Wee Magic Stane

The Stone of Destiny movie is out now and I am really looking forward to seeing it. From my primary school years i can remember the below poem by John McEvoy.

Wee Magic Stane
O the Dean of Westminster wis a powerful man,
He held all the strings of State in his hand,
But with all this great business it flustered him nane,
Till some rogues ran away wi’ his wee magic stane.
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

Noo the Stane had great pow’rs that could dae such a thing
And withoot it, it seemed, we’d be wantin’ a King,
So he called in the Polis and gave this decree–
“Go an hunt oot the Stane and return it tae me.”
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

So the Polis went beetlin up tae the North,
They huntit the Clyde and they huntit the Forth,
But the wild folk up yonder just Kiddit them a’,
For they didnae believe it wis magic at a’,
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

Noo the Provost o’ Glesga, Sir Victor by name,
Wis awfy pit oot when he heard o the Stane,
So he offered the statues that staun in the Square,
That the High Churches’ Masons might mak a few mair.
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

Whan the Dean o’ Westminster wi’ this wis acquaint,
He sent for Sir Victor and made him a Saint,
“Now it’s no use you sending your Statues down heah,”
Said the Dean, “But you’ve giv’n me a right good idea,”
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

So he quarried a Stane o’the very same stuff,
And he dressed it a’ up till it looked like enough,
Then he sent for the Press and announced that the Stane,
Had been found and returned to Westminster again.
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

Whan the reivers found oot what Westminster had done,
They went aboot diggin up Stanes by the ton,
And fur each wan they finished they entered a claim,
That this wis the true and original Stane.
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

Noo the cream o the joke still remains to be telt,
For the bloke that wis turnin them aff on the belt,
At the peak o production wis so sorely pressed,
That the real yin got bunged in alang wi the rest.
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

So if ever you come on a Stane wi’ a ring,
Jist sit yersel doon and proclaim yersel King,
Fur there’s nane wud be able to challege yir claim,
That you’d croont yersel King on the Destiny Stane.
With a too ra li oor ra’ li oor a li ay.

Tax… need this be taxing?

A week after the Scottish elections we are no further forward to a government (just as well Westminster is looking after us! Even if they are all pre-occupied with Tony going). There have been spats over the Presiding Officer, no-one wants to give up a seat in such a close situation, and then the parties have all been pulling back from any kind of coalition. So it looks like Alex is going on his tod, with the occasional help from the couple of greens.

What this brings into play is the fact that it is going to be difficult for any government to be progressive with their own agenda. This is going to come to the fore with the promised SNP local tax changes.

Whilst I know there are issues with the Council Tax, I must say that I am 100% against a local income tax, and that affected my voting patterns at the election.

I would hope that the SNP now see that almost half of the country (those voting Labour or Tory) were voting for parties that were not going to introduce this local tax and, upon reading further into the SNP proposals, leave a hole in the local authorities purses. This hole is almost 1/5th of the combined local authories budget. So I think it is fair to say that 3% is not very realistic.

I would like to think that easier, less expensive changes can be made to the Council Tax.

  1. More bands, I prescribe to the line of thought that says if you can buy a £1 million house then you can afford to pay more Council Tax. The same goes with cars and road tax; more expensive, uneconomical cars….. if you have got one you can pay more road tax.
  2. Pensioners should just pay a nationally set flat rate, these people have spent a life time supporting the country and the ‘system’. So they should all get equal benefit. This would remove the postcode lottery of services versus tax levels.
  3. Discounts. Better publicised discounts. Let people know what they are entitled to and tell them how to get it!

These tweaks to a system that works will be cheaper that wrestling with councils over a nationally set level, the tax man on how this will be collected and managed (esp if we are going for independence!) and the potential brain drain of well paid families who will loose out considerably on a local tax solution.

Oh Scotland……

What must the rest of the UK, probably Europe and maybe even ex-pats in the ‘colonies’ be thinking.

Scots canny even read how to vote!

The aftermath of the Scottish Parliamentary and Local Council elections have made a mockery of the population! The voting syste, while different on the two ballot papers, was easy if you read the instructions on the paper and on the polling booth. Why are there up to 100,000 votes that are not being counted because the intention of the voter could not be established.

I suspect over the next few days we will be awash with stories over the electronic system, but in essence it did the job, all these discounted votes were view by people if the system couldn’t make out the intention. We will also hear that the two votes should not have been held on the same day. That would have simply lead to an even more dismal turn out for the council election!

It defies me why people can’t read the instructions. There was enough publicity about the changes, even if people didn’t know the exact detail they should have known there was a change and to read properly.

