I’m now working abroad and won’t be blogging on Scotland or anything else for a while.

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5 point plan for Scotland’s economy

It’s a common misconception that the Scottish Parliament ‘lacks the tools to improve the Scottish economy’.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I’d estimate that 85% of what governments can do to improve economic performance is already within Holyrood’s remit. A further 10% is held by supranational bodies like the EU and the WTO over which Scotland would lose influence on independence. Continue reading

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Middle-Earth and other worlds

Society is divided into two camps: Those who like thealternative reality of Tolkein / Star Wars and those who find the whole thing infantile and unrealistic. When visiting a ruined castle, those in the first camp imagine themselves wielding a battle axe. The second at best are interested in the lumpish art on display. The first enjoy sport and games as a proxy for battle or adventure, the second as a tactical puzzle or a physical challenge. Continue reading

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Scandinavia is Tory

Just as in 1707 the debate on Scottish independence revolves around pounds and pence rather than national identity. I can’t work out whether this is a triumphant display of the continuity of Scottish pragmatism and penny-wariness down the centuries, or simply an indication of how compatible England and Scotland really are. Perhaps a bit of both. Continue reading

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Post Leveson proves the case against Leveson

Until the Leveson Report came out I was pretty agnostic about the whole thing. Aren’t we all ‘regulated’ by Parliament, after all? In a sense, having to regulate the press via an arm’s length body might actually make it harder for politicians to censor the media than if they can just pass laws directly. Continue reading

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The curse of puritan Scotland

I’ve been toying with a theory that there is a correlation between incompetent politicians and their tendency to regulate our lifestyles. Why else would Scotland be both at the vanguard of smoking bans, minimum booze prices, hunting bans, football chant bans etc AND a backwater of feeble economic growth, social deprivation, failing public services and high taxes? Continue reading

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The trouble with oil funds

Infrastructure spending is often said to stimulate long term economic growth. But you have to build it in the right place. For example, the last Labour administration in Scotland maxed out its PFI credit card building lots of new schools. These may have provided a few temporary construction jobs but have boosted neither growth nor educational outcomes. You could say something similar about some of its transport projects.

But it’s not just that government is bad at allocating resources. Sometimes it runs out of worthwhile projects to allocate them to. This is the trouble with the concept of an ‘oil fund’ or a ‘sovereign wealth fund’. Continue reading

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The churches need to work out what their audiences might like and offer it to them

I attended a wonderful Church of Scotland memorial service yesterday. The eulogies were excellent, the readings appropriate and the hymns were classics such as ‘Onward Christian soldiers’ and ‘I vow to thee my country’. You would never hear these in a normal service. The only time you hear decent hymns is at weddings or funerals when they’re chosen by members of the congregation rather than by the minister. This is just one example of the fundamental disconnect between the church and its audience (both actual and potential). Continue reading

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The e-cigarette revolution

I’m fascinated by e-cigarettes. In case you haven’t seen them, they look just like real fags, weigh a bit more, and have a light that glows when you puff on them. Instead of inhaling tobacco smoke, you drag on, and exhale, vapour imbued with a touch of nicotine. They work in the same way as asthma inhalers. The potential for them is vast. Continue reading

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Borders Railway – a case study of pork in action

The economist Tony Mackay dissects and despatches the Borders Railway project with considerable elegance in his Monthly Report. The article is reproduced here in the excellent new Internet bulletin for Scottish business, Scot-buzz.

It shouldn’t really be news to anyone that rural railways are an economic nonsense. But good sense often needs to be restated. The Borders project has steamed on relentlessly despite having ‘white elephant’ written all over it and in the teeth of energetic opposition from the Borders Party. I’d suggest two reasons for its persistence. Continue reading

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