Location, Location Location….

There’s even a TV series of the same name.  It’s a good bit of light entertainment as people are hunting for their ideal homes aided by two professional (at least in TV terms) house experts.   But, let’s look at this from above, take a high-flying helicopter view.  Seen from above,  what is it about the location of our home that matters?   Proximity to transport, to shops, to jobs, to leisure facilities, to schools, broadband connectivity. Yes, these all matter to varying degrees, but there’s surely something more that matters too. Something that’s not measured by Zoopla. Something bigger.

How about having a home in a location which has some privacy?  On the LLL TV show homes which aren’t overlooked are apparently more desirable and sought after.  Yet, it doesn’t matter where your ideal location is in the UK now as the Government has legally abolished your privacy.  The Investigatory Powers Bill gives the Government not just the right to spy on your every movement and message but also requires that all this information about you is stored for 12 month periods of time. (See the bottom of this post for a list of the Government Agencies which can now legally, without asking your permission, access all your electronic information).  Do remember that the Alexa over there in the corner is always listening, otherwise how would it know to waken up on hearing the key word being spoken?   If you were asked to relocate to China or to North Korea, you’d know what to expect in the way of Government run surveillance and spying.  Yet this is exactly what is now happening on every High Street and Acacia Avenue in Britain.  The Government is storing every word you type, every call you make and a record of everything you look at.  Isn’t that something you should be concerned about when choosing your location?   That our ideal Location, Location, Location (wherever it is) now comes with intrusive state surveillance?  Did you choose that?

Maybe another factor in our ideal Location, Location, Location is the access to Healthcare. Hopefully it’s not something we plan to need or use frequently, but it’s something that’s nice to know it’s there and we can easily access it and be loked after at times of illness t accidents.  How’s that going in most Locations, Locations, Locations these days?  What’s happening to the NHS around your ideal location?

So when you’re thinking about the Location, Location, Location of your home maybe you should be thinking about more than Zoopla.  Maybe you should value a home in a location where the Government isn’t doing things which will make your life harder.   Where a Government is doing all it can to make life fair, to make opportunities available to everyone.  Where the Government is trying to be just (even with one had tied behind it’s back).  I wonder where in the United Kingdom such a Location, Location Location could be?

We’ll get a chance soon enough to decide on what’s really important in our ideal location. I wonder what Zoopla will say?

 

 

Here’s a full list of agencies that can now ask for UK citizens’ browsing history  (and actually a whole lot more) , which is laid out in Schedule 4 of the Bill and was collected by Chris Yiu, is below:

  • Metropolitan Police Service
  • City of London Police
  • Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
  • Police Service of Scotland
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • British Transport Police
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • Royal Navy Police
  • Royal Military Police
  • Royal Air Force Police
  • Security Service
  • Secret Intelligence Service
  • GCHQ
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Department of Health
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Justice
  • National Crime Agency
  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • Department for Transport
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
  • Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
  • Competition and Markets Authority
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
  • Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
  • Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
  • Financial Conduct Authority
  • Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Food Standards Scotland
  • Gambling Commission
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
  • Information Commissioner
  • NHS Business Services Authority
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
  • Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
  • Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
  • Office of Communications
  • Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  • Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Scottish Ambulance Service Board
  • Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power for the People

A Sunday morning idea. 

Looking around my house at the things which we use which use electricity and I got to thinking. Bear with me on my flight of fantasy here.  

Global warming is happening, man made or otherwise.  I believe we’re contributing to it and ought to be thinking of ways to reduce the electricity we use. As we depend on more computers, tablets phones, routers, monitors it seems unlikely that we’ll actually reduce the electricity we use.  So how about changing, drastically, how we made, distribute and use it?   What if we really, as a mass society, could make a step change in how we do this?  

Many devices are essentially battery powered so only need to be recharged, so we have wall-wart transformers to the 5v DC these devices need.  Others are 12v DC. The latest adverts for vacuum cleaners ‘break the cord’ so that’s another device which runs on batteries. 

