Car News: Automobile Gigantism

A squint at the machinations of the car industry and why we’re suckers for it.

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Mini marvels and mountain SUVs

The excuse BMW gave for recreating the ground-breaking British Mini, a car designed by a Greek screwed up by his British employers, was overfeeding has inflated the average human arse to a seat-and-a-half’s width.

That’s not quite how the BMW spokesperson put it. He used diplomatic language. If you sit in a pokey aircraft seat between two others you’ll know he is absolutely right. Our big ends have got bigger this century. Our body fat storage units are stuffed to over-flowing, the posterior the last resort for our personal fatbergs.

Today’s modern Mini has models higher and wider than a normal saloon and some SUVs. In fact, you could probably fit an old Mini inside the new. All cars get bigger and heavier. To entice you to trade your current model for the next each succeeding iteration has to proclaim it has more space than the last, hence it must be made bigger. The exception is the modest Mazda MX5 sportscar. The design team spend blearing eyed days and nights shaving centimetres off plastic panels and items, discarding parts heavier than before so that the car’s lightness increases its agility.

Liberty in space saving will come with the advent of electric cars for the masses that have no need for huge transmission tunnels as big as a Dutch sea wall. Currently, the far-sighted Smart4Two micro car is the only vehicle where the driver can park against a wall and slide across seats to exit by the passenger’s door for it has no seat splitting tunnel.

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Range Rover transmission tunnels make groping your partner difficult

Tiny tots for slimline bots

Along comes Land Rover, makers of some of the largest vehicles on the planet and the most expensive, to tell us they are about to produce mini-me versions.

Call it a revelation on the Road to Damascus. No need for AA or RAC as good Samaritans. Land Rover saw the light all by itself. They want to “revive the spirit of the original Freelander”, whatever the hell that means. I deplore petrolheads who waft on and on about a vehicles spirituality as if it attends church every Sunday, and recites its catechism daily.

The diverse new car range promises tiny SUVs, well, human-sized rather than tanks on wheels, a £250,000 Range Rover coupé, a Defender pick-up truck, and a more car-like Range Rover, all set to cash in on the booming growth of premium 4x4s, with the aim of elevating Land Rover sales and profits to new heights.

Chelsea tractors will rule the Earth – but not actually traverse the stuff. They live on tarmac, a waste of space. Spend a quarter of a million pounds on a snob vehicle that has you sitting like a horse rider higher than the poverty stricken driver in the SUV in front, and nothing can unsettle your belief life is bloody good. Sadly, the last Range Rover I saw approach me at too fast a speed vaulted the motorway metal safety barrier, somersaulted and landed on its back, killing the driver and taking out a van in the process. SUV’s safe? I don’t think so.

The first of these small models, which will be around 4.2 metres in length, could arrive in 2021 – bet you can’t wait – although debate is ongoing about which of Land Rover’s three model strands – leisure (typified by the Discovery Sport), luxury (Range Rover) or utility (the new Defender) – it will derive. The company is considering adding a baby SUV for each of these ranges.

What this announcement means is, Land Rover plan to seduce you away from competing marques by offering an SUV equivalent for any vehicle existing, including a golf buggy.

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The Tesla Model X – why all those seats?

Never mind the price, feel the width

Will the cars have good interior space if electric or hybrid? Or to accommodate our butt cheeks will they be too wide to park without loss of a wing mirror?

Tesla’s innovative SUV’s are huge when you see them in the metal, really too big for daily one driver drives to work or supermarket . They demand a big floor area to pack in those electric cells for a decent drive range. Whatever Land Rover comes up with they will call ‘compact’, assuredly a misnomer looking back at the original Mini and Mini Countryman. The car industry is as adept as a Westminster politician at airbrushing history, making a word mean anything they want it to mean.

As for diesel versions, we can probably discount their appearance. Diesel is dead, truly buried once we get taxi, trucks, and locomotives suckled off the dreadful stuff.

Ford find folk fickle

Ford UK’s boss felt the need to lie through his teeth this week. He railed at the UK government’s policy on diesel cars as baby killers, and stopping the elderly reaching pensionable age. I’d have thought the latter a typical Tory ploy.

He thinks the policy is a mess leaving diesel owners and buyers confused and uncertain. This tends to be a precursor to an appeal for massive welfare payments to ‘Save the British Car Industry’, as owned by wealthy ‘Mercans, Japanese, Germans and Arabs.

Andy Barratt said consumers were buying fewer diesel cars – no  shit, Sherlock – fearing they were polluting and will face new taxes. It’s all our fault we don’t buy diesel cars.

He claims (spoiler alert) new diesels are “every bit as clean” as petrol cars. Playing the modest-aggressive card he added, “Government and industry must do more to reassure consumers. Diesel is vital to the UK industry as it makes almost a million diesel engines a year, most of which are exported.” So, no benefit to UK buyers.

“There has been a lot of chaos in the signalling and in the messaging around diesel and there have been job losses,” Mr Barratt said. “The poor motorist just doesn’t know what to do – we need to clarify where diesel works and where it doesn’t.”

“The poor motorist” – that’s us, often hoodwinked, usually gassed.

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Ford UK Boss, Andy Barratt. A worried man.

Motor industry is innocent

Barratt said the car industry needed to “step up” (as opposed to lying?) to offer a clear message reassuring drivers, but that the government should do more as well. There, told you. It’s a subliminal  plea for a government hand-out. Profits down, taxpayer pays. Brexit has got the car industry in a fankle, diesel woes only exacerbating the problem.

What a merry-go-round. Yesterday, emission free diesel cars were a fraud, today you could park your lips over an exhaust pipe and still taste a vegan salad afterwards. Unfortunately for Barratt, Mercedes boss has said the opposite.

Dieter Zetsche avers “Customers are showing more confidence in diesel than politicians by continuing to buy them in significant numbers.” European buyers are happy, British buyers are nervous. If only we were part of Europe.

Near – far

And as a poste script:  Small Land Rovers will most likely be made at the firm’s new plant in Slovakia.  JLR wants to keep production in Europe, given that this is where most of its baby SUVs would be sold. Slovakia has significantly lower labour rates than the UK, helping to keep costs down. Suck that up Brexiteers.

Having smaller, lighter and more efficient cars in the model range will also contribute to a significant reduction in Land Rover’s overall fleet CO2 emissions, something that is fundamental to meet strict future environmental targets. But we all know the small models will be big, and they’ll blame it on the size of our bums.

NEXT WEEK: The Chinese car show: ‘Auto China’. (China is not cockney speak.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Transportation | 2 Comments

The Sorrow and the Shame

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Vast tracts of the Highlands offer arable land, fit for modern farming methods

If clearing people from their land by force is not cleansing what is it?

