October 22, 2014

They’re Not Making Land Anymore – so what can the SRUC sell off now?

SAC jamie lindsay

Scotland’s countryside is an important contributor to the nation’s economy: cereals, potatoes, soft fruit, beef and dairy, sheep and forestry. These industries are vulnerable however – to fluctuating markets and weather certainly but what else?

Where do young people go to train for careers in rural occupations? The time was when there were facilities fairly close to home for our rural youngsters to get the basics while still working on family farms, certainly at weekends. Unfortunately these facilities are contracting and the danger is some may disappear altogether. Whole experimental farms have been sold off for house building or golf courses at the same time our rural college offers its majority of courses not in any of Scotland’s mainstays of farming but in Scotland’s second biggest city, Edinburgh.

edinburgh

The food produced in Scotland is renowned for its high quality and you might think it essential to reinforce this state-of-affairs through the provision of educational courses provided in just those areas where demand is greatest to learn rural skills and where back-up services are most needed. Edinburgh does not spring to mind for either of those.

The body providing training for a life in farming and forestry is the Scottish Rural College (SRUC) which a couple of years ago morphed out of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) – an umbrella organisation for agri colleges across the country that had been established in the early years of the 20th century and were instrumental in the expansion of Scotland’s agricultural sector, based largely on pasture-reared stock.

“Sheep and beef production from extensive systems is broadly speaking, environmentally friendly. Animal welfare is perceived to be of a high order and, coupled with images of fresh air, open hills and clean water, Scottish meat is seen as a high quality product”.
House of Commons, Scottish Affairs Committee (1996).

But not all is perfect with the SRUC which returned a loss for the last financial year – blamed on a number of one-off and merger costs, but contrived a 43% increase in pay for the principal and chief executive to £309,000, from £216,000 previously. The SRUC Chairman is Lord Jamie Lindsay.

Hard times have not dampened the ambitions of the SRUC Board to achieve university status for its courses and it is undergoing discussions with Edinburgh University with that in mind because the SRUC is seeking,

“a new alignment with the potential to create an influential force in the agricultural world”.

And you and I thought good farming practice came down to a farmer being able to tell one end of a cow from another.

The SRUC operates six campuses across Scotland – at Aberdeen, Ayr, Barony, Edinburgh, Elmwood and Oatridge plus a network of veterinary, advisory, consultancy offices and research farms, essential to the farming community. The provision is similar to what has long existed if somewhat curtailed in extent after years of pruning staff, courses, property and land – in a bid to balance the books.

The model sought was smaller and sleeker and not so messily rural which is why the SRUC ended up as an urban institution, in one of the most expensive parts of Scotland.

Scotland’s richest farming areas are found in Orkney, the northeast and southwest and rural communities in these parts were desperate to retain a close working relationship with the then SAC. What emerged was an extended internecine war over which campus would be the best headquarters and which would suffer greatest losses of land, buildings and staff in the drive for economic viability.

Back in 2003 the Scottish Parliament’s Environment and Rural Development Committee issued this statement:
‘The current review of SAC did not itself consider the wider economic impact of SAC’s decisions. That was not an oversight. SAC’s Directors are responsible for the viability of the organisation. Though SAC wishes to be as helpful to local economies as it can be, that must not compromise its own survival.’

This is curious. The SAC’s survival was surely inextricably linked to the success of its decisions and the attractiveness of a rural college is surely its usefulness to the people most likely to use it. Given the particular and differing strengths of agricultural industries across Scotland their needs will vary by area. The notion that the SAC had to survive at all costs is a peculiar one. If the SAC was not effective in responding to the needs of its industry then preserving it as an entity was never going to create a facility relevant to the future of rural life and industry.

Deloitte and Touche (D&T) were employed to draw up a report to establish the situation within the SAC and its future options.

D &T’s report threw up a list of justifications for situating Scotland’s rural college in its capital city as the best way forward rather than at one of its two main purpose-built campuses – Auchincruive, Ayrshire and Craibstone, Aberdeen.

At the time student numbers were:
Edinburgh – 146 students
Craibstone – 200 students
Auchincruive – 360 students

craibstone map

Brian Pack, former CE of the giant Aberdeen and Northern Marts (ANM) group argued for the retention of the Scottish system of integrating practice at the SAC – preserving a link between research and development and consultancy with teaching while the SAC sought to separate them out. He was a strong advocate for making Craibstone the lead campus for the SAC Scotland operation, not least because of its proximity to the rich farming lands of Aberdeenshire.

