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High Road or Low Road: Where is the Scottish Economy Going?

As a think-tank economist warns Scotland will be ‘third-world’ by 2030, it’s timely to ponder financial assets with independence remaining contentious. As visitors leave Edinburgh after another International Festival, Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said in less than 20 years ‘low living standards and slow economy’ would reduce Scotland to ‘merely a third-world tourist destination’. Scot McWilliams founded the Centre (Cebr) in 1993 to provide independent forecasts and analysis to private, public and third sector organisations. It specialises in ‘making business sense of economic data’ so clients understand their markets. For 2011 they predicted yet another Euro crisis, slower growth, retirement at 75 in Japan and banks lending again. McWilliams’ August 2011 comments arose from data suggesting Scotland ‘lacks entrepreneurship, mis-spends money and suffers … Read entire article »

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Monetising the Web: the New Business Generation’s Holy Grail

  Two linked debates about the internet in 2011 are open and equal access, and how to monetise or charge for content successfully without restricting access. September 2011, the UK’s Guardian is offering a one day course in London, Monitising Digital Content, aimed at small and medium businesses, marketeers and organisations. A website is a brand, as they say, ‘a customer service centre, retail outlet and community.’ Many businesses make money online, but maximising it is the magic ingredient of commercial success in this part of the century. The Guardian set out key online revenue streams: advertising, paid-for content and e-commerce. Sessions revolve around those keys: How and why do customers buy? Which revenue stream is right for a given business? How to market successfully from own and others’ content? Affiliate … Read entire article »

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The British Policing Poisoned-Chalice Debate Begins

Traditional bobby-on-the-beat policing died years ago under a tide of social engineering. Now, who’d be a cop? Is it a job few will now touch for any money? The ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ (1950s TV police series) style of consensual policing, with jovial, kindly and trustworthy walking coppers keeping everyone safe, vanished long before August 2011’s riots. Some think problems began when the police ‘force’ became the police ‘service’. News on just one day (21 August) from one national newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) illustrates the problems faced by those policing contemporary Britain, the policed and the taxpayers paying for it. All Bad News Stories The paper reported the search for the new chief of the Metropolitan police as ‘in chaos’: government officials persuading officers to apply. The deadline was put back so … Read entire article »

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The Gruesome Appeal of Executions and Executioners in the Arts

Many popular books, films, songs and poetry have been inspired by people who (officially) take the lives of others, and the manner of their departures. Shakespeare once said that nothing became a particular man in his life, except the leaving of it. Three hundred years ago, the public flocked to watch the entertainment of executions. Broadsheets of last words or narrative songs were best-sellers; souvenirs. So, artistic use of executions and executioners has been around for a long time. Modern executioners’ hoods are for sale, for people who want to imagine or play games. Execution is the corollary of discussion over the merits or otherwise of the death penalty. How is it done? Public or private? Descriptions like ‘state-sanctioned murder’, ‘system sponsored killing’, or ‘offing the inconvenient’ convey strong feelings. Public desire for … Read entire article »

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Zero Tolerance in Britain: Right Time for an American Solution?

As the British public demand action after the August Riots, is a one-size-fits-all idea from the USA the answer, or will it stoke future flames? Indelible spray-dyeing, water cannon, closing social networks are hotly debated in the wake of England’s costly August 2011 riots, that led to almost 3000 arrests. Zero tolerance is now added to the arsenal of ideas. Free Dictionary defines Zero Tolerance as the policy of applying ‘laws or penalties to minor code infringements in order to reinforce its overall importance and enhance deterrence’. Starting in 1980s’ USA as the ‘War on Drugs’, it was action against drugs and weapons. Most US school districts employ zero tolerance extending to hate-speech, harassment, fighting, bullying and dress codes, supporters arguing it promotes safety/well-being of children and young people and sends a powerful … Read entire article »

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The British Stand-Up Is Today’s Fashionable, Must-Have Performer

  Alternative comedy is now mainstream centre stage, comedians are celebrities, humour is a popular leisure pursuit. Edinburgh is part of the explanation. UK media is full of comics, people who’ve made it working a comedy crowd, arguably the hardest school of performance art. Successfully being funny on stage and screen seems to be sufficient to travel overseas being filmed in unusual/difficult/troubled places. There are more comedy clubs, comedy on television, comedians making TV ads: it has definitely gone respectable. They host game shows (Alexander Armstrong: Pointless; Michael McIntyre: Britain’s Got Talent). Up-and-coming comedians, like Sarah Millican, appear on numerous shows, too (The One Show, The Marriage Ref). But are today’s practitioners funny? Veteran comedy legend Ken Dodd told TV Times (August 2011) after 57 years of professional performing, he found modern comedy ‘aggressive … Read entire article »

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Recall of Parliament Is Action Being Seen to be Done

Reflecting public fear about rampaging criminality, a one day recall of Parliament can only be a start in debating what action is needed next in Britain. Governments do not bring back holidaying Members from frequently far-flung corners of the world, lightly. Account has to be taken of maintenance work scheduled for the recesses across the Palace of Westminster. The recess working programmes of staff are disrupted at a cost, as are pre-booked tours. However, there are times when to do otherwise is to risk political scorn, and allow crises to deepen. People need to feel that their Parliamentary institution is taking matters seriously, and since 1948 it has been recalled 24 times. August 2011 is clearly another such occasion. By the way, ‘recall’ should not be confused with voters having the … Read entire article »

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Bringing Common Sense to the Common Fisheries Policy

A campaign to change failed rules which control deep-sea fishing is a study in the power of television, celebrity and natural justice. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef, writer, broadcaster and campaigner, is a contemporary ‘celebrity’. He has built a reputation for seasonal, ethically produced food. His River Cottage TV series and recipe books won awards, and he’s Patron of the National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association. In the 2000s he became angry about the vagaries of the effects of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), whereby tons of perfectly good fish were being thrown overboard, because it was illegal to land them. The loss of quality food and environmental damage done to the seabed was an affront to common sense. The Regulatory Imperative Labour politician Nye Bevan described Britain as ‘an island of coal … Read entire article »

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Reading ‘The Riot Act’ May Not Be Enough to Quell the Flames

    The August 2011 riots in London and other cities, have led to calls for troops, curfews, banning social media and a new Riot Act. To ‘read someone The Riot Act’ has come to mean an authoritative scolding to overcome troublesome children, youths or adults. Three hundred years ago, as BBC Radio 4 pointed out only days before the Summer 2011 riots took hold in Britain, it meant a far more serious consequence. Hanging was the punishment for insurrection. The Riot Act was a law that came into force in August 1715 which permitted local authorities to declare a group of twelve or more persons ‘unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled’ and order them to disperse or face punishment. The full title was: ‘An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and … Read entire article »

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Two and Two Make Sex

Southwold Summer Theatre Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 8 August 2012 The time for a good barmy sex shenanigans romp has arrived at the Southwold Summer Theatre season. This piece by Richard Harris and Leslie Darbon takes on the hilarious if predictable confusions and comic madnesses of the farce genre and mixes them with liberal doses of homespun psychology – ‘psychiatrists have their problems too.’ It’s all a form of commentary on our oldest institution – ‘marriage is like a bath, the longer you lie in it, the colder it gets!’ Michael Shaw plays the flustered middle-aged man suffering loss of libido, Rosanna Miles his would-be lover looking for a father-replacement figure and Ann Wenn his wife who decides that two can play silly games. Iain Ridley is the clever-dick pseudo psychiatrist who bites … Read entire article »

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