Today's Sunday Post column; I've since heard Inverness Airport machines refuse BoS notes. Can that be true?
A little tweet can be a dangerous thing. Arriving at London’s Liverpool Street station last weekend I was confronted by this sign; “Scottish banknotes are not accepted by these machines.” I looked at the queue for the ticket office – half a mile long. And the queue for the functioning bank card-accepting machines – not much shorter. So I took out my mobile phone, snapped this picture and sent it out on Twitter saying; “The classic London greeting at Liverpool St station Uground. But why do we tolerate it?” And the Twitter storm began! “Anti-English rot. Grievance politics. The classic London greeting? Really? Amazing that so many Scots thrive among us dreadful people. I assume you are willing to bear all the extra costs. Or will Scotland impose those on the rest as usual? Do you want to stick euros/dollars/yen in machines too?” Of course that triggered a “robust” Scottish response. “It’s an outrage. Just don't pay. I make sure I ONLY have Scottish notes travelling south – more fun! Let’s refuse English banknotes in Scotland so they can see what it feels like?”
Soon an ordinary grumble about basic equity in the UK had become Border Warfare. But why do we all put up with it? Traders and ticket machines have been rejecting Scottish money in England for yonks. It’s why many of us change notes before heading south – albeit through gritted teeth. Why? Well in 1826, Westminster passed legislation preventing banks from issuing their own pound notes, because the practice was threatening to get out of hand. But a vigorous campaign spearheaded by Sir Walter Scott won Scotland an opt-out. So three banks north of the border retain the right to print their own money: RBS, the Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank. Which is fine -- as long as those notes stay north of the border.
According to the Bank of England website - Scottish notes are not "legal tender" in England but nor are Bank of England notes outside England and Wales. “The acceptability of a Scottish or Northern Ireland note is a matter for agreement between the parties involved. If both parties are in agreement, Scottish and Northern Ireland notes can be used in England and Wales.” But you cannae agree or disagree with a machine. So how does London Underground explain its stance? After all ticket machines at Scottish stations somehow cope with Scottish and English notes. All the big supermarkets in London manage to handle Scottish and Northern Irish notes in their auto checkouts. Is it so hard for the Tube to update its software? I did ask – but got no reply. You expect more from a public body because it sets an example for others. And avoids a basic political truth. The UK is composed of four nations of which three have their own banknotes. Is that so hard for everyone to accommodate? And let’s not just blame London here. Apparently some Scots reject Northern Ireland banknotes too! Interestingly a solution was suggested six years ago by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael – now the new Scottish Secretary. He suggested Scottish banknotes should be legally protected in England to stop them being rejected. "Scots in England have no legal recourse whatsoever when their banknotes are refused, leading to embarrassment and irritation. This situation is the result of historic accident and now is the time to address it." Then Alistair was only Lib Dem Scottish spokesperson. Now he has a lot of clout. So gaun yersel Big Al. If you can fix this problem -- your kipper should adorn the next Scottish fiver. Is that a deal?
“Not so much an intervention in the independence debate as a heartfelt manifesto for a better democracy.” Esther Breitenbach, Scotsman http://tinyurl.com/pd2ctlz
“A hard-hitting condition of Scotland tour-de-force and a characteristically feisty contribution to (and beyond) the present constitutional debate.” Paddy Bort Product Magazine http://t.co/WooZ0JWMmY
“Blossom confirms Lesley Riddoch’s reputation as one of our top campaigning journalists" Paul Hutcheon, Herald. http://tinyurl.com/peav8ww (Full text below for non-Herald subscribers)
Scotland's economy may be sluggish but the "independence industry" is booming. Barely a week goes by without a pamphlet, report or book being published on our constitutional "status", otherwise known as the favourite obsession of the tartan political class. I feared Blossom would be part of this trend: another boring, technical offering on some tedious aspect of a debate that is already leaving people fatigued. However, these anxieties were misplaced. With three decades
behind her in print and broadcasting, Blossom confirms Lesley Riddoch's reputation as one of our top campaigning journalists. Most reporters, myself included, feel uncomfortable about becoming active in a cause, but Riddoch instinctively likes to get her hands dirty.
Today's Sunday Post column expanded.
