Car News: Spare Part Prices


The parts that go into assembling a VW Golf.  Some cost under a £1, but not to you

All of us are forced to buy a spare part for our car at some time in its life, usually at its annual service or just to replace a broken or worn part. While tyres are getting more and more expensive because advances in tyre technology dictate they’re made wider than ever to grip the road as cars get ever faster, I’d aver almost all of us have been jolted by the cost of a small bit of plastic pipe for the engine or a broken wing mirror.

Experienced car owners trawl breaker’s yards for second-hand parts still useable taken from smashed ‘n crashed vehicles. The rest of us pay through the nose. Some manufacturers try to keep spares at a reasonable price and have them available for a good part of a car’s life. Mercedes is one such company but with computer technology invading every part of a car’s systems I can’t claim their spares are affordable anymore, but your 20-30 year old classic Mercedes will usually be okay for a replacement part.

I own a 22 year-old three-door RAV4. While engine and suspension parts still exist, Toyota stopped producing the rest of it some time ago. In desperation I bought a cheap no-go (non-driveable) donor RAV and am transferring all the good bits to my car before crushing the donor car. I calculate I’ve over £2,000 of retail goodies and four new tyres – a bargain. But not everybody has the time or space to do that.

Too many companies are keener on emptying your wallet. There’s an interesting court case on the move exposing some of the dark arts that go into devouring your hard earned dosh because you insist on relying on a car for transport. Carmakers including Renault, Jaguar Land Rover and Peugeot have boosted revenues by over $1 billion in the past decade by using sophisticated pricing software, according to sales presentations prepared by the software vendor, Accenture, and other documents filed in a court case.

The software works by seeking out the gullible. It does that by identifying which spare parts in a manufacturer’s range will pay more for parts without questioning the cost – the designer jeans doctrine: charge the public what they will pay if they like the label’s status. Hence BMW’s parts, the premier executive car maker, are extortionate. The sneaky system also advises which part should not be over-charged.

Anyhow, the cat is out of the bag, the oil has hit the garage floor. Documents relating to the case were obtained by French news site Mediapart and shared with Reuters and EIC, a network of European investigative news outlets. The case goes to court. The maker of the software Laurent Boutboul is claiming 33 million euros from Accenture over what he says is damage to his reputation because Accenture broke European competition rules. In their defence Accenture deny the charge and call the profiteering ‘efficiency’.

Will your car’s spare parts getting cheaper? Dream on. Can you recall the screams of protest when it was discovered European cars cost more in the UK than in Europe? Prices came down for a full … six months. You can barely afford to buy a car new these days. The cost of a new car is often the equivalent of a deposit on a house.


Tata Tae the Discovery

The ripples from the disaster that is Brexit are taking effect. The popular Land Rover Discovery will be produced abroad. JLR released a statement on the impact on jobs: “The decision to move the Discovery to Slovakia and the potential losses of some agency-employed staff in the UK is a tough one but forms part of our long-term manufacturing strategy as we transform our business globally.” Readers will note the use of the soft term ‘potential’ losses. In April, JLR laid off 1000 of its 40,000-strong UK workforce following a 21% downturn in UK demand, a 20.9% decrease up until the end of May. MPs are voicing opposition. The company is owned by India’s conglomerate Tata.

VW fined £1 billion – gulp!

Volkswagen has been fined €1bn (£880m) over diesel emissions cheating in what amounts to one of the highest ever fines imposed by German authorities against a company. The fine follows a US plea agreement from January 2017 when VW agreed to pay $4.3bn to resolve criminal and civil penalties for installing illegal software in diesel engines to cheat strict US anti-pollution tests. “Following thorough examination, Volkswagen AG accepted the fine and it will not lodge an appeal against it. Volkswagen AG, by doing so, admits its responsibility for the diesel crisis and considers this as a further major step towards the latter being overcome,” the company said in a statement. If only we could get Westminster to be so humble charged with stealing Scotland’s oil.

Ban on parking on pavements

Our wonderful pothole-ridden capital, Edinburgh, is about to ban vehicle parking on pavements. I welcome the move. There’s one street in particular I use where its endemic. I watch mothers with children in prams squeezed hard against tenement walls or forced to take to the road. As I wrote some time back, our pavements are almost lost to pedestrians: vans, cars, cyclists, cycle racks, those ugly cycleway sculptures, wheelie bins, shop billboards, electric and cable boxes, bollards, stacked construction materials, scaffolding, drunks, the homeless, tethered dogs, manhole and drains covers, gum, gum, and more gum, and dog poo. Walking to the shops can turn out to be a bit of a minefield to negotiate. I don’t mind a fruit or flower stall outside the shop, but the rest are a menace. Goodness knows how the blind and partially-sighted manage.

Posted in Transportation | 1 Comment

Scotland – a Colony Once More

The Tories make clear they have no respect for the Scottish Parliament. Never again will the line that Scotland is an equal partner in Westminster system be believed. The decision to act without our consent, and the manner of doing it, will not be forgotten. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

First Scotland’s Oil, now Scotland’s Constitutional rights

It isn’t only in London’s streets that you stand to get robbed by hooded oiks on a moped. The same happens in the motherfucker of all parliaments.