The term ethnic cleansing to denote over a hundred years of clearing Scots from their land is a phrase rejected by those who see Scotland by weather, strange culinary habits and language, a little too inclined to be chippy. Alba is full of vexatious people who do nothing but complain. Using ‘cleansing’ is condemned as out of context, erroneously contemporaneous, too emotional because it often it was Scot against Scot.

Well, I have news for slimy proselytisers. It was Jewish guards given temporary preferment who hustled Jews to the gas chambers less their belongings and clothes. Who would dare not call that barbarity a cleansing?

Evictions, deportation in all weathers cause deaths, especially of children, pregnant mothers and the elderly. Many Scots died from the vicissitudes that befell them, some from losing their wits, and more perished on the emigrant ships.

After the battle of Culloden – its repercussions I explain later – British rule arrived with a vengeance. New laws and taxes were imposed on Scotland leaving only the most rebellious prepared to protest. Clan chiefs found themselves in the invidious position of being landlords forced to report on their clan’s behaviour monthly to prove they were loyal to the British Crown and keeping the peace.

Colonial power always avers it’s for your own good

The Clearances – and I refer to both the Lowlands cleansing as well as the Highlands, were carried out over decades not a few intense years, often without witness or written record, the many who died on the journey south or out of Scotland given an unmarked pauper’s grave. Keep in mind, only 7% of Scotland’s population lived in large towns making it fairly easy to evict people living in remote areas, and do it without fear of reprisal.

The heartless try to tell us life was hard, houses hovels, people lived in appalling conditions, a truism of other agrarian societies in France, Italy, Spain, and most of the Balkan countries, none of which cried out for English intervention to restore them to economic health. English rural dwellers encountered a similar fate when Westminster decided full-blown capitalism was a core principle goal of a civilised nation, workers needed for the industrial revolution, but in Scotland evictions were comprehensive, enforced, savage and relentless.

There were two distinct types of ‘clearance’. The first was forced settlement on barren land usually near the sea. Homes were burnt and tenants forced to leave at the point of a sword or musket, carrying little or nothing as they headed towards an unknown fate. Clearance of 2,000 a day was not uncommon. Forced eviction was one way, draconian rent increases another.

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A kelp cart used by farmers pushed to the sea’s edge

A lack of documentation is not a lack of evidence

An absence of an official record is very convenient. It allows discounters of history freedom to claim almost anything they want. They can describe lost communities as progress, villages ‘abandoned‘ rather than the vestiges of evictions. They can avoid the pain and suffering, they can dismiss the stench of authoritarian rule. They don’t have to talk about individuals or specific families; they can talk in generalities and platitudes.

Sadly for apologists there are written accounts. Here is one, published in book form, (I have a copy) by the eminent geologist Sir Archibald Geikie, an honest witness to evictions on the Isle of Skye. Readers will forgive his use of ‘valley’ that should be glen.

“I had heard rumours of these intentions to clear people off their land but did not realise they were in the process of being carried out in effect until one afternoon, as I was returning from my ramble, a strange wailing sound reached my ears at intervals on the breeze. On gaining the top of one of the hills on the south side of the valley I could see a long and motley procession winding along the road that led north from Suishnish. It halted at the point of the road opposite Kilbride, and there the lamentation became long and loud. As I drew nearer, I could see that the minister with his wife and daughters had come out to meet the people and bid them all farewell. It was a miscellaneous gathering of at least three generations of crofters. There were old men and women, too feeble to walk, who were placed in carts; the younger members of the community on foot were carrying their bundles of clothes and household effects, while the children, with looks of alarm, walked alongside. There was a pause in the notes of woe as a last word was exchanged with the family of Kilbride. Everyone was in tears; each wished to clasp the hands that had so often be-friended them, and it seemed as if they could not tear themselves away. When they set forth, a cry of grief went up to heaven, the long plaintive wail, like a funeral coronach, was resumed, and after the last of the emigrants had disappeared behind the hill, the sound seemed to re-echo through the whole valley of Strath in one prolonged note of desolation. The people were on their way to be shipped to Canada.”

Once the Treaty was signed in 1707, and after the failed resurrection against English rule at the Battle of Culloden in 1745, when ‘Butcher’ Cumberland rampaged on a mission of genocide against survivors and innocents, British authorities acted hard and decisive to suppress clan loyalties.

British imperialism has rarely confined itself to the role of colonial resource extractor. Imperial rule has to alter society to its own ends in order to survive. You enslave a people and then teach them cricket to show you mean no harm. In the case of the Clearances the tale of repression included prohibitions.

 A musket barrel’s view of the Clearances

1708: England increases taxes on the Scottish population to be collected by clan chiefs, the annual sum gathered to repay half the loan given to Scottish nobles who lost money on the Darien Schemes, the schemes blocked by England’s trade war.

1720: The Disarming of the Clans Act forces warriors and their families to leave Scotland.

1725: Propelled by sustained unrest over the Act of Union, General Wade upgrades cattle trails to proper roads and bridges – from one English loyal garrison to another.

1730: England’s demand for cattle and sheep increase ten-fold – the Highlands the place to graze them. Clan chiefs encouraged to shift their people off the best ground.

1735: Clearances begin in earnest, emigration rate rises dramatically.

1746: After the Battle of Culloden Highland stragglers, those without a home – sent to the Caribbean as slaves.

1747: Act of Proscription – wearing of tartan banned; the teaching of Gaelic banned; the gathering of clan members banned; playing bagpipes banned; hoarding weapons banned. English language made first language.

1747: Heritable Jurisdiction Act imposed – Highland landowners must accept English rule or forfeit their land. Many clan chiefs step down and move south, some to London.

1762: Clearances is full spate all over the Highlands and spreads to the Lowlands. Some Lowland villages flattened to incorporate the land into a single one-owner estate.

1782: Loch Quoich – flocks of sheep replace 500 souls forced to emigrate to Canada.

1782: Westminster decides Scotland’s rebellious nature is tamed and the Proscription Act is repealed. But remaining clan members stay mere tenants.

1788: Donald Cameron of Lochiel begins clearing his lands of villagers and farmers.

1791: Records show over 7,000 people emigrated from Inverness and Ross lands.

1792: The ‘Year of the Sheep’ – it is estimated that there are now more sheep than people north west of Perth. Sheep deemed ‘more profitable than farming’.

1792: Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster introduces vast flocks of Cheviot sheep to Caithness, ‘four footed clansmen’ replace people, two for one.

1800: Edinburgh and Glasgow turn cities as Highlanders and Lowlanders leave the land.

1807: Highland economy collapses. This is the excuse given for the need to reuse land for ‘better’ purposes. A calamity wholly man made is exploited to propel greed.

1811: Clearances begin in earnest in Sutherland under the auspices of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. In 1811 the scattered population was recorded at 1,574. By 1831 the number was 257, most serving the Duke’s estate.

1816: Patrick Sellar, a factor who burned down cottages, walks free from court.

