

As usual with Shakespeare there is a second plot with the servants Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria plan revenge on Malvolio, a pompous official, with a plan to persuade Malvolio that Olivia fancies him and wishes him to show his affection by dressing up in yellow including crossed garters; Maria knows that Olivia hate all these things. Malvolio takes the bate and speaks the famous quote “’Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Suffice to say that when Malvolio appears before Olivia, she is bewildered and despatches Malvolio to an asylum.

For more on the play go to:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_Night

Sorry, this all seems a nonsense play which it is; but played out by the Handlebards it is hilarious and provides for good audience participation even to dragging members of the audience on stage. When Malvolio gives his famous quote, the whole audience chanted also. Throughout the four players were constantly changing garments and when Viola and Sebastian were finally both on stage of course they weren’t, only their hats that they had worn throughout were there held by their two final partners with the actual player dancing from one to the other changing his speaking genders accordingly.

They included in this show a significant number of Shakespeare’s lyrics.

For a flavour of the Handlebards try:

https://www.handlebards.com/press-resources/

But tghe only real way to appreciate sheer joie de vivre of the Handlebards is to see one of their shows

BTW There are now the Girls Handlebards

July 23, 2018

The Shetland Bus

Filed under: Education, Orkney, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:39 pm

While visiting Burghead on the Moray coast I was reminded of the Shetland Bus.

The Shetland Bus operated during WW2 ferrying Norwegians from Norway to Shetland and materials to Norway. But as I found at Burghead – Burghead also operated a bus. To say that it was a dangerous affair was an understatement but in times of war.

You can read about the Bus at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_bus

But for the bus run to Burghead see:

The Shetland Bus

The Memorial to the Bus at Burghead

 

 

 

 

 

About the Bus to Burghead

On the plaque

 

 

 

 

I had my own personal memory while taking the photos I stepped back to include the whole memorial and fell off the edge of the quay and hit the ground hard – luckily, I survived and was very well looked after by the Burghead Sea Rescue group. Incidentally my camera kept taking movie pictures.

I attach a couple of photos of Burghead including the Well. The Well’s archaeological significance remains unknown.

Burghead from the Headland

Burghead looking South

 

 

 

Who cut the well remains unknown

The Well

The Well Description

The Well Description

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BTW when visiting Orkney two weeks ago (see previous blog) I was reminded of John Rae, the explorer seeking the North West Passage while working for the Hudson’s Bay Company. At Stromness not far from where Rae was borne there is a monument to him too.

To John Rae Arctic Explorer

John Rae

It’s good that Scotland remembers its heroes with plaques and lifelike sculptures.

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