Edinburgh, it was pointed out had no student accommodation on site and it would be difficult and expensive for students to find their own in the city. Craibstone was well-served with student accommodation, and its many students were able to combine studies with practical work at home, not possible for the majority from Edinburgh. Craibstone was also popular with students from the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney because of the good transport links with these areas. Craibstone included several experimental farms distributed over a wide area as well as woodland in a prime location at the edge of Aberdeen.

Another view in support of Craibstone is quoted -

‘It is recognised that there are other further education establishments closer to
home e.g. Edinburgh SAC is closer to the Borders than Craibstone is,
however the students still chose to come to Aberdeen. This shows a better
quality experience gained at a rural campus, especially for rural-based
courses. You only need to look at the successful recruitment of students at
other land-based colleges in rural locations to see this is true e.g. Harper
Adams, Writtle, Royal Agricultural College.’

But the D&T report worked hard at persuading the case for establishing the rural college’s base in Edinburgh where it said there was -

‘better access to physical resources in libraries, bookshops and other support services were seen as great advantages’

…which annoyed supporters of Craibstone -

‘This has obviously been produced by people with little knowledge of how the campus at Craibstone Operates: all students are matriculated to Aberdeen University, so have a free access to the University library, sports and other student facilities which are only 5 miles away from Craibstone and on a main bus route. It is therefore obvious that the weightings are unrealistic and inaccurate.’

Was the D&T report projecting the outcome desired by the SAC Board? That was certainly the suspicion among many in the industry whereas it appeared the then Scottish Executive supported retaining the College as a cross-country facility. Given that the SAC was receiving 41% of its funding from Holyrood you might think that view should have carried weight.
However Labour’s Rhona Brankin MSP appears to have supported the move to Edinburgh

brankin

It is not obvious how setting up in an urban environment was going to stop the loss of students and cash. Quite the reverse.

At Ayr it was felt that decisions were being taken without consultation with ‘local stakeholders’ and that the detrimental impact on the Ayrshire economy was not given consideration. Auchincruive offered consultancy services, vet labs along with an experimental farm and brought in nearly 29% the SAC’s education income.

Both Craibstone and Auchincruive provide courses from SVQs to BSc Hons level although more limited in university degree options than at Edinburgh.

Arguing in favour of Edinburgh was Dr Mark Hocart from the SAC there -

‘Education is about personal growth and development as well as academic success. SAC has a responsibility to provide the most appropriate environment for students to develop as fully rounded personalities. For many students the contacts and network of friends made at college or university will be important to them throughout their subsequent careers so it is important that that experience is as rich and diverse as possible. A National Centre of Excellence The proposed ‘Hub and Spoke’ model is the right way to move.’

So there you have it – learning skills is so old fashioned – it’s all about personal growth blah, blah, blah.

As for ‘Hub and Spoke’ – this is Edinburgh the hub and Auchincruive and Craibstone etc are the spokes. Which is fine except shouldn’t it have been the other way around with the concentration on rural rather than urban?

He went on

‘Bringing the full-time education provision together for the first time will allow SAC
to build an integrated range of course programmes, maximising opportunities for
sharing of teaching modules across programmes. The hub focus will improve the
diversity of course programmes students can pursue while still delivering
education in a financially viable manner. The ‘Spokes’ are effectively satellite
teaching centres, and outreach centres based principally on SAC’s advisory
offices that will allow a greater participation in education for students in rural
Scotland. Developments in e-learning, distance learning and ‘electronic
classrooms’, will enable SAC to deliver education and training over a wider
geographical range than is currently the case. The hub and spoke model will
give SAC a truly national reach for education provision.’

You might be forgiven for wondering how this matches up with effective training for our young farmers … e-learning? really?

Here’s a novel approach – do away with the need for e-learning and get students out into the field (literally). Or is that too radical?

He continued

‘King’s Buildings (Edinburgh) have strong and productive research links with the Moredun Research Institute, the Roslin Institute, the SABRIs, SASA and BioSS. This
amalgamation of research activities adds significantly to the critical mass for
effective world class research. ‘

Forgive me but isn’t this exactly the setup for e-communication rather than practical skills? And while Edinburgh campus was close to those research bodies Craibstone was equally close to the Macaulay Institute(John Hutton), the Rowett and the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon’s University.