It's become an annual ritual of summer. Another A9 accident with multiple fatalities. Last week a girl, her mum and a motorist in another car were killed in a head-on collision just south of Ralia, near Newtonmore -- exactly the same place two Glasgow decorators died in a head-on smash last June. Even though Ralia was one of nine places included in a selective £50 million safety upgrade. Patch and mend repairs may look sensible while plans to dual the whole A9 are prepared. But it's fiddling while Rome burns. Repeat accidents suggest that fixing blackspots doesn't fix the overall problem. Scotland's longest trunk road switches constantly between dual and single-carriageway and that causes confusion, fatigue, and frustration. You can drive as safely as you like but if a foreign tourist is momentarily uncertain about the right side of the road, or a driver misjudges overtaking an HGV compelled to crawl at 40 mph, or tiredness lets a car career across the central white line – the safest driver is suddenly vulnerable. There have been more than 90 fatalities and 1,000 accidents in the last six years — that's one accident every other day. And yet the government's dualling programme is still "in planning." Why wait to get cracking? Is the recession to blame, has all the available cash and manpower gone to the replacement Forth Road Bridge crossing or is the A9 considered too quiet to justify greater urgency?
Today's Sunday Post column
Jings. Who'd have thought Big Lec was a feminist? The First Minister has snubbed Scotland's all-male golfing elite by announcing he won't visit Muirfield when the Open Championship rolls into town because of its "no women" policy. Good on him. A few months back in the Post I called for the great and good to back Scottish sportswomen who've stopped turning the other cheek to sexist attitudes. Susie Wolff the 30 year-old racing driver from Oban had just received an apology from track legend Sir Stirling Moss after he said women lacked the mental strength for Formula One racing. Then Scottish female golf champ Catriona Matthew tackled golf's governing body the Royal and Ancient in St Andrews when it refused to "bully" men-only clubs like Muirfield into admitting women members. Catriona said; "It's tough for (the R&A) to tell Muirfield what to do when they don't have women members themselves. They should lead by example." Exactly. And that's just what the First Minister has done.
Dundee – one of four cities shortlisted today for the UK City of Culture 2017 -- is the new black. The rest of Scotland hasn't quite noticed -- yet. Which is no surprise. If you last encountered Dundee in the 1980's you'd have found a city ill at ease with itself. The multis -- low-rise flats with high levels of unemployment -- were no-mans lands. Jute and jam had declined. Journalism was flourishing – along with NCR and Timex -- but without central belt readers, who would know. All the population predictions saw tweedy neighbouring Perth on the rise with gritty Dundee on the way out. According to Tom Shepherd, Chief Executive of Dundee-based CXR Biosciences, "Dundee was like Glasgow only smaller and worse." And then….something happened. It could have been the day more than a decade back when Mike Galloway completed his award winning restoration of the Gorbals and came back home to become Planning Chief for Dundee Council. With his encouragement the council started to think differently. Demolition and refurbishment of the worst housing schemes had already begun – but the biggest development challenge lay untouched.
Today's Sunday Post column in full
What a difference a week's made for cyclists. It began on a sombre note as four thousand Scottish bikers pedalled on parliament in a poignant protest led by families of Audrey Fyfe and George Dalgity – two Edinburgh cyclists killed three decades apart by the same thoughtless driver. Gary McCourt's sentence caused outrage a few weeks back when the sheriff commented on the 75 year olds failure to wear a cycling helmet and McCourt got 300 hours community service and a five-year driving ban. Audrey's daughter paid tribute to her mum; "She had the energy and enthusiasm of a 40-year-old and was an inspiration to everyone in the cycling community, Scottish country dance world, the ramblers and the church." Now thousands have backed the family's call for an appeal over McCourt's sentence and a legal answer to a simple question. Surely a man who has killed two people with a car shouldn't drive again?
And yet, cyclists weren't holding their breath for quick progress. After all, cycling deaths are commonplace. Last week alone an eight year old lad died after colliding with a mobile crane in Aberdeen, a 17 year old died after being struck by a car in Macclesfield, a 21-year-old Falkirk labourer was killed after an accident with a truck on a Highland road and a 61 year old father of four cycling in Teesside died when a lorry hit him.
So far, so sadly usual. But then one daft, boastful trainee accountant went way too far – and may have helped change attitudes for good.
21 year-old Norfolk lass Emma Way was zipping down a country lane when she knocked a cyclist off his bike, through a hedge, did not stop and drove on without a second thought. But then the daft lassie boasted about the incident on Twitter: "Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier – I have right of way he does not even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists."
Fellow cyclists spotted the barmy tweet, circulated it, the biker confirmed the incident, newspapers, TV, Norfolk police and Emma's own employers got wind of it all – and the young airhead managed to back-pedal fast. Emma hired a lawyer, went on Breakfast TV, claimed the cyclist actually hit her and swore he was upright when she left the scene. Emma purlease! If you "saw he was upright", why tweet you knocked him off his bike?
Indeed what about an earlier tweet criticising a slow-driving "clueless crazy fool" for making you late or the "wha's like me" picture of your speedometer at 95mph? Tell me Emms – ain't that a bit over the speed limit?