On Tuesday 12 June 2018, the Tories at Westminster aided and abetted by Labour’s dim-witted gang of professional abstainers reduced the Scottish Parliament to an assembly. Any decision it might make in the name of Scotland’s electorate can be vetoed by any party in power at Westminster.

There are two nations in a Treaty, England just reduced the other to a joke province.

Dumbass voters duped

“Even if we’d had 100 hours of debate, the situation wouldn’t have changed,” said the spineless, waffling, sweetie wife of a Scottish Secretary David Mundell about the Withdrawal Bill. In other words, this is the Tory plan, stop Scotland’s march to full democracy dead in its tracks, undermine its ability make democratic advances permanent. Voters duped.

The Tories sneered, scoffed and brayed at the protests made by SNP MPs asking for a time to debate what Brexit will do to Scotland’s economy and ambitions, pushing through the objectionable clauses of the EU Withdrawal Bill which effectively abolish Scottish devolution for the next seven years or more, perhaps pemanently. Voters duped.

People in Aberdeenshire that voted Tory on the promise they would protect fishermen’s rights now see their rights taken back by Westminster. Voters duped.

England’s empire starts with owning Scotland

An unelected prime minister called Treeza, wallowing in the phlegm and slop that is Westminster spittoons, on the back of an election that gave her party less than 35% of the UK vote, she of no fixed morality, is handed complete power to override Scotland’s Parliament. She can veto all critical matters such as fishery policy, Trident, visits by Trump, land management, resistance to privatisation buy-outs, agriculture, food safety, and even the environment that includes fracking.

Treeza didn’t have to dismiss SNP or Labour amendments to the Bill because Labour did the job for her, they abstained – that fine old Labour tactic of showing absolute commitment to constitutional rights.

Devolution is dead

Anyone who believes that after seven years Scotland will get all its powers returned, seven years the length the Tories say they will hold those powers, longer than a political parliament, needs their brains undergo shock electrical therapy.

The Tories have taken powers back, and it’s the first in a long line of withdrawals on the table. There is more to come, or should I say, go. The Union is a sham, always has been.

At stake is Scotland’s oil, ergo, England’s balance of payments. It needs the revenues to stave off economic disaster, a situation in the making before Brexit made certain it will happen. It needs Scotland’s taxes. It needs Scotland youth for its illegal wars of conquest. Without those things England knows it will become a small country with no empire.

The precedent is established that Westminster can now over-ride any and all of Scotland’s devolved responsibilities whenever it considers it necessary – which is pretty much all the time. Home rule is over, as dead as a Treeza’s empathy.

The zinger

What Treeza has done is make the case for an independent Scotland not only a fine ideal but a slam dunk necessity. Scotland in any form will not survive without the powers to protect its own integrity. Independence is the only method by which a people’s rights and their humanity can be protected.

The 1998 Scotland Act is buried, cremated, ashes scattered. The Tories hated it, Labour failed to protect it because they too disliked it. Scotland is taken out of the European Union against the will of the people.

“The will of the people” the phrase used by Tories and Labour alike to piss all over the will of the people. The “most powerful devolved parliament in the world” is toilet paper.

Now what?

We have yet to see how the UK’s Supreme Court (another illegitimate British institution) will rule on the legitimacy of the Continuity Bill passed by Holyrood earlier this year.  Also hanging in the air is the Legislative Consent Motion which Scotland’s Parliament threw out as unacceptable. But we can be sure the Tories will continue to treat with contempt all attempts to rescue our rights. They are intent on invasion and recolonizing.

Is there an alternative to a referendum on these profound catastrophic changes to Scotland’s rights? There is none.

Should we wait to see what happens next. Hell, no!

When burglars are kicking in your door to steal your possessions who waits to see if they will discuss matters civilly before you call the police?

Scotland has been robbed, and it isn’t for the first time.


Voters in Scotland believed me when I said the “Tory Party will strengthen devolution”

Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 12 Comments

Jurassic World – a review


Tyrannosaurus Rex bombing yet another photo opportunity

On my first visit to a Hollywood studio to pitch a project the executives were sufficiently impressed with the computer requirements in one project to have an employee show me around the premises and meet staff. One of the places I was allowed to see was their brand new digital magic workshop.

They sat me down in front of a medium-sized screen in an editing suite and, talked through by a kindly gentleman in a grey suit looking rather like ‘Q’ from James Bond, I watched a series of computer generated animations edited together as one 15 minute presentation. One of them was a dinosaur walking through a prehistoric jungle. I was impressed. “Hey, that could make a great film” I exclaimed. He nodded, proud of his department’s work. That was three years before the first Jurassic Park awed us with amazing widescreen invention. Now the world is full of dinosaur movies, documentaries, books and bones.

The latest version of the franchise, Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom  is one masshoosive disappointment. I can hear the executives saying ‘who cares’ – there’s an inbuilt audience of millions willing to pay again to see a half-heated blockbuster version of the last plot.

Fallen Kingdom is alternatively long stretches of boring exposition followed by dinosaurs screaming in somebody’s face and then tearing a goat or a human to shreds.


The actors spend most of their time doing this every few minutes, that and running

The plot is barely plausible if coincidentally topical. A volcano is about to blow its top and destroy the island on which all the dinosaurs co-exist, Isla Nublar, well, sort of co-exist; why they have not all eaten each other, run out of food to satisfy their gargantuan appetites, or choked in a mountain of their own poo is a mystery. Actually, look closely and anus and genitals are missing.