And continued

‘SAC Edinburgh has a local tradition of agriculture and land-based education and
has been supporting land-based industries for as long as any other centre. At
present we provide 25% of the courses at SAC, less than our Auchincruive
campus, however this is to change in the future.’

And we know why.

Dr Graham E Dalton FIAgrM commenting on the D&T report -

‘This report is a classic consultancy report where the wrong question has been asked. The financial accounts show that SAC is not working. Why? High overheads for facilities are only one possible reason for this situation.’

He questioned whether staffing levels were right rather than D&T’s concentration on WHERE to put staff. And he questioned D&T’s favouring centralising the SAC in Edinburgh – arguing this WOULD have a negative impact on revenue so that the report’s assumption of their best option was unlikely to succeed.

He suggested the report was coming on the problem from the wrong end. Instead of concentrating on the organisation of the institution it should have looked to the needs of ‘its customers’.
Indeed.

Brian Pack pointed out the danger of being fixated by costs rather than value. A yes to that.

Think about it if you were setting up an agricultural – let’s widen it – rural college would you opt to put it in the middle of a city?

If there’s one thing people need it is food. There is surely great scope for further development of Scotland’s rural industries so how is it the institution on which so much of this future depends is in dire straits? Could it be the fault lies with the Board and decisions taken by it?

Isobel Gibson thought so. Back at the same Holyrood enquiry in 2003 she was critical of the management of the SAC and D&T report for failing to understand the needs of students and their ‘potential as generators of income.’

Auchincruive and Craibstone were once major centres for learning for young men and women, many of them from farming backgrounds, in search of rural skills. Both colleges provided their localities with professional advice from experts in crop management, pest control, veterinary advice and so on as well as undertaking research programmes. But their farmland, woodland and many buildings were sold and with them so vital provision and links with the land.

auchincruive mansion house

There’s an echo of the consequence of slicing away at our agricultural base in an academic paper on ‘Agriculture’s contribution to Scottish society, economy and environment’ (2001) from the University of Aberdeen which found that when Scots were asked to visualise ‘rural’ they conjured up images of a highland idyll – of mountainscapes – whereas in other parts of Europe the same question brought descriptions of things agricultural.

While I might not be able to lay the blame for this diminution in awareness of our agricultural sector at the door of the SAC or SRUC or whatever they are likely to call themselves next week there were signals back in 2003 that not all was right.

“The Scottish Agricultural College is a practical example of what happens when Colleges merge without a well thought out strategy. The Committee should regard it as a template of all that can go wrong. There has been a preponderance of “bankers and business types” on the SAC Board. Practical farmers were ignored.”

Both Craibstone and Auchincruive suffered draconian cuts in the SAC/SRUC drive to stop leaking cash. Slash and sell – the SAC saw a future in selling off farms and land and anything that stood still. Indeed could that be the reason Edinburgh won out as the SAC HQ – that campus had nothing to flog off whereas Craibstone was resource-rich and by selling its assets and those at Auchincruive the SAC was able to use the capital raised to reduce its losses. Had the decision been taken to abandon Edinburgh in favour of, say, Craibstone, there would be no such financial gain as the SAC there had virtually nothing to sell.

However it was come to the decision was taken in favour of Edinburgh and the SAC now existed as a private company with charitable status. Its Principal and Chief Executives were appointees – by fellow Board members. There was also a tie in with the Anglian Water Group (AWG) hired to carry out some of the campus pruning operations. The SAC sat back and waited for the cash to drop into their laps. In 2007 merchant baker Lord Lindsay was appointed its chairman. Integration was the way forward.

Then in 2013 this emerged:

“If ever a monument to “joined up” academic planning stupidity was to be erected, the Craigie Campus, Ayr should be its home. No one but an academic would train nurses and farmers at the same facility. Squeaky clean meets E Coli heaven. This week (7 Janueary 2013) the annual health warning to pregnant women was issued by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Harry Burns. This warns women not to come into contact with lambing ewes or even the clothes of anyone doing the work for fear of risks to their own unborn child.”

P1000766

While the SAC was selling off property with one hand it was swallowing up various rural colleges, to mix metaphors, to mixed fortunes. Integration at any cost. Doesn’t responsibility for this absurdity rest with the Board?