1820: Landlords propose ‘crofting villages’ as enclaves of cheap or free labour.

1846: First serious potato famine speeds up Clearances once more.

1853: Women in Gruinard village, (Greenyards) Ardgay, Strathcarron, their men absent, soldiers fighting in the Crimean war, repel Glaswegian police for weeks, by guile and  ploys, attempting to evict them. Police finally succeed with bloody baton charge.

1900-1958: With two world wars concentrating the British mind, Clearances continue without pause placing great swathes of Scotland in the hands of a few wealthy owners, leaving tenants with few rights.

1960 – Present: Large tracts of supposedly infertile land in the Highlands and many Islands change hands for millions of pounds, Gruinyards included.

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Those who resisted eviction saw their home razed to the ground

Freedoms never arrive with colonial rule.

If there exist still people in Scotland who think they are safe under British rule they are condemning themselves and the rest of us to the destruction of Scotland as a nation state. Can you understand the fury that issues from being a perpetual colony?

What difference is there between the vengeance exacted upon Scotland after Culloden, and the reprisals enacted by Westminster now? The repercussions from that lost plebiscite on the fateful 18th of September, 2014 are barbed wire ‘Made in England’.

In no special order: artificial austerity imposed on a wealthy nation, forced withdrawal from Europe, grabbing of Scotland’s powers by Westminster; loss of welfare rights and pensions, forced repatriation; Scots regiments moved south, shared institutions closed in Scotland, empty shipyards where naval vessels were promised, removal of worker protection rights; bedroom tax; the drip, drip withdrawal of the Barnett Formula, theft of Scotland’s oil, the swell of English xenophobia infecting British life, sustained smearing of our Parliament as a useless executive – they all amount to teaching the natives a lesson they won’t forget.

The people who voted against Scotland’s right to govern its self once more, those who blocked a wealthy country from its legitimate civil rights, are petty accomplices in the clearances of modern Scotland. What they missed was obvious. We are at a point where Westminster under Tory and its alter ego Labour aim to keep the populace uncertain, busy watching our backs, our tomorrows not quite guaranteed. They are imposing constant political upheaval, or as Karl Marx put it, “an uninterrupted disturbance of social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation”.

Liberty happiness, autonomy, individuality, spirituality, self-guided development are ideals we all are heir to. There is only one way to realise the clamour for Scotland’s permanent freedom, and it isn’t inviting more tourists to visit the Highlands to take picturesque snapshots of a banished civilisation.

In the face of increasing colonial power where one nation is manipulating the other, Scotland’s worst enemy is apathy and passivity. Toss away the hand-me-down sliver of Union Jack. The label should read ‘Made in Scotland’.

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Poste Script: A companion piece published in 2017: ‘Scotland’s Emigrants’. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-ciJ

 

Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 51 Comments

The Sharp Shooter

An occasional series on eminent Scots undervalued by the public or forgotten

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Alan Sharp and his fourth (and final) wife, Harriet

Alan Sharp (1934 – 2013)

Looking at the life and times of Alan Sharp, author and screenwriter, leaves me with an edgy feeling he would have made a great pal in short bursts, but not as a life-long friend. His lifestyle was too peripatetic for my habits, too restless. I suspect he’d have a drink and a natter with me, go to the toilet, and never come back.

In appearance and quirks and even choice of some subject matter he had a remarkable similarity with the younger television playwright Peter McDougall. Though a generation separated, both spent time as Greenock shipyard workers. But Sharp’s curly head of hair and his career achievements long outlasted those of barfly McDougall.

Sharp came to prominence with an explosion, his first novel, A Green Tree in Gedde, (1965) was an immensely mature work for a first time author. It seemed a reawakening of the Scottish literary tradition after a decade or more of stagnation. Frustratingly the trilogy Sharp promised petered out after the second, less stirring work, The Wind Shifts. The third novel never materialised. Sharp got seduced by Hollywood and its easy money.

A Green Tree in Gedde, written in affection for Greenock was much admired its day. A tough story of four young people searching for their identities, sexual and social, it won a Scottish Arts Council award, but soon after was withdrawn from public libraries because of an incestuous relationship at its centre.

My bookshelves hold a well worn copy. Today your attention is drawn to some of the dialogue which often wallows in the fashion of the time, self-analysis, but overcome by the long, beautifully written descriptive passages.

“The roofs, slate blue slopes, everywhere; and chimneys crowned and capped with cans, coloured lustrous bronzes and yellow orange and mocha and cream, soot layered, rust red, and out of them lunging up in the duns and greys and dimble blues, uplanguors of slow emotion, colly spindills, culms of soft ruth, smoke psalms, lum plumes, purled prayer drifts, and everywhere enormously high great azure pend of heaven in which with its golden effulgence unimpaired by cloud the sun shone magnificently, heraldic blazon of day’s dominion.”

Besides Green Tree, Sharp is best known for two great accomplishments: rekindling his career with the movie Rob Roy, and being the only writer to have four thrillers in cinemas on every side of London’s Leicester Square at the same time.

That has to be a Guinness World Record. Night Moves (1975) starring Gene Hackman was one of the four films, directed by Arthur Penn of Bonnie and Clyde fame.

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Gene Hackman as LA gumshoe Harry Moseby in ‘Night Moves’

Night Moves demands multiple viewings. This modest but highly sophisticated noir is the story of an LA private detective hired to find a missing teenager, struggling to understand the overwhelming unconnected events he encounters, cuckolded by his wife, crippled by his old-school sleuthing methods that keep him back from his goal. Sharp’s gumshoe protagonist serves as a complete opposite of all those ingenious private eyes we’d seen in classic film noir, from Sam Spade onwards. It flopped at the box office.

Moral ambiguity, mixed motives, irony and sex. Sharp felt those were the basic ingredients to make a decent screenplay, adding candidly:

‘All the things I’ve written are pastiche. I get work because I’m a reliable craftsman. It’s like being a plumber: you come in, do a tidy job, and you’re not a prick to deal with, so people hire you again.’

Others had a far higher opinion of Sharp’s achievements. British film critic Trevor Johnston, declared him ‘Britain’s greatest living screenwriter,’ a man so gifted that his first five scripts were filmed back-to-back during the early 70s.

Sharp entered British television at just about the best time in 20th century history for a writer to do so, though unlike so many of his contemporaries he did none of his best work there.

He won a Prix Italia for his radio play The Long Distance Piano Player in 1962, later turned into a television play starring the saturnine Ray Davies as a man attempting to beat the world record for non-stop piano playing, but it received a lukewarm reception. Sharp realised small-scale movies were his metier.

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The Hired Hand, starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates

Sharp found his natural home in Hollywood with The Last Run (1971), a chase thriller starring George C Scott, following it with the then Easy Rider hot but uncharismatic Peter Fonda and The Hired Hand, (1971). Fonda directed and starred.