A mad millionaire plans to airlift them all to a new island because he has a soft spot for rampaging dinosaurs, and is clearly ‘saft in the heid’. Unfortunately he has employed an egomaniac as a personal assistant who promptly betrays the old twit and plans to round up the monsters for himself to auction them off, an auction presumably organised by Sotheby’s. Without fail a cretin leaves a cage door unlocked. Carnivorous carnage ensues.

Running around among all these armoured legs and bawling throats is navy veteran Owen Grady played again by Chris Pratt, previously the dinosaur wrangler. He’s been commissioned to round up a few of the animals and hopes to find his loveable raptor again, Blue. But he reckons without the meddling interference of his old girlfriend Claire Dearing, once more played by red haired Bryce Dallas Howard. (Somehow her triple name doesn’t have the same ring as Catherine Zeta Jones.) At least in this adventure she is not running around screaming while wearing high-heeled shoes.

In the mix is a young computer geek, (Justice Smith) and a terrified little girl, (Isabella Sermon) granddaughter of the millionaire with zoo keeping ambitions. The film is a Spielberg produced project; there has to be a moany lost kid in it somewhere.

At various points Toby Jones pops up as an easily swayed rogue trader ready and willing to auction the animals, and Geraldine Chaplin as the little girl’s anxious nanny – a long way away from the great Dr Zhivago – both grossly underused and exploited. James Cromwell is restricted to a bed with blood drips stuck up his nose as pegging out millionaire Benjamin Lockwood.

Eccentric Jeff Goldblum tops and tails this sorry story doing his big rolling eyes number a feely fingers routine. There are other actors bumping into dinosaurs and furniture but frankly my hands are losing the ability to type.


More interesting to have seen sequences put together than watch the completed work

I’m finding it real hard to say anything positive about this dog’s dinner. It’s all too frantic and repetitious. There’s not much fun in it or watching it. The best moment is the  prologue, everything is is all down hill literally and figuratively from then on.

If you are a fan of dinosaur movies you’ll like this one. As well as a man-made dinosaur trained to kill on command as a war machine, (easily destroyed with one rocket!) a secretly cooked up a super-smart predator called Indominus Rex, there are more dinosaurs per frame in this iteration that in any of the others, if that’s a plus.

Here is one line of dialogue to prove it a turkey:

Owen: I know why we’re here. A rescue op, save the dinosaurs from an island that’s about to explode. What could go wrong?

I guess Owen was being sarcastic but that lines sums up the plot and the stereotyped characters. If looking for something new and fresh take a walk around your local botanic garden and admire the flowers ad shrubs and trees, or if you live in Europe have a stroll around the fish and meat stalls of your local market. You’ll get a lot more from them than this film and you get to meet people without killing them.

Truth be told, the wonder of seeing dinosaurs come to life has long since evaporated.

  • Star Rating: Two stars
  • Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall
  • Director: J.A. Bayona
  • Writer: Colin Treverrow, Derek Connolly
  • Cinematographer: Oscar Faura
  • Composer: Michael Giacchino
  • Duration: 2 hours 9 minutes
  • 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 | 6 Comments

Once We Were Anglos


The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at the Battle of Waterloo

When Anglophiles proclaim they’re British and Scots, meaning not really proud to be Scots but wish they were English, I get an image of a prawn announcing it’s proud to be a Crustacean and a Prawn. Secretly it wants to be a Lobster. Quite naturally, the Lobster ignores the ingratiating Prawn because, although also a member of the crustacean family, it regards the prawn as an inferior breed of the species.

The marvel is how we Scots reached the position we find ourselves in now, against all odds and generations of propaganda and inculcation, not only managing to revive our nation as a distinct entity different from England in so many ways, but move it to the point where its political independence is just around the corner.

A cornucopia of exotic fruit

We did, once upon a time, think England was the bringer of all fine things. We ached to be Anglo. Scotland should admit and then lay aside quietly, with as little fuss as possible, that momentary loss of mind and dignity, that misguided identification, the century when it tried hard to be more English than the English. It caused us to walk badly, talk in a weird fashion, and think Samuel Johnson was absolutely correct when he said the noblest prospect a Scotchman ever sees is the high road to England.

The English class system sits uneasily on the shoulders of Scots, though some try hard to adopt its petty snobbery and elevated envy by sending their children to a fee paying public school, the Harry Potters of this world.

After our country was bought and sold in 1707, and our kind English cousins increased taxation and banned everything Scottish except neeps and oats – they needed them for their cattle too – smart arses popped up everywhere proclaiming themselves English.  One madcap supporter of the Union was William Robertson, an academic  – no surprise Sherlock – principal of Edinburgh University, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. What was his assertions?

Like the predictions we get regularly from newspapers envisaging the imminent demise of the SNP, repeated every six months by the same hacks and with the same sonorous pomposity, Robertson stated the Union would eventually make the English and Scots one mighty people. (Note England always comes first when making those proclamations. The speaker unconsciously genuflects to the nation they regard superior.)

Robertson saw Scotland as North England, once a backward place soon to be civilised. That was in 1759. ‘Scotrot’ as I call it began as far back as that. Robertson believed striding around mind and body fixated on London somehow gave you breeding, nobility, and automatic entitlement. Today some think they achieve that state merely by memorising and recounting the latest cricket score.