Critics of the way the SAC was run and now presumably the SRUC have made no impact on it.

‘What lessons can be learned from the conduct of the SAC. The SAC Board has long been considered a self perpetuating oligarchy.’

“On 19 January 2011, the then SAC chief executive told all 30 South Ayrshire Council Planning Committee members at a public planning meeting they were to disregard the testimony of the person nominated by the Ayrshire National Farmers Union to speak in opposition to SAC plans to ruin Auchicruive.
On the day, the Ayrshire NFU farmer representative was not allowed to rebut the unwarranted attack on his integrity. The SAC Chairman later did admit the SAC Chief Executive was in error and apologised to the Ayrshire farmer in the press.”

Extraordinary behaviour.

There is no disguising discontent among the farming community over the role played by the organisation.

‘Finally the Committee should invite the NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller to tell why it was necessary for him to write to the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead in August 2011. “It is a sad fact that our Scottish system, which was once world leading, is probably no longer the best.” He also calls for a need to examine how we make the most of our existing sites.’

The SRUC annual report 2013 shows the SRUC still selling off land at Aberdeen and Ayr to improve its net balance. The jargon seems to indicate we haven’t seen the end of mergers – or ‘merger synergies’ as stated in the report.

The move to Edinburgh doesn’t appear to have been the answer to the SRUC’s problems. It appears caught in a cycle of cost cutting – to what end?

Who and what are losing out to this crazy setup and how damaging is it for the future of Scotland’s rural industries?

In its drive to attain university status has the SRUC lost sight of its basic function?

Why was it able to become a private company answerable to none over its selling off once publicly owned resources?

It bothers me that its Board members, apart from staff and student representatives are appointed.

That it is private but is still supported by public funds – currently the SRUC gets
financial assistance from the Scottish Funding Council.

That it is a registered charity therefore does not pay corporation tax.

The SAC, and now the SRUC, was set up as a limited liability company under guarantee (without share capital). Many such conversions from public colleges to private have gone down a similar route but with Boards of Governors plus a CEO and Principal. The SAC chose to form a standard limited company with a Board of Directors.

Confused?

A board of governors allows greater opportunity for scrutiny of senior management. And it is cheaper than the SAC/SRUC setup as governors are paid a small stipend and expenses. An executive Board gets salary plus benefits – what they are is anyone’s guess. Board executive liability in the event of the SRUC becoming insolvent stands at £1 each.

As there are no shareholders the Board can remunerate themselves to any amount they wish. There are stakeholders of course, who can attend the annual AGM and grand dinner, but they don’t get any vote on the issue of executive remuneration.

There we have it. A rural skills college run from a city as a private business dependent on public money, paying no corporation tax and flogging off what were publicly owned assets.

Nothing illegal about it but for the life of me I can’t see this model as being in the best interests of Scotland’s rural industries.

ENVIRONMENT AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
AGENDA
2ND Meeting, 2003 (Session 2)
Wednesday 25 June 2003
[PDF]SRUC Board and Committe Structure and Remits – working …
www.sruc.ac.uk/…/sruc_boards_and_committees_remits_and_structures

[PDF]Agriculture’s contribution to Scottish society, economy and …
www.scotland.gov.uk/resource/doc/158216/0042826.pdf

http://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/craibstone-estate-on-greenbelt-gets-1000-houses/

Herald Scotland : Few signs of peace as SAC’s battle for survival reaches the Executive Thursday 26 June 2003

October 21, 2014

Hydro-electric charges more where it generates its energy and that’s not right

fuelWith energy costs so high in this country we are being advised by the best minds that Westminster can muster to ‘heat just one room.’

Now call me picky but I think we should expect to be able to afford basic heating throughout our jerry-built hovels while being grateful we don’t have the upkeep of say a mansion as sprawling, grand and presumably a nightmare to heat as that belonging to the Tory government’s welfare advisor (unelected) Lord Freud (of the slip).

For years, since discovering it, I have been quite put out by our hydro-electricity being sold off cheaper to Russian oligarchs in London than your average crofter with one sheep and a cow in Achnasheen – where it rains a lot, contributing to hydro power. It rains a lot in London too but their rain disappears down drains, much like everything else down there.