In line with Hollywood serendipity – my own experience included – Sharp’s befriending of Fonda coincided with Fonda’s marriage break-up reflected in the script’s story, giving Fonda the motivation he needed to express his feelings through the main character.

Sharp felt that Fonda’s obsession with the story and his heavy drug use led to an over-complicating of the piece, and the end result was largely ignored by the critics though it has since won reappraisal for its study of the clash between machismo and male to female affection. Sharp relied less on an understanding of politics to compose his stories and more on his own life, husband to four wives and six children.

By this point in his burgeoning film career a student of his work will spot many of his stories  were constructed like the classic western. Sharp himself was minded to describe his film scripts as “existential melodramas”.

In fact, there are so many memorable filmed dramas about Scotland and out of Scotland one could lump them all into that single category of the western genre. You can see why so many central belt Glaswegians enjoy square dancing!

Peter McDougall’s two television highlights: Just a Boy’s Game, and A Sense of Freedom, Sharp’s Billy Two Hats, (1974) and his earlier Burt Lancaster vehicle in which hero and villain are indistinguishable, Ulzana’s Raid, (1972) based on the exploits of a real life Apache warrior, proclaim a consistently high output. An aged apache and an aged scout sensing death is imminent decide to break free and live life as they would want to. Ulzana’s Raid is one of his few works still shown on late night television.

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Ulzana’s Raid (1971) a bloody western of failed morality and seized territory

His last big success, Rob Roy, (1995) was produced on the back of Braveheart’s massive worldwide publicity – a common Hollywood method of hitching your wagon to an event movie. It is conventional in construction and presentation but all the better for it. The film’s existence is due to the unswerving devotion of fellow Scot and producer, Peter Broughan, a man like myself who found Scotland’s support of filmmaking not conducive to sustaining creative work.

With a little too much emphasis on honour and pride as a man’s guiding morality when pragmatism will solve most man-made predicaments, the script of Rob Roy is superior to Braveheart’s, the latter written by ubiquitous pulp fiction novelist, the American Randall Wallace, Braveheart inspired by his namesake’s life.

Rob Roy’s superiority is in large part due to Sharp’s deft hand at classic western plotting and Broughan’s experience of script editing. Unfortunately it had a less than competent director at its helm, the sullen and plodding Michael Caton-Jones – later to junk the ‘Jones’ when he divorced his wife. Nevertheless, reviews were universally excellent for script, acting, and photography, and Liam Neeson when on to greater things. Neither Sharp nor Broughan were honoured properly in their homeland.

Rob Roy had an estimated budget of $28 million US dollars managing to gross $31 million at the US box office, not quite enough to convince investors Scottish historical themes are a rich vein of gold unexhausted.

As for his other films, readers are encouraged to search out The Osterman Weekend, (1983), an adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel directed by Sam Peckinpah, and Little Treasure, (1985), starring Margot Kidder, which Mr. Sharp directed himself. Hollywood rewards good writers with a directing commission. You get one chance.

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Sharp early in his career with Trish Van Devere on the set of The Last Run (1971)

Alan Sharp was born on January 12th, 1934, in Alyth, to a single mother. He was adopted at six weeks by Margaret and Joseph Sharp, who belonged to a local Salvation Army church. His adoptive father was a dockworker.

Sharp told the tale how he had fantasized as a child “that Humphrey Bogart was ma faither and Katharine Hepburn ma mither.” He left school at 14 and began a series of jobs, which he described in 2004.

“Apprentice in local shipyards; worked as assistant to a private detective, English teacher in Germany, construction laborer, dishwasher, night switchboard operator for burglar alarm firm, and a packer for a carpet company; worked for I.B.M.; bummed around. Writer. Military service: British National Service, 1952-54.”

Sharp had a few idiosyncrasies, oddly echoed by Peter McDougall, and not only sporting a trademark walrus moustache. He had a fondness for white shoes; a creature of habit in his eating when ordering restaurant meals, and a willingness to throw good money keeping his 1967 Oldsmobile on the road.

He insisted on writing not only letters but also scripts in longhand, eerily a habit shared by McDougall, who, despite a long night boozing, a headache of Krakatoa proportions and a shaky hand, shocked me next morning at breakfast by writing a thank you letter for my hospitality in perfect copperplate!

Sharp loved sailing. He owned a flat-bottomed craft. His attachment to Scotland was absolute, though I never heard him speak of its independence. His movie fees gave him the choice of a warm corner of the planet in New Zealand, Kawau Island to be precise, his quiet refuge where he spent his time writing, sailing, and “workin’ on ma wee boat”.

He was married once to the British novelist Beryl Bainbridge. Besides his daughter Louise, his survivors include his wife, Harriet Sharp; two sons, Mike and Daniel; three other daughters, Nola and Minnie Sharp and Ruth Davies; two stepsons, Rashan Hall and William Lewis; and 14 grandchildren. After writing procreation was a hobby.

How any woman managed to stay with him any length of time is a mystery, then again he married four times. But by penning Rob Roy for Liam Neeson he proved he had not lost a romantic connection with his Scottish roots. By the last years of his life he talked a good movie, a film of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner and a biopic of Rabbie Burns, but sadly they never appeared. Again, and to me personally, McDougall fantasied about adapting Hogg’s unworkable novel.

Football and a can of lager could be more important to Sharp than his current wife or the studio commission. To my eye tennis is athletically and aesthetically superior but he’d scoff at that as namby-pamby in comparison. When the world cup was on in Brazil he bought a motorised caravan and travelled south to the games from California. Months afterwards he was still travelling back stopping wherever took his fancy. That disconnect from whatever he knew yesterday seemed to be his hallmark.

I had bumped into him once. It was as I turned a corner from Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica around a corner restaurant. He sat behind the waist-high screen at an outdoor table with his then wife Harriet. He looked older than his years, shoulders hunched, arms sprawled by his sides, his narrow-eyed gaze off into the distance at the sea beyond. He had only weeks to live, and I wonder now if he had been told then he had a brain tumour.

In a 2009 interview for the online journal Writer’s Room, Sharp was asked his advice for novice writers. “If there’s a story you like, just write it up and see how it feels,” he replied. “It’s not illegal until you do something with it.” To that he added a coda: “Whatever ye dae, persevere.”

You can’t do otherwise than admire Sharp for the quality of his work and his love of life. That attitude to life, to let it take you wherever it wants, probably contributed to the loss of a potentially fine novelist for Scotland but we gained a screenwriter.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cars News: Leccy Rules

A squint at the machinations of the car industry and why we’re all suckers for it.

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Vauxhall Motors – is the parent company moving production to Europe?

UK sales of new cars continue to fall markedly. There are lost of reasons for this, though I’d like to think we are getting jaded fed a never-ending diet of the latest model being bigger, faster, and more luxurious than the last. That usually means more expensive.