But what if…….we built houses with DC ring mains?  Not instead of 240v AC but as well as.  What if every house, factory, office had to be built with photovoltaic cells feeding into a DC ring?  All lighting, LED of course, would run from this DC ring, as would as many devices as we can make which will do away with the need for a transformer.   What things do we have which really need 240v?  Washing machines?  Almost everything else has transformers and power supplies which take three mains down to a DC level. 

So why not do away with all the transformers and have DC rings? Is this what Tesla is doing with their battery walls and solar tiles? If so, more power (pun intended) to them.  Wouldn’t such a house (or office) really be a worthy “Grand Design”,  just as Armstrong’s Cragside House was back in the days.  

What England Means to Me

 

What England Means To Me   – is a website I was invited to write a piece for.  This is a draft of that piece.  I’m trying out on my own website first, before submitting it to the other one.   I’ve had this on the go for a few months and am only getting around to a near complete draft.   Fire away with your comments……..  

 

“O wad some power the giftie gie us, tae see oorsels as ithers see us.”

Those are the words of Scotland’s national bard – Robert Burns. This essay is about ‘What England Means to Me’ from a Scottish perspective, hence the introduction. When asked if I’d like to write a piece for this site, I was flattered and challenged in equal measures. I consider myself very Scottish, although I was born in Coventry. I support the movement for Scotland to once again be an independent nation, which means I support the SNP as the best vehicle to get Scotland there and I’m writing about England.

 

My first feeling about what England means to me is one of slight frustration. I can’t easily answer the question “What is England?”  The geographical area is well defined,  but what else?  these days it means to me the place where my daughter lives and works.  It was, but for a spot of gazumping, a place where I (almost) lived and worked.

England has had a real problem with its identity for a long, long time. England and Britain and UK have seemingly been interchangeable terms forever. So much so that when considering what’s England, or English, it’s difficult to separate them. Even contributors to this site casually conflate the terms “England’s” and “Britain’s” when referring to events and deeds of the past. England wears the coat of Britain with comfort, indeed the coat was probably tailored to fit England. This has to be a challenge for England and the English as Britain goes forward. Just what is ‘England’? How does England take off this coat of Britain and relax into its own identity? Nowhere is this confusion over identity shown more clearly than at rugby/football internationals where the England team uses the British national anthem as their own, even when they are playing against Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland – who all have equal claim to use that song. Staying in the sporting world for a moment there is “The FA” and The RFU”. All the other countries in the UK have a national identifier in front of their sporting bodies, e.g. “The SFA”, “The SRU”. Yet England uniquely seems the have the word “The”. Pause and think about that for a moment, and what it says about national identity.
The Union Flag is similarly easily swapped for the St George’s flag. This schizophrenia about identity runs deeply through English/British/UK history and doesn’t seem to have been resolved yet. Scottish nationalism has been and is a benign force: civic, progressive, pluralist, and deeply multicultural. The English nationalism we are witnessing is practically the mirror opposite – ethnic, regressive, anti-pluralist, and at war with multiculturalism and diversity. There are many essays on this site which talk of the English values of ‘fair play’ and ‘helping the under-dog’. Where are those values being demonstrated in post-Brexit England?

So England, the largest country in the United Kingdom. The dominant country, not a partner to the other countries. The devolution arrangements and very recent pronouncements from the Supreme Court  have shown this in sharper relief than ever before.  England – the country which rules that it’s too dangerous for nuclear weapons to be stored in its territory yet is happy for them to be stored within 15 miles of 46% of the population of another country in the United Kingdom.  Much has been said about the need for a parliament for England, to put it on a level footing with Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff.  EVEL will not deliver this. This is the politics of England, not the people. The political direction in which the country is being driven just doesn’t reflect the view the English have about England. English people are really no different from Scots, from Welsh, from Irish people. It’s a puzzle therefore why they are allowing themselves to be pushed in a direction which can only end in diminution of their country.

 

England is a country with areas of great beauty. The Lake District, the Cotswolds, the garden of Kent, the wilderness of Dartmoor. It’s all there. The Riviera on the south coast. What’s not to like about this land? And I do like the land when I’m there.  So is that what England Means to Me?  A pleasant place to visit?   London is good to visit, but not as stunning as New York.