Electricity we couldn’t live without it – as comfortably as we do. And so people realised when Britain’s first companies were formed to generate/ distribute / sell the stuff – stuff being a generic term for something I don’t understand – I mean have you seen it?

Building dams by flooding Scottish glens was a great way to generate electricity.  Not so great for the people who were moved away or the animals drowned or even a relative of mine blown up in an explosion in the making of the dam at Torr Achilty but there are always downsides to everything.

In 1943 the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was established to run production of hydro-electricity in the Highlands and soon it absorbed the Grampian Electricity Supply Company to become even bigger.

dam

At the time electricity was supplied through a mixture of bodies both private and public and more or less knocked into shape with the establishment of the National Grid in 1938. Ten years later, supplies were nationalised. Fourteen regional electricity boards oversaw distribution as part of the British Electricity Authority.

The next biggest change came with Thatcher and her government; let’s call them daylight robbery specialists who sold off any public asset they could get away with, as cheaply as they could get away with – hang on that’s ringing bells.

Scotland was still generating huge amounts of power.

Scottish Hydro-Electric joined up with Southern Electric which operated in the south of England in the late nineties and became Scottish and Southern Energy plc whose Chairman is Lord Smith of Kelvin (yes that one).

Which brings me back to my question to SSE – why is it that the people in the very areas of Scotland which generates so much energy have to pay so much more for it than people in the south of England?

The Hydro line appears to be that folk in the north are so much farther away from the main distribution point, in the south, so must expect to pay more.

But why doesn’t that argument work the other way round? Why do people in the south not have to pay more for the power that has to be transferred along the National Grid to where they live hundreds of miles away?

It’s like that question people from Aberdeen get when in the central belt trying to arrange a reciprocal meeting here and are asked, ‘how far is it to Aberdeen from here?’ to which the response is, ‘exactly the same distance from Aberdeen to here.’

If I lived in London SSE would charge me a

Unit Rate of 13.82 or SSE Direct Unit rate 10.91  

Here in Aberdeenshire their rate is –          

Unit Rate of 15.60 or SSE Direct Unit Rate 12.32  

This unfair disparity has been operating for years – imagine how much more that will have added to bills up here for people suffering the coldest winters and many who can ill-afford high electricity charges.

It’s time this anomaly was rectified in our favour.

October 18, 2014

Ban the Bomb 1967-style

As a follow up to Singing Ding Dong Dollar blog here is another copy of Megaton, Aberdeen youth ban the bomb’s magazine from the summer of love 1967.

Scott MacKenzie was the vinyl of choice with his hit San Francisco which you might want to play while perusing this recently uncovered edition of Megaton.

MegatonMegaton p.2Megaton p.3

The quality is poor but hey, it was nearly half a century ago.

Megaton p.4

Megaton p.6Megaton p.6Megaton p.7

Aberdeen YCND

Aberdeen YCND

Megaton p.8Megaton p.9Megaton p.10Megaton p.11Megaton p.5Megaton p.12

Aberdeen YCND

Aberdeen YCND

Megaton p.13Megaton p.15Megaton p.16Megaton p.17

October 15, 2014

A man, a dodgy arm and the NHS

The experience of a friend today – I haven’t used his name in case a mad medic attacks his dodgy army with something sharp.

By the way he’s at pains to point out he’s a supporter of the NHS but not the people populating Health Boards.

‘I think I’ve discovered ONE reason why the NHS is losing money. I got a letter this morning saying they’d been trying to contact me about an appointment at Woodend Hospital and would I contact them to find out why I wasn’t available on the phone.

I phoned the NHS and told them that the reason I hadn’t been available on the phone was because I hadn’t received any phone message from the NHS about any appointment. I said that if nobody left a message asking me to call them, it was unlikely I would somehow intuit* (*look it up) that the NHS was trying to contact me.

I added that, if the NHS was calling me from a withheld number (which was highly fucking likely) they wouldn’t get an answer because I get umpteen telemarketing calls ever week from withheld numbers so I never answer those type of calls.

Agreeing that it seemed a pretty stupid idea to phone folk and not leave a message, the NHS person then asked me what the problem was that they had been phoning me about. It seems they had lost/mislaid/eaten the letter from my GP about the trapped nerve in my left arm which has been causing me discomfort for several months. We eventually decided that someone should see me about this problem and I was asked if I’d like to travel to Edinburgh for a swift consult.