People tighten their belt when austerity, a Tory ideological grab to diminish our rights and keep us docile, begins to bite where it hurts, in the pocket. Dumping Europe, and repatriating people who refuse to eat jellied eels or cheer the English cricket team, has potential car owners worried their next automobile purchase might not have a dealership to service it, in the same way Lancia Cars left the UK almost overnight.

Only vans show increased sales causing the French owners of Vauxhall Vans, the PSA Group (Peugeot-Citroën) to bolster investment in its one UK van factory until 2020 – what an irony, Brits saved by the French! Vive la difference!

Don’t open the champagne yet!

Only the van production plant in Luton gets support not their car factory at Ellesmere Port, so don’t break open the champagne bottle yet.

Luton vans got support from a £9 million welfare grant from the British government. Scotland doesn’t get to decide if it wants its taxes spent on Vauxhall vans. One supposes the vans will now arrive painted in a large Union Jack, like so much of Tesco’s patriotic produce from Israel, South Africa, Europe, and Scotland.

What went silently by in the Tory huzzah for white van rule was PSA’s quiet announcement they are to shut, yes, close down, a third of their UK car dealerships. Any jobs saved at the van factory are lost in their dealership outlets. Some might cheer at hoping they see the last of boy racer in his hopped up Vauxhall Corsa with a huge rude exhaust bigger than your granny’s best boiling pan.

Diesel wot dunnit

The last reason for the fall in car sales is infamous diesel. The repercussions continue to erode confidence in diesel vehicles of any kind, the worst polluters big rig trucks and locomotives. Despite every British car magazine still coaxing readers to buy diesel – are auto hacks on back pocket deals? – the signs are diesel is in its throes of rigor mortis.

Big boss of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), CEO Sergio Marchionne, believes diesel sales may never recover, even if technical advances make it a more environmentally friendly fuel than alternatives. And he should know running one of the largest car, van and tractor businesses in the world.

“The disengagement is happening. Since Dieselgate [VW emissions scandal] the share of diesel sales has reduced month by month. “There’s no point denying that, and it’s clear that the cost of making diesel reach the new standards is going to become prohibitive.”

The FCA Group is set to unveil its next five-year plan to investors on 1 June, and Marchionne has already said that the firm will end sales of diesel models for its Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep and Maserati brands by 2022, reasoning that electrified technology will deliver better returns than investing in a new generation of diesel engines.

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Sergio Marchionne, over-boss of almost anything Italian with wheels on it

Everything is going leccy

Toyota and their luxury brand Lexus announced plans for electrification which include 10 pure electric models in the range by the “early 2020s”. The two brands will offer electrified versions of all its models by 2025, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, pure electric and fuel-cell hydrogen models. This is the same target as announced by its main global competitor Volkswagen Group. The race is on to win your favour.

The firm is the latest in a long line of manufacturers in the last six months which has announced electrification plans. Volvo was the first to lay out its targets: every Volvo car launched from 2019 will have an electric motor. Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen Group, Mercedes and Mazda have all followed suit. And to think not so long ago I got belittled for daring to suggest electric cars needed only to invent a quick charger and the combustion engine was all but dead.

Toyota will start its pure electric vehicle sales in China first by 2022, before a “gradual introduction” to Japan, India, US and Europe. Britain is no longer king of car sales.

Toyota also confirmed today that it hoped to commercialise solid-state batteries by the early 2020s, which would make it the first car maker to do so. Other manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Volvo have hinted that they won’t introduce solid-state batteries until at least 2025. The technology, which will eventually replace the lithium-ion batteries used today, is expected to be game-changing for electric vehicles, offering around 620 miles of range.

The Japanese company has also confirmed it will expand its fuel-cell line-up beyond the Mirai for both passenger and commercial vehicles, confirming its commitment to hydrogen alongside hybrids and pure electric models. By comparison, many manufacturers are choosing to focus on hybrids and pure electric models rather than invest in costly hydrogen vehicle development.

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If it’s an Über it’s a Prius

Some imaginative designs will help

It will also continue growing its hybrid and plug-in hybrid line-up. For its hybrids, there will be a more powerful version of its Hybrid System II in some models. It added that “the development of simpler hybrid systems will be implemented in select models, as appropriate, to meet various customer needs”.

Toyota has been at the forefront of hybrid vehicle sales since launching the Prius 20 years ago. Toyota sales of electrified vehicles have reached over 11 million worldwide to date. Last time I was in London I lost count of hybrid Prius run by Über drivers. In one two mile stretch of Pall Mall I  managed to memorise over thirty passing me or parked before my Über taxi driver corrected me with thirty-four.

The carmaker said today’s announcement was a “main pillar” in its goal to reduce global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90 percent from 2010 levels. I hope the new models will look contemporary outside and in not rehashed 20th century shapes of little innovation and even less imagination. The current run of Toyota models is bland beyond Snoresville.

Jaguar crash

Jaguar Land Rover has just announced over 1,000 redundancies at their Solihull factory, and are blaming it on Brexit, dieselgate, and the fog of war. Who buys a shiny new car when it and you might get blown to bits tomorrow?

Pope mobile news

PS: The Pope blessed an electric Formula 1 racing car. Electric vehicles are now officially God’s choice of propulsion. Please be advised.

Posted in General, Transportation | 5 Comments

A Quiet Place – a review

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Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds stay schtum to stay alive

Horror films are not my cup of blood. None have the depth of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – The Modern Prometheus. Then again, most are not based on pioneering novels. Those from Hollywood are fixated on screaming teenagers, either stalking, chasing, torturing or cutting women into pieces. They are a serial killer’s text book. Bored late night, unable to concentrate on a good book, I’ll watch a late night horror film.

The problem lies with the monster. The genre has a fixed  plot: show very little of the monster for most of the picture, release glimpses, but keep the full reveal until the last minute. That’s the moment our worst suspicions are confirmed, it’s a skinny guy in a lizard suit. Del Toro’s The Shape of Water barely avoided this pitfall. A Quiet Place doesn’t quite follow that formula, but it doesn’t veer too far off.

This horror show has a novel plot twist – the monsters are activated by sound. They can’t see or smell, but they have hearing more acute than a Jodrell Bank astronomical telescope. Sneeze and you’re good as dead. The creatures move at the speed of light. They kill anything that squeaks, coughs or farts, a rough time for humans with stomach ulcers.

I’d love to see the script. I hazard an educated guess fewer than six pages are devoted to the spoken word, dialogue is almost non-existent, all the other pages is silence in this nicely edited, exactly 90 minute, hare-em scare-em, the few characters communicating in sign language. Therein lies the films clever tension, for twenty minutes or so, after that it gets tedious.

