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.

Waiting for a satisfaction that never comes……

I have pondered this one on and off for years, the in-built need that we have as a species for MORE.

I think it is a basic human desire to have possessions and things. A kind of accumulation of STUFF throughout life so that we can keep up with the Jones’ (originally the caveman next door?), or maybe even be the Jones’ that people are keeping up with, and then there is the thing about having STUFF for people to remember us by when we are dead and gone. STUFF = immortal memory?

I think that the socialist idea does not work for human beings, well not in the ways it has been practised so far. We just have to look at the golden taps of the Kremlin, the Romanian palaces of Ceaucescu and who knows how they live in Beijing, but it will not be in the slums that some Chinese live in. Looking further into China you now see millionaire sprouting up; surely against the socialist ideal?

So I think that kind of proves that we are a STUFF orientated species. We cannot all be equal, we want MORE STUFF than the person next to us.

Then is this the question? What does MORE actually get us or give to us?

Well sure getting STUFF gives us a high. Why do we get a ‘buzz’ out of going shopping? I actually dislike shopping, I have once or twice said I hate shopping, but that is not true. I dislike it. I dislike shopping for myself more than anything. I can handle, at a push shopping for others or going shopping and watching others. However in general I dislike the whole thing. As a child I was known as a spendthrift, a kid who didn’t really like parting with his cash on STUFF. As an adult I am pretty much the same, but that does not mean I am loaded! Far from it!

I procrastinate about spending money and I wonder why. I have had a fridge and a freezer picked out for 6 months months, yet I still have not bought them. Winter sales have gone when I could have got them cheap, but I didn’t. Why not? Well cause I have a fridge and a freezer and whilst they may be 12 years old, they do the job. They are not that energy efficient, for sure, but they keep things cold and fresh… most of the time.

I had the same thing with the TV, it was 5 years younger than me when I got rid of it (last year and I am in my early 30s). Why did I give it the push, well it broke. Even then I just got a new standard TV, no whizzing TFT/plasma 40 incher. Just a wee standard TV. In most ways I don’t think I want MORE STUFF, but I don’t think I am tight. When I do need to spend money I look for the best for the value and sometimes I do go with the heart rather than the head. A Div-X DVD recorder cause I got a new digi-box. I could have just kept the VCR.

I wear clothes until they are well and truly done and even then I sometimes get told that things are looking old and tatty long before I think they are.

Where is all this going? Well I think we shop, we buy, we consume for some need for satisfaction and completion. Some hidden human compulsion. We want MORE because we think it is going to make us better. Better people, better family, better friends, better lovers, better neighbours. We want MORE because we think it is going to make us happier. Happier people, happier families, happier friends, happier lovers, happier neighbours.

In short we want MORE because we think it is going to satisfy us. It is going to help us match the much vaulted celebrity lifestyle that is rolled out by the tabloids and gloss magazines; that is peddled by the advertisers and politicians. This is relatively new creation of western society, go back 20 years and we were not so object orientated and we were careful with STUFF.

Has illusionary wealth, STUFF bought on ever expanding credit lines, changed us that much and made us believe we can be satisfied by all this STUFF?

I don’t think it does though. I think very few of us ever become truly satisfied (I am not) and those that do, they are the people who either don’t have STUFF and have never got into the cycle of STUFF, or those really don’t care about it, or the image that the lack of STUFF, or MORE STUFF, says about them.

So where does consumerism and MORE STUFF get us? I am not sure about the answer to that, it is one I think I have to explore. You can bet that it is probably an environmentalists nightmare as resources get gobbled up for the next fashion and the production of MORE STUFF. Please don’t think I am some green activist I do buy some STUFF and think that there is a need for some of the STUFF……

This is really just to put down some of my thoughts, so I can mull them through for the next stage. :oD

The failing of the strength of the family

I have always thought of my family as a strong “thing”. Strong bonds between brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, however last night, after a conversation with my sister, I see that the strength of being a family is not really there any more.

I don’t if this is just an evolution of families, as we get older and set up families of our own, we drift apart and the old bonds are replaced by new ones within the new family. Perhaps that is the change that the latter half of the 20th century has brought to families, I can certainly remember a stronger family unit when I was growing up; grandparent and aunts & uncles were always around and helping out and listening. Now I think that the idea of the family has failled and has not changed to preserve itself.

Perhaps it is symptomatic of what I think I have witnessed in the sense of community; I feel that for most that has got lost and we do not feel very much about the people we live near or work with. We don’t care enough to go and vote and determine who runs our communities. Are people disengaging from each other for a reason? Do we have enough common bonds left to bring ourselves back together as a community?

I really don’t know and even if I did I wouldn’t know where it should start from.

I sometimes laugh when I hear politicians and religious leaders speak of “putting the family back at the heart of our community“. Are they taking about the 1940’s idea of family or have they really looked at the ‘state’ of the idea of the family and have new ideas to re-build it? I seriously think it is the former and that is where what they are saying disengages people from their out-dated ideas.

If people are serious about supporting the family and re-creating the sense of community and family, they have to re-define their concepts to fit what is left of the family model and support it into the 21st centuary.

As to what I thinkis left of the family, well I am not sure. In the world that is the “west” today we have so much information at our finger-tips that we do not need to go to the old sources of information and advice to find out and learn. In this western world we now have increasingly large disposable incomes which frees up from the support that the 1940s family used to provide for itself. So in essence we THINK we know more than our elders and siblings and earn enough to break free from them.

Maybe I am wrong, but today, that is how I see it. Famiy is used when we need something we cannot get ourselves, and instances of that are getting less and less……

Energy…. it is all looking pretty dim

I have hugely growing concerns on the subject of energy; the type of stuff that keeps our lights on, homes warm and business in action, and how the UK seems to be getting more and more screwed up position.

Over the past 18 months all the major utility companies (gas and electric) have hiked up their prices, some up to an amazing 24%, on the back of what they claim are higher costs to import fuel from the continent as North Sea gas supplies dwindle.


However, across the general populace there seems to be little outcry at these hikes or the precarious situation that we appear to be in. Fuel poverty is talked about, but little seems to be done (other than being told… change supplier but watch out for the penalty charges!)

So have we all become rather apothetic to this issue facing us all? Have we all become more energy hungry without being more energy conscious? Do you have energy saving light bulbs? Do you swtich off your TV or leave it on stand-by? How thick is the insulation in your roof (and how thick should it be)?

I think we are being more and more dumb to this and many more issues. All we seem to care about is whether we can afford that car, the new house, those shoes and that holiday……

The debate