I said I wouldn’t, so I was then told that I would remain on Grampian Health Board’s waiting list but that it might take several months before a letter is sent out with an appointment date.

I said this was OK but would they mind not phoning me about it and not leaving a message until I have completed my training as a psychic.’

Tags: , ,
October 9, 2014

Now you see it – now you don’t – Marischal Square

 

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that rats were comrades.                                                                                                                                                                (Animal farm)

Aberdeen City Council has reinforced the belief that it is surely one of the most disgraceful and sleekit of local authorities.

It has played a dirty game over the development that it once boasted would be Marischal Square – a great opportunity for a civic space it once promised – an idea that captured the mood of the city’s citizens browned off by a recent diet of lacklustre plans lacking in ambition and confidence.

Did they say square? They did. Did. Not any more. Because square there aint. Unless you follow the logic of Cllr Boulton who, in reply to being challenged on the great disappearing square, muttered something along the lines of – the whole area is a kind of square.

 The erm, Square

Quite.

There used to be a distinctive old street there called Broad Street. Lord Byron, Geordie Gordon, bade there as a child. The old Aberdeen Journals occupied a large property there and Bissets bookshop was there at the other end. There never used to be a square and there sure as hell isn’t going to be one in the near future. Not until these eejits running the council are dead and buried.

So square is now a former concept of a square. This wonderful civic square that would become a hub (councils love the term hub) for city folk and so the idea of Marischal Square was born – no not born, conceived.

Then the council had a think and it thought – hey min there’s nae cash in an empty space.

Come on you didn’t think they’d stick to their word – did you?

 COUNCILLORS'  BRAIN

Average councillor brain

There’s been a lot of talk – encouraging the public to get involved, implying citizens’ views would be taken note of in drawing up the final design. That is until people said,

Yes we want a square – ken fit I mean, min?

Well you ken fit want gets.

It is clear the Labour-led coalition which includes a Tory and Independents while happy to provide a blank sheet for the developers eager to build shops, offices and a hotel is less interested in what the people of the city want. Did I say less interested? Not interested.

Of course councils ignoring the wishes of the people is not a new phenomenon but disappointing nevertheless whenever it occurs and when it doesn’t even try to modify the commercial aspects of the design as a sop to public opinion.

The final decision was taken away from the Planning Committee and put to full council to ensure the commercial proposal went through, as councillors would be more or less voting along party lines. This was nothing short of politicising the scheme and a scandalous manipulation of power on a project that is so controversial.

Cllr Willie Young is reported to have indicated on July 17th this year that the decision had already been taken to go ahead with the Muse development causing consternation among opposition councillors opposed to the deal.

Squares are good

Squares are good

Squares were good

Squares were good

Squares no good

Squares no good

Squares were good but concrete is better

 

What we want is concrete and more concrete. Can’t get enough concrete. Our aim is to concrete over Aberdeen. Concrete is money. Fill the mouths of those who dare to speak out with concrete. That’ll shut them up.

Cllr Jenny Laing tells the world this vibrant developments of offices and shops will prove that Aberdeen is open for business, as if one of the most economically dynamic areas of the UK isn’t already open and doing a grand line in business.

Do people actually vote for these people who speak in banalities?

ACC ratings

Aberdeen Evening Express

Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure.

On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility.

Contrary to what the Labour group say there is nothing , absolutely nothing in this design to attract people into the city. On the other hand a large photogenic square would most definitely become a tourist attraction as well as a potential gathering place and area for music and entertainment. Think of what some photographs of a fine square with the magnificent Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world,  in the background and those fine old properties of Upper Kirkgate along one side, would do to enhance the attractiveness of Aberdeen.

Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer – except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.

September 24, 2014

US launches air strikes against IKEA

lenathehyena:

Standing, or rather sitting on my Poang chair. in solidarity with Ikea

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(satire?)

The US has stepped up its war against the radical home furnishings group, IKEA, launching air strikes on targets in its retail division for the first time.

The Pentagon press secretary, rear admiral John Kirby, confirmed that the US and allied nations sent fighter jets, bomber aircraft and Tomahawk missiles in an operation against IKEA stores and depots that he described as “ongoing”.

Tensions have been increasing between the west and the retailing conglomerate since shocking reports of the Swedish home products company brutal treatment of home furnishings were exposed.