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No good horror film is without a scene of a femme in a bath

The need for absolute silence in every domestic task carries through to a riveting bathtub scene. Evelyn Abbott, played by ski-nose Emily Blunt, is pregnant about to pop. She lies in the bath stifling her birth pains and primal fear as a creature climbs the stairs to the bathroom. Though they move faster than a bullet when chasing prey, they sound like an elephant moving slowly over your ceiling when in your house. Watching the action wide-eyed I tried not to breathe myself. According to her real life husband, co-star and film’s director, John Krasinski, as soon as he said “Cut!”, Blunt snapped out of character and asked the crew, “What’s everyone having for lunch?” Let’s hope the chuck wagon didn’t under-cook the New York steak and beetroot.

I’m never sure married couples should act in the same play or film. So often it can be destroy the illusion, or plain embarrassing to watch unless Burton and Taylor in Edward Albee’s wonderful study of warring couples caught in a loveless marriage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. In that case you’re watching the real thing and squirming just the same. In A Quiet Place the duo work well together, conveying a genuine affection that crosses the screen and helps give us an impression of a strong family bond.

In an interview with E! Magazine, Krasinski said, “I would love to direct Emily Blunt [But] I’d rather act with Emily than direct. I don’t know if I need that responsibility. She’s so good and I’d be so scared to screw it up, but [I’d be] happy to be in scenes with her. That would be really fun. We’re always up for doing something.” Well, he didn’t let her down. He’s done a fine job of directing, and not tried to hog the limelight as co-star.

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John Krasinski plays the beleaguered father, the director, and Emily Blunt’s husband

The film is a mixture of pure terror and ludicrous logic. A race of lethally fast and carnivorous creatures, resembling scaly men on stilts, have swarmed Earth wiping out much of the human population. We never learn where they came from, how they arrived or why they are what they are. No spaceship falls from the heavens.

That’s half the fun in watching a film like this. There’s plot flaws aplenty. Out in the woods and corn plantation where the story is set, no birds sing. The creatures cannot climb trees or fly. How did they manage to kill or scare away all the birds? You pick at the loose logic and then will yourself to believe what you see.

What backstory we are given tells us Lee and Evelyn Abbott (played by spouses Krasinski and Blunt) and their three young children understand the creatures are blind, but possess extraordinary powers of hearing. My mother was like them. She knew where I was in the house even if I hid in a cupboard, a coat over my head. I digress.

We do get a few snippets of back story in the newspaper clippings lining the walls of the basement in the Abbotts’ rural farmhouse: worldwide destruction, mass fatalities, people losing hope. (Sounds like some Scottish nationalists.)

The creatures are H.R. Giger’s Alien meets your worst nightmare neighbour. They kill for the sake of killing, yet seem to eat nothing at all. Like all Hollywood monsters they never urinate or defecate. For the Abbott family, they walk everywhere barefoot – I’m sure rubber soled shoes would be fine – but anyhow, everybody is barefoot. You can’t use a car. The engine noise will have the things swarming all over it and they can slice metal like a tin opener on a can of rice pudding.
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Krasinski directs the two youngsters in the story. Children dominate the plot

What makes A Quiet Place work for most of its length is the way the story immerses us in the minutiae of everyday survival. This is hold your breath cinema of a high order; survivors cling onto life as best they can until they cannot any longer, and their scream of agony draws the creatures to their throat. Life without sound, it turns out, requires an awful lot of pre-planning.

Lee and Evelyn also have two young children who are already much smarter and more resilient than they should have to be. Marcus (Noah Jupe) is easily scared, forever on his guard. Marcus’ older sister, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), is the big sister who is fearless to the point of recklessness. She’s at that awkward age – self-possessed. She is also deaf, which puts her at a singular disadvantage until you put two and two together and suss she might have the answer to the monster’s one weakness.

All monster have a weakness. In John Wyndam’s The Triffids it’s salt water, in Alien sagas its Sigourney Weaver, in Predator it’s Arnie’s street smarts, in other horror films it’s a delirious dumb blonde. The fact that Regan and her family are all adept at sign language partly accounts for the length they’ve managed to survive. The sections between doting father and hearing disabled daughter are the most poignant and truthful. There’s an attractive mixture of tenderness, guilt and misunderstanding, all based on miscommunication. In reality Simmonds is a deaf actress, is as impressive as she is in her breakthrough role in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck.

Krasinski, whom I’ve not seen in his USA television version of The Office, is fine as the ever vigilant, ever courageous dad, but who ultimately makes one of those utterly senseless, futile sacrifices that only happen in goofy Hollywood movies. He is more than matched by Blunt. Her performance rings true from the moment she appears on screen, to hanging out the washing, to hiding from the creatures in her backyard. There are a few things as powerfully protective as a mother’s love.

Marco Beltrami’s music score is a homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the excellent cinematography is handled by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. (Readers please note a woman is behind the camera.)

The rest is classic horror: cramped, dark quarters, lights that flicker, floorboards that creak, babies that cry, looks of fear and death stalking anything that beats a heart. For a lot of the time the film emotes intelligence, and that together with a good screenplay and acting is enough to secure it three stars, with a half for novelty.

  • Star rating: Three and a half
  • Cast: Emily Blunt, John, Krasinski, Noah Dupe, Millicent Simmonds
  • Director: John Krasinski
  • Writer: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
  • Cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Chrisensen
  • Rating: PG – 13
  • RATING CRITERIA
  • 5 plus: potential classic, innovative. 5: outstanding. 4: Excellent. 3.5: excellent but flawed. 3: very good if formulaic. 2: straight to DVD. 1: Crap; why did they bother?
Posted in Film review | Leave a comment

Scotland the Rogue Nation

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Edinburgh from Calton Hill, 1820, by Thomas Brabazon Aylmer

Hardy a week passes by without some sad dummy popping up from nowhere and then disappearing again to claim an historical narrative I’ve published has no basis in fact. They arrive locked and loaded. I call those moments, drive by shootings.

Truculence and insolence

The assassination attempts – dismiss, defame, dismay, spread doubt –  carry no counter evidence only pomposity. None are historians. Any intelligent reader will perceive my essays are based on intense study of key ages of Scotland’s political progress.

For example, over seven consecutive years for screenplays I researched the Massacre of Glencoe, and the Highland Clearances, hours on end study on hard wooden chairs in Scotland’s National Library, head buried among documents and papers, checking out second-hand book shops, flicking foxed pages and musty diaries, speaking directly to historians, learning about regimental history, all tied together with visits to actual locations where a forlorn rickle of cottage stone wall and wind scarred terraced ground can tell you more than a thousand words.

Dispelling myths

Work on Glencoe dispelled the commonly held unionist myth it was two clans at war, the MacDonalds versus the Campbells, a claim crafted to give the impression Scotland was nothing more than a band of lawless tribes always at each other’s throats, cattle, and sporrans – extended to imply it took the English to civilise us.

