Office procedures in the Digital Age

Clerks in Dickens novels followed a procedure that was ages old. They made a copy of everything they wrote and kept it as a record. The famous and the not so famous kept their correspondence. When I worked in a sales office every letter I wrote had two copies for the filing system, one for that customer’s file and another in a chronological file.

In the modern digital age of correspondence by email there is no such system. In the first place there is often no paper trail and secondly future historians will be deprived of a valuable resource. Many people now boast that they never keep emails. If it is casual conversation there is no great harm but if it is business correspondence it is a serious flaw in the system.

April 7, 2014 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Scottish Currency

This is a short post with my immediate reaction to the UK political parties veto on Scotland using the pound.
If we really want to be a nation we should go for complete independence, our own currency and everything else.
It is certainly true that the rest of world needs Scotland just as much as we need them, but let’s negotiate from a position of strength.
Lesley Riddoch’s book “Blossom” makes the case.

February 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm Leave a comment

Scottish Independence February 2014

So what is the current state of play?

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are still not winning the argument. Their so-called White Paper has apparently attracted very few readers. This is not surprising given its length and the fact that much of what it states as firm future actions is in fact nothing of the sort. I have said before that Alex should have acted like a statesman, not a politician. Spinning the news and the facts is not a good idea. Those of us who have followed anything of the debate know that in the event of a Yes vote the real horse trading will have to start. I believe in many ways they have been too cautious. Why not appeal to the romantic in the Scot? Let’s go for full blown independence with our own currency and outside the EU, and make ourselves a brand new state. Then if rUK and Europe want us to join in we can negotiate it from a position of strength.

Why do I say this? Because if I am to vote yes a large part of my decision will be the present state of English dominated politics. I don’t want to stay with a £ that an English Chancellor is using to bail out his uber rich (Robert Peston’s terminology) pals with. I don’t want to live in a society where those in full time work are subsidised by the taxpayer, in effect subsidising the profits of mega companies. I don’t like Workfare; I don’t like the benefit cuts. I want us to bring up and educate our youngsters so that they have a future of productive and satisfying work. It is totally immoral that we have such high youth unemployment across the whole of Europe and yet the private sector, especially the banks, are avoiding any responsibility for the disaster of our present financial crisis and still taking home vast fortunes every year.

And yet the SNP seem to assume that they will run an independent Scotland and again I repeat do they have the people of vision to do it?

February 5, 2014 at 7:22 pm 6 comments

Scottish Independence – a Different Perspective

I was born and brought up in South Africa. Although still perhaps an incomer, I have lived and worked in Scotland for forty -four years. There are so many anomalies in the registration of voters for the referendum that I feel I need not hesitate to voice an opinion. South Africa is still going through the major transition from apartheid some twenty years after it was abolished and the first Rainbow elections were held. The attitudes and the culture of the different groups have yet to change and it will take generations for a unified nation to emerge. If the Scottish electorate vote for independence in 2014 Scotland will need a similar if not so dramatic period of transition to develop the culture of an independent nation. Nationalists will rejoice, Unionists despair but there will also be businesses large and small, farmers, Highlanders, Islanders, Borderers and those from the dominant cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh to be brought to the table.

In the media if not yet in pubs, the debate on Scottish Independence is alive in spite of the length of time before the vote in September 2014. Neither side is terribly convincing. Alex Salmond could have produced a statesmanlike blueprint, balancing the pros and cons, and still made a convincing case. He has, unfortunately, not been able to resist the politician’s usual use of spin and misinformation. This makes him vulnerable and reduces his chances of pulling off a Yes vote.

My opinions and thoughts are probably not substantially different from many others who are wrestling with the information or lack of it on which they have to base their vote. However, I did choose to live here in the UK in preference to South Africa, a republic with massive human rights and other issues. Many people who have not experienced life in another country may not appreciate the benefits of living in the UK. We have our problems but a brief look abroad should convince everyone as to how lucky we really are. Moreover, many of the benefits come from the size and global reach of the whole UK, so consideration should be given to this aspect of the vote for independence. The original formation of the United Kingdom was at least in part for mutual support.