The march of the Posh Jocks

Reading Sir Walter Scott’s letters, a confirmed unionist, tells us he too was aware of Scotrot and planned to encapsulate the most acceptable parts of our history for his readers in stories of  honour and courage wrapped up in tartanalia. England, London in particular, was his biggest market for book sales.

This is the equivalent of refusing to have children who might continue the family lineage while embalming your dead mother to venerate her in a homely shrine. Scott helped create a pseudo Scottishness while genuinely doing his best to pass down the generations the great Highland stories and myths. Had he been a bad novelist he’d never have managed the task.

Make mine a Cockburn, thanks

Then there was Henry Thomas Cockburn of Bonaly, Lord Cockburn, (1779-1854) a man for whom two names wasn’t enough. I like to refer to him as the father of Posh Jocks.

Cockburn is recorded in the league of England’s unquestioning lackeys as Solicitor General and judge, or as we would say, a lawyer with ambition and no commitment to anything but his own advancement. We might know him better as the man who gave his name to the fierce Cockburn Society that is always first to protect Edinburgh’s ancient buildings from predatory architects.

Cockburn realised England had become the world’s most powerful nation, that is, after the Romans, the Assyrians, the Moors, the Egyptians, and so on, and so further back. He believed he was living in the last ‘truly Scottish’ age. (He called it Scotch, as in egg.) He admitted a few stragglers would view merging into Anglophilia with alarm “for others it is seen as the inevitable and very desirable result of completing the Union.” Amen.

Cockburn considered himself an intelligent man. He could hardly miss the extent to which the Scottish aristocracy and the landowners were sending their children to be educated at Eton and Rugby to help raise their chances of securing a privileged life, just as they do to this day by sending them to Fettes College or Gordonstoun School, and later Oxford or Cambridge. Our Westminster parliamentarians could also boast they came from the same class stock. I present Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, late of Fettes College, as a prime example of the imperial Scot who feels all he does is in the name of progress.

I want what they’ve got

Scotland’s oldest universities such as St Andrews soon realised that to prosper they had to emulate England’s top educational institutions and become a quasi-English university. Moreover, if you made your mark you didn’t settle in Scotland, you settled down south, preferably London.

And so Scotrot began at the head and soon worked its way down the body politick until it reached the soul of Scotland. Only our rebellious art colleges survived that cultural imperialism, though all have lately succumbed to creeping British cultural nationalism, Duncan of Jordanstone now part of Dundee University, Edinburgh Art College now part of Edinburgh University, and Glasgow’s School of Art burned to the ground.

Scots Law is better as English Law

Taking their cue from Cockburn, lawyers began to talk of merging Scots Law with English Law, the way to reduce inequality and division they opined. The Glasgow Law Amendment Society – there’s Orwellian Doublespeak for you – felt strongly a lot of Scots Law was no longer applicable to the new age; it ought to be almost indistinguishable from English Law.

What they were talking about was not the Common Law for you and me of those days, but Commercial Law to benefit the merchants and bankers who were doing rather well in the west of Scotland out of England’s burgeoning empire. (I suspect all this Anglo assimilation and loss of rights is beginning to sound  horribly familiar to readers.)

Jobs galore – if you left Scotland

Those that had not started their own shipping or tobacco company or spinning cotton in Paisley were soon seeking jobs in the Empire’s outposts. By the time the Victorian era was in full swing living imperialist la vida to the full – if one can contemplate the morbid Queen Victoria ever as a hedonist – Scots were out there as soldiers, ambassadors, doctors, nurses, teachers, in fact, in every sort of administrative post one can think of. Soon we were treating Johnny Foreigner as a lower order and clicking our fingers for a gin and tonic as swiftly as any Etonian Englishman.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or I should say glen, members of the Enlightenment were busy kicking the hell out of what they saw as Scotland’s claim to nationhood and sovereignty. Scotland existed as an ancient kingdom centuries before the Union, but that did not deter the intelligentsia from scorning Scottish history.

As far as they were concerned Scotland was getting dragged out of the Dark Ages of savagery and clan factionalism, lifted out of poverty and feudalism into the brave New World that was one hundred per cent English, the English parliament model the only model a civilised nation could measure itself against if it was to know it had arrived.

This wild notion lingers to this day in the imagination of the British nationalist.

A lesson in somebody else’s history

In double quick time Scots were taught to forget their history and myths for they had ‘no worth’. English constitutional history, English class systems, English  values were the order of the day for serious study. The assimilation of Scot to Anglo-British was off and running.

In quick measure we lost accents, dialect words, and Anglicised almost everything. It should not come as a surprise to readers to learn that when the first chairs of history were founded in Scottish universities not a single Scot was appointed to them. They went to scholars from Oxford and from Cambridge.

A nation that suffered every transgression at once

Now, add to all that the profound changes that were happing in Scotland, the Clearances moving thousands of rural inhabitants out of Scotland or to Glasgow as workers to serve in the industrial revolution, the coal mines and the mills, the rapid urbanisation that went along with that unstoppable social tidal wave. It was a painful social upheaval, a permanent scar on Scotland’s psyche, from the Highlands to the Lowlands. What a marvel Scots bounced back in the early 20th century to reclaim their culture.