In reality, the massacre was the MacDonald clan and its Septs versus an English regiment headed by a Campbell loyal to the English Crown. The Scots disease isn’t booze, it’s Anglophiles desperately seeking preferment.

Years composing three attempts at a screenplay on the Clearances revealed that prolonged inhuman agony was at heart ethnic cleansing, the new land owners sheep. That motivated a close look at 20th century politics, a mounting collapse of English patience with that rogue nation, Scotland.

James Anderson’s ferocious rebuttal of England’s determination to control Scotland, Essays on Scotland, Imperial and Independent, published in 1705, throws out nearly every argument made by Unionists to banish Scotland’s civil rights and freedoms. It includes the one we will all be foreigners the minute we stop being Brits.

English scorn is as old as castle garderobes and just as acrid to the nostrils. My choosing the essay form to defend the Realm repeats Anderson’s device.

The making of the United Kingdom

England has always needed Scotland more than Scotland needed England. Geographically too close, we were and remain a handy source of materials and men.

The most important consideration in the making of the United Kingdom in 1707 was the standpoint of England. Under William of Orange, England had been consolidated as a global power by the massive build up of the army and the navy to fight the French.

England’s war effort was funded through a national debt, supplied increasingly by taxes on trade rather than land. So even as the United Kingdom was in formation England was in massive debt. Scotland was not.

Scotland has never been bankrupt, managing to exist on the officially blessed theft that is the annual allowance given by the UK Treasury taken from Scotland’s own earnings. The Better Together campaign was predicated almost entirely on the brazen fabrication Scotland is a basket case, economically unable to survive on its own.

England the bankrupt

To boost its coffers England levied huge custom duties on colonial trade. But this trade was constantly undermined by Scottish commercial networks which circumvented the Navigation Acts contrived to protect English domestic and overseas trade. English anger that Scotland was acting as a rogue nation contributed to William’s willingness to sabotage the Darien Venture through which Scotland attempted to establish an entrepôt for the East and West Indies on the Panama Isthmus in the late 1690s.

Again, we heard similar threats during the 2014 independence debate; Scotland will get cut off from trade with England, a threat repeated yet again if we join the European Union. If there is one thing unionists are not, it’s imaginative. They recycle their attacks as one might old rubber tyres.

Financial issues became critical as England embarked upon the War of the Spanish Succession. England’s desire to control Scotland grew ever stronger at odds with justified anxieties it could never keep docile for long a troublesome nation.

Renewal of war with Europe – a familiar situation for England – brought about a major shift in government policy in favour of union. England had insufficient manpower to fight wars, just as it has to this day, nor the ability to sustain manufacturing and expand its empire. The Scots were a ready reservoir. We had ready regiments.

In fact, that is the position England took on discovery of North Sea Oil reserves. England under Thatcher and Blair exploited Scotland’s wealth to the full.

A union not of friendship just trade

The Treaty of Union was not a magnanimous act of altruism in which England rescued an impoverished Scotland – as it has often been portrayed. Certainly the Scottish balance of trade was far from healthy. Imports exceded exports. But the impoverishment of government does not necessarily mean the impoverishment of the country.

The adverse balance was calculated on taxed trade, not on trade conducted. The balance took no account of imported goods re-exported or reprocessed as manufactures for domestic consumption. The balance took no account of the invisible earnings from the thriving Scottish shipping trade from the Baltic to the Caribbean. The financial power of Scottish commercial networks was demonstrated in the first four months of 1707, before the Union became operative. Records tell us Scottish networks exploited fiscal loopholes by investing “£300,000 in brandies, wines, salt and whalebones, (for manufacturing into bodices and stays) which they intended to export to England tax free after 1 May”.

Scotland was a rich nation, and has remained so up and until this day, much to England’s relief in times of financial stress, which have been frequent.

Today, claims of Scotland amassing vast debts under autonomous rule are bunkum. They are based on what England gives Scotland now, and the debts imposed on it that Scotland has to service annually. Unionist economic analysis is spurious, always false, and  loaded. Calculations conspire to leave out exports and how better Scotland would spend what it earned, avoiding wars, grossly expensive aircraft carriers, Trident missiles and submarines, and subsidies to English industry.

Mundells to a man

Scots who negotiated control of Scotland to England’s Treasury were as inept as they were mercenary. Their ineptitude was manifested by paltry representation of nobles in the House of Lords, and only 45 MPs in the new  parliament. That alone guaranteed that although England had dissolved its parliament it did in effect keep control of Scotland. Reparations for Darien was a pathetic offer, half never paid, and taxes raised for the half paid. The East Indies remained the preserve of English commercial interests.

Just as the Vow under the Smith Commission scaled down, and down again, the powers purportedly offered to Scotland until they were almost meaningless, so was the investment England offered in return for political incorporation. Reparations and investment were met by taxation. Scotland was given debts it did not incur. Scotland was a double loser.

For all intent and purpose the new phony ‘joint’ parliament became, ipso facto, an English parliament. To keep Scots happy there began the introduction of a “British state” a notion concocted to delude Scots that they were part of a powerful unified nationalism.

Almost a winner means you’re a loser

What is little known is how Scotland nearly won back its independence. Disaffection within Scotland towards the one-sided, one-way Treaty was soon holed under the waterline, breached in both the spirit and letter of the Union and by delays in honouring fiscal inducement. Growing resentment about the running of Scotland led to a concerted effort by Scottish politicians at Westminster to terminate the Treaty, which lost narrowly in the Lords by only …. four proxy votes in 1713. Four poxy votes has shaped our lives ever since, dear reader. That isn’t democracy as we know it or wish to exercise it.

After that, Ireland got in the way. England was forced to look for ways to dominate and subdue Irish dissent. Like imperialist nations before it, England discovered no colonised nation likes affection at the end of a leash.

Here we are in 2018, with over three-hundred years of the Treaty of Union behind us and still the political will of the Scottish people cannot be regarded as settled. The cry to reinstate full political and economic independence grows louder and stronger by the day commensurate with England’s collapse into political chicanery, disarray, corruption, endless wars, economic decadence, and sheer stupidity.

After centuries of England’s attempts to pacify Scotland and cheat it of its wealth created by its own people, Scotland now finds itself in the paradoxical position of bringing England to heel – the only way to preserve, protect and defend its liberties.

Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 17 Comments

Union? What Union?

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A study of Scots parliamentarians – still in session after 1707 – at Lord Provost’s banquet.

Glancing through some intelligent and some not so bright posts on a social website I noticed one irritant who had only one argument: Scotland lost it sovereignty on signing the Union of the Crowns. Post after post banged the same nail with a sledgehammer. I groped for the mouse on my desk and clicked it to Thinking Enabled. I have no idea what makes people say such stupid things but whatever it is, it works.