In a speech, President Obama accused the organisation of being a threat to western interests, with an aggressive expansionist plan by the furniture giant to create a pine furnishings caliphate in which all furnishings will be forced to conform to its extremist brand of light-coloured, bland wooden furniture

IKEA leaders have responded with videos and photographs of horrific displays of rooms decorated with cheap self-assembly furnishings and threatened a massive retaliation…

View original 108 more words

September 19, 2014

So You Voted No

You didn't vote for him or for  The Spirit of Scotland

You didn’t vote for him or for
The Spirit of Scotland

You didn't vote for her and she'll never get another chance

You didn’t vote for her
and she’ll never get another chance

You didn't vote for her or her

You didn’t vote for her or her

Hamish Henderson

You didn’t vote for him and what he worked for. You probably don’t even know who he is.

You fell for Murdoch trash press

You did vote for him, his values and his trash press

You voted for  Neo-Nazi Unionists

You voted for
Neo-Nazi Unionists

You voted to retain the House of Lords

You voted to retain the House of Lords

You voted to retain the corrupt  British Establishment in the manner to which is expects

You voted to retain corrupt British Establishment in the manner it has grown to expect

You voted support for  the Stock Exchange when it threatened you with penury

You voted support for the Stock Exchange when it threatened you with penury

You voted for him and his Party's austerity measure

You voted for him and his Party’s austerity

You voted your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You voted your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote for them and their threats of job losses

You vote for them and their threats to take jobs out of Scotland

You voted your approval of their threats to increase prices in Scotland

You voted your approval of them and their threats to increase prices in Scotland

You voted to reinforce their view they are born with the right to govern you

You voted to reinforce their view they are born with the right to govern you

You voted your approval of  him interfering in the democratic process of a foreign nation

You voted for approval of him interfering in the democratic process in a foreign nation

And you voted no along with these fellow-travellers

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10202433758517846&set=vb.1610349991&type=2&theater

You voted for a Labour leader totally at sea when confronted by ordinary Scots

You voted for yourself and your personal self-interest

You voted for yourself and your personal self-interest

And it could all have been so different.

September 17, 2014

Thank you all fellow YESers it’s been great!

The Yes Scotland Campaign

We’ve taken on the Tories

We’ve taken on the BNP

We’ve taken on the Orange Order

We’ve taken on the Labour Party

We’ve taken on the Britannia Party

We’ve taken on the Liberal Democrats

We’ve taken on the National Front

We’ve taken on Ukip

We’ve taken on the BBC, determinedly propagandizing on behalf of the Union

We’ve taken on the luvvies with their enormous egos and holiday homes in Scotland

We’ve taken on the distortions of our views, our desires, our ambitions in the press

We’ve challenged and sang and laughed and chapped on doors in the sun in the rain in howling gales

We’ve spoken at meetings and shrugged off abuse and attack

We’ve turned ordinary Scots into activists

We’ve introduced young people to political participation

We’ve challenged lies and more lies and dirty tricks

We’ve shaken our heads at political posturing and stunts

We’ve shaken our heads at Labour politicians advocating people do not use their democratic vote

We’ve faced up to the whole panoply of aggressive misrepresentation thrown at us by a mischievous media

We’ve used social media to counter media distortions and lies and censorship of our opinions and ideals

We’ve taken on millionaires and billionaires and city folk who aim to buy support

We’ve taken on self-serving corrupt politicians motivated by self-interest who feather their own nests with inflated expense claims paid for by people who are reduced to feeding their families from food banks

We’ve taken on threats and personal attacks from No supporters

We’ve countered the hysterical rantings of fanatical rightwing commentators

We’ve countered the hysterical ranting of Kensington lefties

We’ve grown more confident

We’ve loved being part of a movement that is positive and ambitious to help the majority in our little country of Scotland

We’ve taken the flak and shrugged it off because we’ve been empowered to speak out

Thank you all fellow YESers

It’s been great

September 15, 2014

Not narrow nationalism but popular democracy

Aberdeen Yes

A great deal of nonsense has been said and written throughout the Scottish independence campaign by a mostly hostile media.

We were told at the outset it was too long. Well here we are about to vote and interest in it is greater than ever. It certainly has caught the attention of the world media and even, the UK media, and that takes some doing when it comes to Scotland-related matters.