Walk around our main cities and you will see streets named not after ordinary individuals who toiled and died for England’s power, but names commemorating the British Empire: Queen Street, Hanover Street, George Square, Royal Terrace, Panmure Street, Exchange Square, Jamaica Street, ad nauseam.

It took the bloody genocide of the first Great War to brings Scots to their senses, an awareness that English power was not necessary a good thing, that it was highly destructive, insensitive to national territory and human life. In time unionism once seen as the best of all possible worlds was revised as an ugly, insular ideology presided over by a very middle-class lady who wore wide brimmed hats and was married to a talkative retired naval husband.

It took a hundred years to learn how to extricate ourselves from that suffocating culture.

It has taken a hundred years for the general populace to realise Scotland paid a terrible price in people and its wealth for that empire. Some most certainly benefitted in accrued wealth, but no one can claim Scotland was the better for it. No one.

The Auld Scotia that was an embarrassment survived and was revived, the first tenuous steps to asking our selves ‘what makes Scotland a nation’?  The answer is, a collective sentiment and a collective willpower to protect its history and to plan its future. If you believe in it, it will  exist.

And here we are experiencing the shock of déjà vu, witnessing England doing all it can to revive a Second Empire.

One can only hope to see the bastard runt put down – humanely of course.

Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 8 Comments

Car News: Leccy Bikes


The Vespa Elettrica – two is always better than one

A reader wrote asking about electric motorbikes so I thought I should respond to his curiosity and have a look. I’ve often admired motorbike design but never hankered after one. Scotland’s weather doesn’t lend itself to life on two wheels, and though I regard myself as physically strong some big bikes are so heavy to hold upright they will drag you to the ground, humiliating if among tattooed and bearded bikers.

Electric cars get all the publicity but electric scooters have been around a long time though their range is short. Having good-weather city transport that you can plug in to any domestic power point is surely a plus. Recharging is so easy compared to a car and running the scooter unbelievably cheap, almost a negligible cost per mile.

The problem with electric scooters is the limited range, normally around 60 miles on a four hour full battery recharge. Scooters, the likes of Vespas and Lambrettas, are not very fashionable here in Scotland but they ought to be. Macho men dislike being seen on them, in the same way some men recoil at the very sight of a Smart car.

No one equates sexy with a scooter. This is probably because they’re less exploited by advertisers with hedonistic, curvaceous, hair tossing women poured all over them. Scooters are a lot more civilised in appearance than their black and chrome motorbike counterpart, the motorbike a favourite among film directors as a harbinger of death.

So what of rasping motorbikes? A number of small firms are harnessing batteries onto raw bikes, and it won’t be long before the iconic, (first time I’ve used that word in all my essays) Harley Davidson. I’m sure they are working on a prototype now.

Here are a few of the most interesting electric motorbikes.


The Johammer – like an Airstream caravan going backwards

The Johammer J1 is, well, a distinctive beast. To some, it’s like straddling the future. To others, like riding a fridge. Still, its 12.7kWh battery capacity is one of the best available and the subsequent range (up to 125 miles) is therefore the best on offer. All that and yet the recharge time is a super-quick 3.5 hours. Apart from the looks, the biggest downside is the measly top speed, electronically limited at 75mph so you don’t waste battery on wind resistance. That’s sensible – but let us decide when to be sensible.

Range: 125 miles. Max speed: 75mph (electronically limited).  Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8 secs. Battery capacity: 12.7kWh. Recharge time: 3.5 hrs


The Lita Sora – a bit bulky in the bottom

Probably the least beautifully old-school electronic bike currently on the market, the Lito Sora’s styling is not unlike a Ducati Diavel (from the fake curved bump of a fuel tank, which actually contains batteries) but it packs serious power. The 120 mile range is decent, and the 0-60 in 4.7 seconds is great for overtaking as if on an Isle of Man TT race. The bonus is the luxurious build quality and elements, even containing a built-in touchscreen navigation system. Downside: you certainly pay for it.

Longest range here: 120 miles. Max speed: 120mph. Acceleration: 0-60mph in 4.7 secs. Battery capacity: 12kWh. Recharge time: 3 hours.


The Zero DS – more of a dirt bike for dirt track fun

Parked up, the Zero DS doesn’t scream “electric motorbike”; you might mistake it for a new model by BMW. On the road, of course, its near silence is the clue. It aims to handle like a traditional gas-guzzler, full of torque and designed to be as reliable on dirt as on tarmac. The ZF6.5 is the entry-level model and is reasonably affordable new at £10,000. The higher-spec ZF13.0 version with an optional “power tank” can go for 184 miles at up to 98mph. Punchy.

Range: 74 miles. Max speed: 91mph. Acceleration: 0-60 in 4 seconds. Battery capacity: 6.5kWh. Recharge time: 4.7 hours.


The Energica Ego – £45,000, sir. Maybe buy a car?

The Ego is a brute of a bike: it can cruise to a top speed of 150mph and would go further were it not for the limiter. You’d expect that kind of oomph, given that Energica is part of CRP, which makes kit for F1 teams. Manufactured in the Italian motor valley of Modena, it’s brimming with style and will take you from 0-60 faster even than the Lito Sora. We’d hope for a little more range, but you can’t have it all.

Range: 90 miles. Max speed: 150mph (electronically limited).  Acceleration: 0-60mph in 3 secs. Battery capacity: 11.7kWh. Recharge time: 3.5 hours.