A double bed

Unionist politicians who declare Scotland a basket case, yet are useless at economics because they can’t count with their shoes on, should start to feel insecure right now. The Act of Union is not an entrenched ‘forever’ contract. It is a statement of co-operation that is negotiable and renewable.

As English politicians constantly demonstrate, its clauses and conditions can be whittled away by the party with the greatest number of seats at Westminster – England’s MPs, and when in the minority, by bunging a couple of billion pounds of taxpayer money to the DUP – not their struggling NHS – but to another minority party with no morals or honesty.

English votes for English laws hacks a large chunk out of the Act. And though he was told it was constitutionally illegitimate, former prime minister David Cameron got away with it by sheer number of MPs. Westminster proclaimed itself master of Westminster. Then again, Cameron followed by Theresa May are born ignoramuses and have been losing ground ever since.

Westminster is regarded by English MPs, albeit silently, as England’s parliament that happens to put up with, some say suffer, the participation of Scottish MPs. No amount of Scots attaining high office changes that. Scottish MPs who gain cabinet office are not dedicated to Scotland’s interests, but to an English political and economic agenda sold as good for the United Kingdom.

People keep describing the Union as a marriage or a divorce. Well, in that case see it as a large double bed – queen sized until it’s king sized again – zipped up the middle. We can separate the beds easily and both get a good night’s sleep.

Scotlandshire

To hear one English upstart of an MP declare she would not give powers to the Scottish Parliament that she would not give to an English shire is evidence of the colonial mentality alive and kicking.

During the Scottish referendum members of the House of Lords spent days telling Scots they would not be welcomed back if they ever discovered they had made a terrible error of judgment, reinforcing the assumption Westminster is England’s seat of government. Incidentally, that rejection runs counter to the one given by the EU telling the UK it could return if it changes its mind over dumping Europe.

Scotching the myth

The myth persists: 1707 installed a ‘Union of Parliaments’. Untrue. Completely false.

Article 3 of the Treaty of Union is a clause that can be altered at any time. What Article 3 did was to establish a completely new legislature, one that allowed continuation of the English parliament and the Scottish parliament. England didn’t bother because it had the winning hand, an agreement in which Scottish MPs cannot attain power over England.

Scottish MPs did continue with our parliament, as Turner’s unfinished study – see above – shows. In time, Scots grew weary of duplicating debates and discussions held at Westminster. We voluntarily decided to send our MPs to London. The myth of a single parliament issues from 300 years of subservience to a fictitious ‘final’ authority.

Just as real ale drinkers protest their local pub taken over by a brewery chain is supplying weak beer at twice the price of the old beer, we should protest by blocking interference by Westminster of our constitutional rights.

This knowledge of a third legislature makes nonsense of the guff reiterated by malicious troll and ignorant town councillor alike to the effect the Scottish Parliament was abolished. The Orange Order strutting the High street like cockerels and just as many wattles under their chins are fond of saying they’re British, but I am afraid it is meaningless in the face of an Act that makes clear there is no ‘Union of Parliaments’.

There’s an argument Scotland ought to have participated with equal representation, but we had not enough recruits willing to be servile to another nation’s ambitions.

Sovereignty

This brings me to the subject of sovereignty. England’s sovereignty lies in its Parliament, thanks to Cromwell’s intense dislike of poncy kings in wigs and garters. That is why English politicians are wont to say Westminster holds all power over Scotland’s Parliament with the exception of a few powers not reserved, which, they assert, can be taken away again. In fact, the current attempts to block or frustrate a second referendum is evidence England feels it controls Scotland’s sovereignty.

There’s the abhorrent sight of Jeremy Corbyn, man of the people, declaring he will resist a second referendum with all his failing energies. Yes, let the people have their say so long as it accords with British approved orthodoxy!

We have the example of English arrogance yet again refusing to consider devolution of broadcasting. The nations must take English cultural programming, and BBC adherence to commercial marketing of them.

Minister Margot James said that a state broadcaster is “the sort of thing which brings the union together and it will remain a reserved power.” Nothing is further from the truth. BBC, the British state broadcaster, by sticking rigidly to English mores and culture, geographically landlocked, has illuminated the vast rift that separates Scotland’s place in the world in comparison to England. It has helped cause political unrest.

Stumped by anything childproof

England’s sovereignty rests with Westminster. Scotland’s sovereignty rests with the people.  The principle of the sovereignty of the people is as old as Scotland itself. Those who have studied Scotland’s history – you know, that thing unionists tell us is bunkum, romantic nonsense – know all about the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath. It established the unassailable principle that the Community of the Realm of Scotland is permanently and  in perpetuity sovereign over any head of state and executive. It has the right to depose a ruler who defies the will of the people. And since Labour and Tory are England’s ambassadors we’ve had to depose any number of them, banished to the ermine locker.

Unionists with the attraction of iron filings and flaky Oxbridge historians hoping for an all-expenses paid television series where they go walkabout demand to know who are the people? Well, tough luck, it ain’t them. The people are the indigenous and the enfranchised citizens of Scotland and its Islands.

People power is the foundation of a democracy. Scotland was first to institute it by constitutional law. We should be proud of that, but moreover, we should exercise it often in the face of Westminster obduracy and deceit. Our inertia is the weakness Westminster plays on and exploits. Our resolve is what they hate and try to weaken.

Waving the flag of sovereignty

The Declaration of Arbroath specifically refers to ‘Our Kingdom’, not  any land owner’s kingdom, not any  corporation or institution’s kingdom, not a grand car park or a stadium. All we elect and all who are given temporary law making authority over us can be deposed by us – the people. Keeping in mind that neither parliament was abolished, Westminster cannot dismiss the Document’s overriding constitutional legitimacy.

The Declaration of Arbroath is recognised by the United Nations. It fits snuggly into the UN definition of a nation: a national entity with a shared history, a long association with a territory, and singular characteristics. Well, if  Union colonial ridicule is accurate, refusing to eat vegetables, living off fried Mars bars, leaping over thistles and crossed swords for a living while wearing nothing under out kilts, and mostly drunk, we most definitely are a singular nation.

Sure, we share a common humanity with all other nations, but that won’t keep ours safe and free. It only keeps us friendly. What unionist politicians rely on is our ignorance of our history, of our rights, and that we do not question Westminster as the supreme law giver and the ultimate taker away of powers.

I have no idea why unionist politicians keep pontificating about Scotland. It isn’t as if we are holding our breath until they give us the benefit of their vacuity. When it comes to our elected representatives being assertive I am all for that. Nicola Sturgeon can speak up as much as she likes.

The supremacy of Westminster and its baggy trousered  bus queue does not apply to Scotland. It never did. We have the internationally guaranteed right to decide our constitutional future. We need nobody’s permission. Once you perceive that and acknowledge it exists a whole new world opens up.

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 57 Comments