I suppose, in a way, it harks back to that old test example. The test is handed out and everyone is told to read all the questions through before starting. How many people charge on ahead, answer everything until they get to the last question that say only answer question 1?

Anyway, we are where we are, with a population needing some damn good education reforms to in-still some intelligence, maybe better NHS glasses to read the next ballot paper with and definitely not independence!

Education Education Education – Scottish Election 2007

So much of this election has been focusing on a very large topic, the potential for Scottish Independence. I am not for independence, I am for more national identity, I am for the Scottish Parliament and devolution.

I think there are greater issues in this election and more fundamental and direct impacts to the Scottish people.

Education is a big thing in my head. It is as much a cultural issue as much as a provision of the services and it is not only about nursery, school and university.

Education is an issue about engaging people with subject and not forcing them down predefined routes. Not everyone is academically orientated, I wasn’t I really struggled with study, so we have to find ways to teach people to learn first rather than getting them to learn from the word go! There should also be options for both following the bog standard high school path. Yes, everyone does need a command of the English language and maths, but we do not all need to know Shakespeare or integration and differentiation! We should all have access to it and it should be explained what it can do for us if we do study it, but at the same time everyone should have the access to basics like letter writing, reading, budgeting and working out what the APR of a loan or credit card means to them!

Education should start early. Every child should have a nursery place at 3, yet publicly funded educational crèches should be available and encouraged. We cannot underestimate how much we “set ourselves” in those first few critical years of life, yet education (free as much as possible) should be available throughout out our whole lives.

I do feel that at 16/17/18 it is far to early to make life determining decisions on what career path we wish to take. At those ages we should be given the opportunities to go an explore various options that us.

Six month opportunities; four over 2 years; paid.

These should have a proper structure to them to provide a good insight to a profession and it should be mandatory for firms to provide places; worked out on employee base, industry and skill sets. Obviously there would not be a placement as a surgeon, but a medical themed placement may encourage future nurses and doctors. Class room assistants may well do the same for teachers.

However there will be people who know what they want and can go straight in to Further or Higher Education. This should be funded for all, irrespective of when you go and should get 1.5 attempts, therefore you can complete a qualification and them, as people do, go back and retrain in later life and only have to pay, at most, half the cost of the second qualification.

The current student debt compared to Scottish graduate income needs to be addressed.

We also have to look at the cultural issues of education. In may areas doing well at school is seen as something of the ‘higher social classes’. Kids doing well at school are seen as geeks, swots and snobs. These attitudes are not just from the other kids but from their parents and their cultural background. I am no sociologist but we need to look at these factors and realise that one size education doesn’t fit all.

Language is another growing issue within the UK as a whole. Most EU countries have a population with growing proficiency in at least one other language. In the UK we do not now have a mandatory language class. Why not? Well I think it is taught wrong and has failed. We need to introduce language as ‘fun and interesting’ thing to learn. A 6 month conversational french/german/spanish course to whet the appetite of those wanting more, but still to give those not wanting more a basic level. No writing or complicated structure. Make it easier and include a school trip at the end to the country! Again the education system has to pick up most of the tab for this.

We need an education structure that delivers the best it can for Scotland, not just the best it can for those who can afford it.

This education structure should not discriminate of any grounds, least of all age! We need to encourage life long learning. More adult learning centres, within schools and without.

More practical skills along with the academic.

More availability for after hours activities for those at schools, including later evening thing that are fun. Chess clubs may suit the minority, but car mechanics, cycling and running clubs, book clubs all need to be available and free. We need to engage students from schools, ALL students, and see what they would be interested in doing in the evenings. Youth clubs with pool halls…..

What I am saying is that “An Education Act to bring in sweeping changes to the current system.” : “Make Scotland’s education ‘the best in the world by 2020’.” : “Open 250 new and refurbished schools and bring in 1,000 new teachers to cut class sizes.” all say good things, but are the treating a local symptom of the malaise that is covering Scottish education, or are they really looking at route causes and effects of the illness of the system and the subsequent issues that it leaves on Scottish society.

Scotland in Sight

See Scotland in Focus

The above story is great news! I do feel that our ‘basic senses’ should be protected by this unique, often maligned but much lauded , National Health Service and that sight has been one that for some reason the government of the 80’s and the 90’s decuded to farm out to the private sector to make some ‘health cash’ on.

This, I feel, is a great example of how the devolved administration of the UK can make a difference to the people they serve, you wouldn’t expect to have to pay for a hearing test, so why for a sight test??

Excellent news for Scotland, now lets just hope it is resourced enough to cope!