If there is one really good side to an electric motorbike it’s having a neighbour own one and never disturbing you when he fires it up at six in the morning to get to work!


What a dork

London’s super modern Routemaster bus, the one with the glass staircase and glass house look everywhere was designed by the same  chancer who led the charge for a Garden Bridge, Thomas Heatherwick, and with Boris Johnson’s help somehow mislaid over £40 million pounds of people’s taxes. (Da boys are on da case!) His buses melted passengers, yet were praised to high heaven by UKip voting petrolheads and their car magazine hacks as a British triumph of contemporary design. Some passengers fainted from the trapped heat. You entered upright and left horizontal. He forgot to add air conditioning and windows that open. Almost all have had windows replaced with sliding panels for fresh air … at great expense. Some updated designs are appearing in Scottish cities. Heatherwick – a designer to avoid.

Digital number plates

California is beginning a trial of digital number plates in a bid to ease the process of registering cars and changing registrations. The plates are a $699 (around £526) option from dealerships. They can display customised messages as well as advertisements and traffic information. The plate is equipped with a tracker to help recover stolen vehicles, providing the plates aren’t removed when the car is stolen! I suppose digital plates will be the next gotta have thing just as a sat-nav was ten years ago.

No tear for Top Gear

It looked like BBC had finally found a presenting line-up that was working for Top Gear, but it’s all gone wheels up again. Matt LeBlanc has announced that the next series of Top Gear will be the last one to feature him, with BBC executives already claiming to have ‘great plans’ for his replacement come 2019. The American actor said the travelling and time commitment has taken away too much of the time with friends and family.

Posted in Transportation | 6 Comments

It’s the Economy, Stupid!


Neither a good housekeeping budget, nor economic Armageddon

A question and answer interview with Grouse Beater

I’ll begin with the obvious. You’re a writer, a creator, not an economist. So why am I interviewing you about Scotland’s economy?

I judge what is right and fair and just for the general happiness of the majority. After that, everything falls into place.

But what about detail, the theories, the damage done by neo-liberal dogma? 

I know the power elite corrupt Adam Smith’s theories, bent backwards to align with their repulsive doctrine ‘greed is good’. I know Keynesian economics lifted UK and USA economies out of near bankruptcy and into surplus. I’ve studied as much as I can, and am guided by contemporary economists. And I’ve waded through the Growth Report.

You talk of sharing wealth. You must be a communist?

Anything to the left of extreme capitalism is a communist. Karl Marx got lots of things right and all by sitting in London’s National Library reading old books. Capitalism has liberated many, enslaved others. It rid us of domestic drudgery – I have a washing machine and a dishwasher! We can travel anywhere by all sorts of transport. At the same time it has caused the most tragic economic horrors. Massive profiteering is built into its system. Capitalism shouts for regulation.

Surely the Growth Commission Report is capitalism neo-liberal style?         

The Report is fine as far as it goes. For some it doesn’t go far enough, but I think that’s good politics. It wasn’t supposed to be a blueprint for an ideal future economy. Nor is it a manifesto we must salute and honour. It confirms what we’ve sensed for years, we are a viable nation state even without oil.

Was it wise to appoint financier/ex-SNP Andrew Wilson to chair the Report?

Wouldn’t have made any difference if Albert Einstein was the chairman, a Scotland confident is hated. Anyhow, the brief was to look at the worst possible scenario of an autonomous Scotland faced by the economic status quo, no oil revenues on which to rely.

Ironically one of the recommendations repeats the admirable White Paper under Salmond – stick with the pound during transition time. All-in-all the Report is reassuring, even if standard neo-liberal thinking. Summed in epitome its avers Scotland is better out of the UK than dragged under with it. No Unionist will admit that universal truth.

The left and right condemn it.

That’s not true. A few media pundits and one economist, Richard Murphy, jumped in too early with sharp criticism but have since modified their disappointment.

The Fraser of Allender Institute seem gleeful.

After a while the endless pettiness and carping repels. The Report’s authors based their figures on GERS, same as the Scottish Government, though the latter knows they’re highly unreliable.  It’s a vicious circle. Try to calculate a way forward and you’re back to flaky GERS every time. Westminster, the enemy of democracy, keeps the real figures locked up. You only do that if what you’re hiding destroys your argument.

Unionists say it’s proof Scotland is a basket case.

Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Look, be realistic; the Report, any report, was destined to be flambéed by our opponents. Their entire being is to talk Scotland down, keep it submissive. They don’t want us to think, to function, to exist without British control. But take a reverse view. Their argument is based on fear of an insignificant England having no oil. England can’t function as a world power without Scotland’s oil.

Unionists say it’s about togetherness. You say oil.

Is there anything else? England doesn’t want Scotland for its kilt makers. When Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty he wanted diesel not coal fuelling his Fleet, so he stole Persia’s oil, now Iran. Persians got little in return for the rights to drill. When Persians voted in a democratic government led by a reformer the Brits staged a coup financed by the CIA, jailed the prime minister, and installed their man who became The Shah of Persia. Much to England’s annoyance the USA took the lion’s share of oil wealth. Cheated, England stole Scotland’s oil. England still needs oil for its Fleet, its aircraft, its infrastructure and its balance of payments. Nothing has changed. The price of crude is rising once again, another incentive for the UK to keep a tight grip.