The case for independence is finely balanced. There is the emotional pull of a brave new nation. There is the continual drifting apart in attitude and customs between Scotland and England. Under the Tory / Lib Dem government England appears to have lurched to the right, cracking down on welfare benefits while protecting the interests of the capitalist elite. UKIP has pushed the Tories into a corner over the EU to such an extent that this may force a referendum in a few years which could very well take the UK out of Europe. This will undermine the position of the whole UK in global terms. This is sentiment not logic, carefully orchestrated to emphasise the negative aspects of belonging in Europe and pandering to the jingoistic tendencies of so called “Middle England”. Scottish votes for Europe in a UK wide referendum would be swamped.

Scotland, by contrast, has marked socialist tendencies nearer to European Social Democrat ideas than market-orientated capitalism. That is a broad comparison but nevertheless very relevant to the debate. However so called “devolution max” could provide a solution to most issues apart from the EU. Foreign affairs would of course remain a Westminster responsibility, so one argument for a Yes vote would be a desire to take a different approach to world politics. If an independent Scotland were to take a stance in the world that is better suited to a small nation, our armed forces would need to be much reduced. Scottish regimental traditions would become history, but these are a source of pride to many people and could be a factor in favour of a No vote.

The details of achieving an independent nation are much more complex and are the subject of a growing propaganda war. This is where Alex Salmond has missed a trick and lost many people’s respect. His apparent desire to win the vote at all costs has led to a number of misjudgements some of which have revealed the spin behind the story. There are major issues such as EU membership, the currency, oil revenues, the benefits system and UK wide IT systems, treaty negotiations and rights of citizenship but there are also a myriad of what might appear minor snags such as freight links to continental markets given that most lorry freight travels through English ports, passport controls at the border if Scotland had to accept the Schengen agreement(think Calais and illegal immigrants), air traffic control of fly-over flights, overseas representation in embassies and consulates. That other small nations do operate successfully is due to the fact that their nation status is relatively long established and their structure and position in the world has evolved. We live in an era of globalisation which makes it easier in some ways but adds to the complexity and puts constraints on freedom of action by individual nations. It would be ironic if Scotland were to become independent of the Westminster government only to find itself with less freedom for individual action by being a new member of the EU, forced to accept more intrusions into our affairs from Brussels. It could be that Scotland undertakes the massive upheaval and costs of becoming an independent state for only very marginal and symbolic gains in its freedom to decide its own future.

Is it possible that Alex Salmond is playing a game of double bluff? His Scottish National Party will lack an overriding purpose if it wins independence whereas the possible extra devolved powers after a No vote would leave Alex Salmond in a more powerful situation. The Labour party or some new coalition might well become dominant again in a post-independent Scotland leaving the SNP on the fringes. A campaign failure which can be blamed on colleagues and the perfidy of the English could leave Alex in power.  That scenario might better fit with his personal ambition. Leaving much of the campaigning to far less competent ministers and bungling some of his own interventions might be a game worth playing.

In addition, I am worried by the poor quality of the members of our political class. The SNP played a blinder by rebranding the devolved administration as the Scottish Government. It is of course nothing of the sort. A more accurate term would be super local or regional authority. No politician in the present parliament has any experience of running the really significant departments of state, particularly the Treasury, the Foreign Office and Defence. In spite of some recent faltering, Alex Salmond stands head and shoulders above the rest of the administration but he also is deficient in those areas.

The present Westminster government is a complete anathema to many of us who will vote in the referendum but will a government composed of some of our present MSPs just be a bungling mess?

December 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

Socialist Economics

Written earlier this year….