Right now though, at the end of January 2017, there’s something happening in England which is causing real anxiety in Scotland (perhaps moreso in Northern Ireland and Wales too). England is allowing itself to become characterised by a meanness of spirit. The appalling murder of Jo Cox MP, the societal divisions being foisted, with no care or regard for the future, on England by its politicians, no longer sit comfortably with the Scottish character. Maybe it was always thus, but I don’t think so. The trajectory England is being put on is going to stress the bonds of the United Kingdom as they have never been stressed before. I doubt that they will survive.

So what is England? A proud nation, people who long ago created a vast empire but have yet to really come to terms with its ending. England – a nation with an identity crisis.

Sometimes it’s the little things……

broken-rings…… that make all the difference in the world.   I’ve no idea what the main reasons for people getting divorced are, but I’m willing to bet it’s usually because of a lot of little things all piling up until it beceoms intolerable.

For Scotland, that seems to be what’s happening.  Over the past few weeks there have been many little things happening.  None of which, in isolation would cause a divorce.  And yet……when the cumulative effect of all the little slights, and all the snide comments and put downs are added together they begin to make you wonder about staying in a union.

Here’s a few of the little things

  • Speaker John Bercow’s (quite excellent) speech on Trump being shown on BBC Newsnight – with a backing track of “Jerusalem”.
  • Joanna Cherry QC MP being told to sit down and be quiet in the House of Commons during a debate on the Develoved Nations and Brexit.  (Tommy Shepperd has written about this, see below this post)  This, despite her talking for a scant 3 minutes when many Tories had been permitted to speak for 20 minutes or 30 minutes.  As for the behaviour of the Tories……
  • The Brexit White Paper being devoid of any factual content in relation to Scotland.  There’s an excellent review of it here.
  • The mis-use (abuse?) of statistics by Ruth Davidson MSP with no challenges or questions being raised from the Scottish Media.
  • David Mundell’s waffle and obfuscation and complete denial of having been elected to represent people in Dumfriesshire when he clearly believes his job is not to represent his constituents, but to represent his Party and it’s dictats from London
  • Theresa May ignoring the Paper on Brexit, which contains many compromises,  presented by the Scottish Goverment.

 

So when the dust settles, the Scottish people, being well balanced will be left to wonder what exactly is going on.   All little things on their own.  Collectively though they seem far larger.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Tommy Sheppard MP’s post on Facebook. 

So not everyone spends their evenings watching Parliament TV – and who can blame you. It’s often not the most exciting watch. But I do think it’s important that folk know what happened last night. Even after some kip, I’m still pretty angry.

We have 3 days to debate around 100 motions on the Brexit bill. Yesterday we focused on 2 elements – the rights of EU citizens and the role of devolved administrations. It works out at about an average of four minutes to debate each amendment.

In one of the many bizarre aspects of debate here no time limit is placed on speeches during committee stage debates. When that is combined with the informal gentleman’s club hierarchy whereby the longer serving get priority, it means it’s very hard for new MPs to get a word in edgeways.

In 8 hours of debate, only 4 MPs representing Scottish constituencies got to speak. In the 3 hour debate on the devolved administrations we had 1 MP representing Wales, 1 Northern Ireland and 2 Scotland.

One Tory MP spoke for longer than all members from Scotland combined – on a debate about the role of the Scottish Parliament in Brexit.

Our second was my colleague Joanna Cherry QC. After 2 minutes (when many others had spoken for around 20 mins each – including a Tory who attempted to filibuster and had already had 20mins+ in the first debate) the Deputy Speaker said he expected her to finish up, that he had been kind enough to let the SNP speak and she should not abuse it.

Joanna made the point that she should be heard and carried on. She was basically told to sit down – she was done. Alex Salmond raised a point of order and a number of the group walked out in disgust. It wasn’t pretty.

You elected me to represent you. To do that I need to be able to speak.

Last night the voices of the people of Scotland were not heard. We were silenced by the mother of parliaments not being fit for purpose.

It shouldn’t be this difficult.

The fact that the debate was delayed by points of order on the clerks wearing wigs (some Tories were upset that Bercow had ruled that they no longer need to) shows just where we are at.

I’m proud to represent Edinburgh East and I will continue to fight for my constituents with all I have. But sometimes you do wonder…