The Guardian is an example of a newspaper purporting to represent the whole of the British Isles when, in fact, it represents possibly a small community around SE England. Pick up a copy any day of any week, outside of the referendum period, and you’ll struggle to see any mention of Scotland whether in the politics section or sport.

The Guardian, therefore, cannot be taken too seriously when it claims to understand the Scottish psyche through this campaign. Curiously it regards itself as sharing with the campaign ‘some of the things that matters most to this newspaper and its readers.’ An eyebrow or two will have been raised around Scotland at this conceit.

You, the Guardian, are part of the problem which has led to the groundswell of support for re-asserting our independence.

You are wrong when you say that national identity is high on anyone’s agenda, certainly not for those of the Yes side. The same may not apply to the No side for they’ve supported the cry of Scots across the UK and even abroad who maintain they should have been given a vote. The Yes side see this referendum as the business of those who live in Scotland, who make their livings here, who raise their families here, irrespective of where they come from originally. It is not a franchise based on national identity at all but of location. You can be from Pakistan, England, Poland, Estonia and you are deemed to be Scottish and so entitled to vote.

‘Ugly nationalism’ has no place in the Yes movement, except as an invention by mistaken or mischievous opponents of the independence movement.

No, the view that this is a campaign of national identity, narrow nationalism or Britishness of the type Gove tried to introduce into England with all the nastiness that involves, is far removed from the pro-independence movement. Only No campaigners have been desperately declaring themselves patriots and passionate about Scotland, not the yessers. It is so misleading to suggest independence here is about narrow nationalism. It is a movement which has emerged from us being overwhelmed by at times a bullying and often indifferent Union partner happy to exploit Scotland’s people (industrially and militarily) and our resources and condescend us by ‘giving us’ a few powers of government so that there is an allusion of semi-autonomy. We are a partner we shouldn’t be ‘given’ powers we should be able to take what we want out of the Union.

guardian

The Guardian holds up the views of Charles Kennedy to knock back independence. He has not featured in Scottish politics for long (while still an MP) his voice is now unfamiliar here and he speaks for a discredited party of LibDems whose integrity is in shreds and who will struggle for votes in the future so why the Guardian thought he was someone who could shed light on the movement for change here is risible and another example of how out of touch the Guardian is with Scotland and its Scottish readers.

The newspaper’s editorial is spiteful in its accusation against the millions who support a radical shakeup of life in Scotland and reveals an unhealthy level of intolerance of opinion despite its opening statement about sharing some of our concerns.

No-one I have heard has ever uttered the opinion that they think the Scots superior to anyone else; inclusiveness is the overwhelming view.

I suggest the Guardian ca’s canny when going down the line that the Union better serves oldies relying on a state pension for UK pensioners receive among the worst pensions in Europe and the pension age if being pushed back towards 70 the age it was when pensions were first introduced – when few lived long enough to benefit from them.

Likewise with the NHS there can be few in doubt that privatisation will erode all but a tiny element of the once-great NHS. Only by Scotland getting away from its status as a pocket-money dependency will we have a hope of retaining a well-funded free at the point of access health service; as campaigning medical and nursing staff have argued.

The wealth that is created in Scotland will be used to tackle the obscenity of poverty in the 21st century in an oil-rich state but it can only be done when we rid ourselves of the corrupt back-slapping nepotistic establishment that pulls all the strings in the UK around Westminster and Whitehall.

There is little Scotland, as part of the Union, can do to raise the living standards of people across the UK but there is much it can do to use the massive oil and gas reserves we have along with the rest of our economy to improve life here in Scotland with our small population. The argument that risk shared across populations is manifestly untrue given the evidence that small western nations have the highest standards of living and well-being.

Scots are looking for big constitutional change. Labour says vote for them next year and they’ll reform the House of Lords. We’ve heard that one so often and what do we get? Labour Party MPs queuing up to wrap themselves in ermine, eager to grasp the daily allowance of the totally undemocratic Lords. No Labour we don’t want reform of the Lords we want its eradication.

Until recently most issues of the Guardian along with all other mainstream UK newspapers and BBC largely ignored us or patronised or ridiculed us. Fair enough, carry on doing that but don’t expect us to give you respect or play your games anymore.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum vote Scotland’s people have been reinvigorated and we will not be docile any longer.

September 14, 2014

Thinking of voting no or not sure where to put your cross – watch Tommy Sheridan in conversation with Andrew Neil

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