Anyway, that ill wind did blow some good – indefensible Emma may have helped turn the tide against dangerous, "cycle-blaming" drivers. A Bristol court finally handed down a proportionate sentence to a motorist who killed a couple cycling on a tandem. He got ten years jail and a lifetime driving ban. The next day two of the UK's biggest driving schools — AA and BSM — announced they'll give learner drivers cycling awareness training from now on. BSM boss Mark Peacock made the common-sense point that even the best cyclists have to avoid potholes and wobble in strong winds. AA boss Edmund King made a pledge to end the "two tribes" attitude displayed between some drivers and cyclists, and Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown announced he's off to Amsterdam for lessons in cycle-friendly road design.
Hooray. Scotland won't become McCycle heaven overnight -- but this week was a start. And the public-spirited Fyfe and Dalgity families have led the way.
1. Play it again Sam – despite all the big billing for Gordon Brown’s “re-entry” speech, the points he made were not detailed, precise or new. In a speech at the Edin Bookfest in August 2012 Gordon first said Scotland was stronger pooling resources with the rest of the UK and a week later at the festival of politics 2012 he warned of a ‘race to the bottom’, where social conditions would differ across the various parts of Britain. That’s nine months since we first/last heard all of this and no real advance. How on earth did all the press (including me) forget we’d already had Gordon’s re-entry to the indyref debate last year?? Maybe, it was so un-momentous and easy to forget? Maybe we accord far too much air time to Big Old Boys on the basis of status (whatever that actually is for a political leader with such a chequered career). Either way it’s genuinely disappointing a guy who could easily have brought big new dimensions into the indy debate didn’t bother. Instead – banging on about his Scottish credentials when no-one was questioning them – Broon sounded like an occasional visitor to Scotland drawing attention to his OWN preference for a career at Westminster not Holyrood.
2. Further devolution or not? In an interview with Bernard Ponsonby, Brown hinted of further devolution but wouldn’t specify. He talked about fiscal autonomy (which he opposes) and fiscal equalisation (or pooling resources) which he supports. But what is fiscal equalisation apart from the status quo where a devolved parliament relies on handouts from the centre instead of raising and being responsible for its own tax and spend policy? I’d love to have asked fellow Scotland Tonight guest Simon Pia for a definition of fiscal equalisation.
3. There is no #unitedwithlabour website – just a hard to find via google page on the Scottish Labour website. There’s a You tube film there with 233 views when I looked which talked a lot about Labour’s role in setting up the NHS, post war housing etc. It’s very back to the future, slightly sentimental and general. Of course this is also true of some SNP/Yes stuff. But since there is just ONE video representing the direction of this new group it needed to be stronger. Also where was Alistair Darling at the United with Labour launch? I cant be bothered with personality politics and so didn’t raise the point in the limited time we had last night. But these two guys don’t talk since Darling criticised Brown in memoirs Back from the Brink saying the former PM could be “brutal and volcanic” and had released “attack dogs” on him for daring to warn the coming recession would be the worst for 60 years. It makes you wonder why others should unite with labour if these two cabinet minister colleagues can’t bury the hatchet. What indeed is the whole rushed #unitedwithlabour project about? It’s not as if #bettertogether is so full of Tories that it actively poses a real headache for Labour members. You sometimes wonder if Alistair Darling is the only spokesperson bettertogether has. Surely one truly beefy campaign is better(together) than two?
4. Gordon talked about “equal rights for everyone no matter which community you live in” within the UK – wot about the overheated south versus the economically baltic north? According to analysts Wealth Insight – quoted by the FT last week -- London has a quarter of a million dollar millionaires – that’s 1 in 29 Londoners! Yes – that’s amazing. Development in London is going on apace (Crossrail is biggest construction job in UK tho to be fair new Forth Crossing is 2nd biggest) – so it seems like the Crucible of the financial crisis is getting the lion’s share of the economic growth. This is a deep seated flaw in the over-centralised UK economic model that damages the north of England probably more than Scotland. House prices in top London districts are rising by £27 every hour of the day and night so outsiders haven’t a hope in hell of affording to move down and cash in. Without a proper regional policy across the whole of the UK (England must be Europe’s most centralised state) how can there be “equal rights for everyone no matter which community you live in” as Gordon Brown claims?
5. This is not just to lay into Broon. 2/3s of Scots want the two governments to negotiate (fat chance) the campaign leaders debate directly with one another asap (fat chance) and TV and radio to broadcast as much lively but non-partisan opinion as possible (some chance but not fast). Any chance of that both sides or will Alex Salmond just hang out for another year to get a gig with David Cameron?
6. So that’s it – no more free passes for Broon just cos he was once a Prime Minister. No more smiling politely while he gives another repeat performance. Opinion polls suggest Scots currently back the union, so the lack of dynamism and vision from the likely “winners” in 2014 is just too depressing. Must do bettertogether