You say neo-liberal economics are anti-human – some countries do well.

When imposed on countries by dictators the results have been brutal, democracy always the casualty. Chile under the murderous General Pinochet is a good example. There are lots of others. Libertarians always point to neo-liberal experiments after the purges, mass poverty and privatisation have done their worst.

The Growth Report advocates a step at a time and then adopt our own currency. My most admired politician of the 20th century is Mikhail Gorbachev, the perfect example of how one person can make the difference. His Perestroika was inspirational in dragging the Soviet Union out of the pit it had fallen into, one step at a time.

Let’s not get side-tracked into East-West relations.

England without the EU means England thrown in to the arms of Trump, beholden to the USA. The first world leader Theresa May met as prime minister was Trump, and then ingratiated herself with DUP leader Arlene Foster. She keeps terrible company.

Do we want an immoral, unethical and cruel society? While meeting EU officials Sturgeon stated the obvious, the Growth Report recommends a way forward to debate. If we want a Scottish currency tied to a Scottish public bank sooner rather than later we can decide to do it. Quite a novelty having such power in our hands instead of Whitehall, isn’t it?

Some people argue for a radical economic policy.

Independence reinstated is as radical as any nation can get. That’s the prime goal. At the Edinburgh launch of the Report chairman Andrew Wilson said if you work together over a generation on a broadly agreed strategy – (a political five years) – you can get somewhere. Shout about detail now and you don’t”.

Professor Richard Murphy’s advice takes a different tack. He says, in essence the Report is about balancing the books, not about growth at all. Now, you’d think that alleged omission might assuage the anxiety of the far-Right but as we have seen they’re volubly dismissive of a healthy economy on any level. The Report does discuss growth.

What happened to the idea of having our own currency?

The Report suggests we create our own currency later, Murphy says Day One of independence. Put succinctly Murphy’s diagnosis is:

“What should also be clear is that a Scottish currency is also essential for the creation of an effective tax policy for an independent Scotland. This is because if a country has its own currency then there is technically no limit to what a government can achieve.”

But before we grab a pen to sign his prescription and take it to the chemist he adds:

“There are, however, two  practical constraints. The first is that the government does not try to create more economic activity than the economy can deliver. The second is that they must tax sufficiently to cancel enough of the money that the government has created through its spending to ensure that its inflation targets are met.”

Okay, even Murphy has cautionary notes. Now what?

To my mind there are three ways to go:

The first is to stick with Tory austerity and a Brexit exit which is really a cloak to cover their manoeuvres to privatise everything, and reduce us to passive consumers with or without private health care insurance. The end result of that doctrine are pauper’s graves and most of our democratic rights removed, held tight by corporations.

The second is to follow the Growth Report religiously, take each day as it comes while balancing the books. That’s the steady as we go policy with lingering austerity measures that assume the electorate doesn’t return Corbyn’s militia to Holyrood or Tories ready to deliver us back into the hands of Westminster’s gross follies.

The third way is to throw caution to the wind, not to capitulate to received wisdom, be bold by announcing our own currency in an Act of Parliament, set up the infrastructure to back it, work to a deadline, and give the neo-liberal universe the finger.

What’s your choice, Mr Knowall?

My choice is the same as implied in the Report but an early date to introduce our own currency. I can say that because I’m cushioned against poverty as are the Murphy’s of this world. There are thousands out there for whom living their working lives is a state of perpetual anxiety a step away from the street. Many are the young. Only a heart of concrete, or Theresa May, would want them to suffer more than at present.

You like what the Report says, then?

You admire it. You don’t have to like it. I’m reassured in some ways. The Report is cautious. It doesn’t go to extremes. It makes no assumptions about higher growth out of our toils or innovation or oil, and has its goal set on economic fairness.

I like that it states no formal monetary union is need with the UK. Superb! I disagree about eradicating debt. No nation conducts their economy that way.

Of one thing I’m adamant: I don’t want to see the financiers of yesterday put in charge of a new economy. What a disastrous move to appoint the very same people who were responsible for the gambling casinos we called banks and watch them line their pockets. They would take control again.

I like this from the Report:

C5-49 BANK REGULATION: Banks regulated for their activities in Scotland by the SCB/SFA would be required to ring-fence their retain banking operations. [SCB – Scottish Central Bank. SFA – Scottish Financial Authority.]

So, who are our saviours?

We need the new, the young, the fresh. (I sound like the cadaver surgeon Dr Robert Knox.)  I’d look to China for economic expertise, not their dictatorial communist party, but the way Chinese micro-manage. Their economy is a wonder of the 21st century.

Finally, what about the EU and Scotland’s Remain?

Our enemies deride the EU, pretending we will trade UK control for EU control – quite an admission when you think about it. Hate EU directives? Love the UK’s shackles.

EU is not the power elite. It’s nation states consisting of people with lives to lead in safety and reasonably comfort. We should remain a member of it. We’re already among the wealthiest countries in the world – per capita our economy is as strong as France, New Zealand and Japan. Ask yourself, if countries smaller than us, with few resources do well, why are we hesitant about nationhood?

The enemies of democracy, the same doing what they can to make Greece a laboratory of neo-liberalism, who champion racism, no state pensions or unions, and imperialist wars have to be purged from society. Why would you want to allow the callous sods the right to humble us with their preposterous ideology?