The origins of the world economic crisis which we have not yet begun to solve date back to the potential collapse of banks and financial institutions such as Northern Rock in the UK and Lehman Brothers in the USA. It has been acknowledged widely that the national leader who led the charge to bail them out was Gordon Brown who seized the opportunity to alleviate his own domestic troubles. It is ironic that a socialist prime minister who had tried as Chancellor of the Exchequer to redistribute incomes should be the one to open the flood gates to wholesale intervention in the capitalist system to help the richest people retain their wealth. It is perhaps in the nature of socialism to intervene and attempt to plan to obstruct market forces. Gordon Brown was reputed to be a tinkerer and deviser of complicated schemes which he would then defend against all rational argument. This was perhaps one of these times. Pausing for thought might have suggested to him that here was a golden opportunity to devise a new order of world finance by quarantining the banks as one would a computer virus allowing the rest of the system to recover and heal the wound.
The Second World War spawned the Beveridge Report, something substantial out of disaster. In economic terms the current crisis is as cataclysmic as a world war but so far no great game changing movement has emerged. The Beveridge Report changed Society for ever. There was never any chance of reverting to the old order. There is yet time for something as fundamental to surface from the present economic turmoil but even the so called Socialist parties have until now been more inclined to maintain the status quo than to grasp the opportunity to re-align our society.
In the West there are many intractable problems which politicians have campaigned on for many elections without actually changing anything. An ageing population, an increasing gap between rich and poor, growing youth unemployment, increasing drug and alcohol related contamination are not as intractable as many would have us believe. What is lacking is the real political will and the application of great minds dedicated to finding solutions.

December 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

Cretan Austerity

Crete 28/06/2012

As you see above this was first written in Crete in June last year but it appears just as relevant today with the Greek people no nearer the end of the austerity than two years ago. Politicians everywhere are kicking the toxic ball down the road in the hpoes that they will never actually have to deal with any real problems.
The austerity package in Greece is far more severe than in the UK. Pensions and wages have been reduced, retirement packages slashed. Beggars are haunting supermarket car parks and garbage bins are searched for food items. Tensions in some villages have resurfaced bringing added violence.
 Britain’s austerity measures should be as severe if we are to eliminate our own deficit, in other words the annual increase in the nation’s debt, any time soon. Total removal of the lump sum payable to public servants on retirement would never be contemplated in the UK so why should the Greeks accept it? A 30% reduction the the Old Age Pension would bring down a government but the Greeks are expected to take it on the chin.
As always it is the weak and poor who bear the brunt but what is worse in Greece is the exemptions from tax enjoyed by many Greek companies, granted years ago for bringing in jobs. Itv is not all the fault of government and many Greeks have enjoyed the good times living beyond their means  so it is reasonable to expect cutbacks but the rich and powerful should not be quarantined.

December 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm Leave a comment

BBC Omissions

I have been prompted to write this by a Twitter person I follow, @reddeviljp or jaydeepee, http://t.co/gLmaK7s7S7. He has started a list of topics which the BBC does not, in his and many others opinion cover adequately. That led me to thinking about how badly skewed the political and social debate is in our country, not just by the BBC but by the media in general. Badly misinformed or deliberately misled, the general populace is unaware of what should really give them sleepless nights.

As I understand it, but I could also have been misled by the lack of proper information, the NHS in England and Wales is being steadily privatised. The USA and  EU are in the process of drawing up a far reaching trade deal. As the NHS will in future rely on private suppliers, it cannot be exempt from the provisions of that agreement.  This agreement will effectively remove the sovereign right of governments to protect their own economic and social environment from private companies of a foreign country party to the trade agreement. In other words the NHS will be wide open to take-over by private American health providers. As far as I am aware the BBC has been totally silent on this issue.

My contribution to jaydeepee’s list was “NHS sell off, democratic deficit, tax avoidance, bank level of toxic debt, voting records of MPs, real level of NHS funding,”.

My example above connects to NHS sell off and also Democratic Deficit. At the last election, nobody was aware that we were voting about the wholesale privatisation of not only the NHS but many other government functions. No doubt there are Tory voters who are happy with events but I doubt that many Lib Dem voters were voting to get rid of the NHS as we know it. And yet for the sake of what they call “power” their MPs are prepared to condone it. Labour are hardly any better. They should never let a day go by without a protest of some sort about this  issue if they were really fulfilling their democratic mandate.

Both our politicians and the media ignore the democratic voice of the electorate. We are rapidly descending from a democracy to an oligarchy.

December 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

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