The Growth Report is not dogma to be imposed. Governments plan their economy five years ahead. We have time to debate the proposals, invite experts to give advice – we can start with Richard Murphy and add Yanis Varoufakis – and make our choices. That’s called free will. That’s called independence.

You didn’t introduce me to your  readers. Why?

Because you’re me. Just the same, thank you for one of the best interviews I’ve had.486

Posted in Scottish Politics | 10 Comments

Car News: Grilles, Grilles, Grilles


Audi’s  new grille – the shark’s mouth is supposed to add aggression

Audi – the car maker whose one-time boss described it in good old Ratner fashion as a “Volkswagen in a dinner suit” and promptly lost his job for telling the truth, (Audio uses the same mechanicals but a higher grade of plastics) is about to stick an even bigger grille than at present on its saloons and SUVs.

In the Eighties so many cars looked similar – motorised jelly moulds – that designers began to worry a badge on the nose wasn’t enough to differentiate a brand one from another. The change in attitude coincided with brand awareness. Product psychologists  – yes, there is such a breed – reckoned people will pay more for a brand that appears to have a high status value, think of Louis Vuitton luggage, or Patek Philippe watches, or Mont Blanc pens.

Now, all three of those companies have a long lustrous history of producing high quality goods. They guard their reputation jealously. Some smart ass decided you can fake history and therefore quality with carefully  illustrated labels as on a bottle of cheap wine, or a pair of jeans that are no different from other jeans but have a label that says Harvey Nichols. That way you can charge three times the cost to produce them, or more. Making your car’s grille bigger than all other marques is one way of achieving a similar result – appeal to the consumer’s vanity and need for social status.

In designer parlance the front end of a car is categorised as ‘down road graphics’; the more distinctive you can make grille and lights the quicker it will be recognised at a distance … down the road.


Instantly recognisable grille of the Rolls-Royce, now subtler than in the past

Back in the day the entire car’s shape made it standout. Most Jaguars had that  visual quality, the XK120 and 140, and of course the famous E-Type. Volkswagen had it with the Beetle. The VW didn’t need a grille for radiator cooling. It’s engine was in the back.

Some manufacturers particularly the Japanese struggled to find an identity outside offering cheap cars that included lots of extras. They didn’t cotton on to the benefit of a strong and consistent grille shape for a long time. Toyota, for example, had a variety of grille styles dependent on the model. In recent years the company has reshaped its badge to make it bigger and brighter, as has Mercedes Benz whose badge has surely reached epic proportions. I expect the next to be neon-lit, all singing and dancing.

With the advent of LED lights the constraint on headlight shape to enclose a light bulb and reflector cup has all but disappeared. Designers are freed to create all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes. More and more manufacturers are shifting to slits rather than circles. For a while car identity rested on headlight and sidelight design, but today they tend to be an adjunct to the grille.

The best known grille in automotive history is Roll’s-Royce’s Gates of Kiev grille, now whittled down to a more reasonable size in keeping with their fashion for low saloons just as long and heavy as before. After that there’s the unmistakeable double grille of BMW’s kidney-shape, something BMW designers are allowed to change in proportion but no more than that.


The ludicrous grille of a Lexus

The search for ever more in-yer-face chrome covered plastic has brought Lexus to a preposterous  stage where its grille has all the hallmarks of an iron snow plough on a locomotive. There’s no way you can look at it and think it elegant and restraint. It’s an abomination. Like the off-centre registration plate on an Alfa Romeo that destroys symmetry while paying homage to the marque’s racing history, a grille as clunky as the Lexus is an affront to good taste.

All this search for the biggest, fattest, puffed up grille in the world is in vain. Soon as electric cars are commonplace designers are in a quandary. Electric cars need no grille, well, other than for interior and battery systems, but then a grille can be minimal. They will have to go back to the drawing board. How in hell can they make their cars looks highly individual, a mark above the other brands, without a grille? I predict badges will get bigger and glow at night.


Diesel woes

European commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska has branded diesel cars “the technology of the past”, and has predicted that they will “completely disappear” in the near future. Bienkowska said that the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal has caused public sentiment to shift towards cleaner cars and a greater awareness of emissions. “People have realised that we will never have completely clean, without NOx, diesel cars,” she states. She has a point. Manufacturers such as Volvo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have laid out plans to abandon diesel power and governments everywhere stick a deadline on its demise.

Armed and alarmed

A decade after it “revolutionised” the motorcycle security scene, AutoTrac is taking on the classic car market with their tracking device starting from £299. “Boasting high-level Thatcham Category 6 and Category 7 ratings, the device utilises GPS, GPRS and RF functions: this means both the Police and the AutoTrac monitoring team [which never sleeps or has a day off, says the firm] can very precisely locate a vehicle that’s been stolen.] “An owner can see their vehicle’s location real-time on desktop or app, monitor battery voltage, view recent journeys and even download and share routes.

Chrysler Recall

If you own a Chrysler Jeep or Wrangler here in the UK, built between 2014-2018, the company’s US recall might apply to your vehicle. In total Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million over a defect that could prevent drivers from turning off cruise control. It warns owners not to use the function until they get software upgrades. Drivers can stop their car by putting on the brakes or by shifting into neutral gear and braking. Terrific.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments