Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Oh power of Scotland

Now that the White Paper on the Scottish Independence has been published I thought it was time to post a few thoughts of my own.

My instincts on the independence question pull me in two very different directions.  On one hand, I passionately believe that each level of government should only perform those tasks that cannot be carried out at a more local level.  As a result I want to see devolution go much further, especially in terms of more of the money we spent in Scotland being raised here.  However, it has been one of the more disappointing failures of the Scottish Parliament that so little progress has been made in decentralising power within Scotland.  I see no reason to believe an independent Scotland would perform any better and it is easy to see how independence would accelerate the centralising tendencies that already exist. 

On the other hand some of the biggest challenges that face us require a much more coherent international response. To me, in different ways, climate change, the banking crisis and Syria all show us that the traditional nation state is ill equipped to take the action which is needed.  Surely a new nation state will only serve to make this international cooperation more difficult?  However, progressive some sections of the nationalist movement are I will take a lot of convincing nationalism and internationalism can be comfortable bedfellows.

In short, I'm in favour of a fundamental reduction in the centralised power of the nation state with much more power being devolved locally.  However, that must go hand in hand with a dramatic increase in international cooperation.  I fear that a Scottish state would still be too large to respond properly to local priorities but too small to influence international affairs in the way that the UK can.  So while, my views on how power should be redistributed pull me in different directions both directions lead me away from Scottish Independence.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

What road wars?

By trusty bicycle is my main mode of transport these days.  I've got so used to being able to run round town not worrying about parking that I'm not sure what I'd do without it.

On my bike
There has been a fair bit in the media in recent months about the supposed road war between cyclists and drivers. Despite this my own experience of cycling in Edinburgh is pretty good - especially the care taken by Lothian Bus drivers on Leith Walk.  That isn't to say that their aren't times when I feel in danger on my bike.  However, this is very rarely the result of aggressive driving.

I was moved to blog about this today by the exceptional understanding of two drivers in the New Town.  The first was waiting next to me at a t-junction when I carelessly let my handlebars knock against his wing mirror.  It was entirely my fault but fortunately there was no damage at all. However, I was instantly afraid that I'd get an angry response. To my surprise I got a big smile and a pleasant chat assuring me not to worry about it.  Less than five minutes later a second driver who was stuck in nose to tail traffic left me an enormous gap to turn right into.

These may seem like small things but when it is dark and cold they go along way.  I for one am very grateful for those generous spirited drivers who make cycling in Edinburgh that bit safer and more pleasant.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

No biomass plant in Leith

Like many other people living in Leith I'm delighted that the biomass plans have been withdrawn. The plant would have threaterned the huge progress Leith has made in recent years and especially its future as a leisure and residential centre.

When it comes right down to it the proposed plant was just too big. Notwithstanding the debate over how sustainable biomass is there seems little doubt that it still has a role to play in Scotland's energy mix. No form of energy production is consequence free. Substations, plyons and the concrete involved in construction mean that even the most sustainable generation has an impact on the environment and the communities living nearby. This is one of the reasons energy conservation is so important. Smaller scale schemes are clearly much more appealing so why are the proposed schemes usually so large?

The truth of the matter is that larger scheme are more potentially profitable. The energy companies behind most schemes have a responsibility to their shareholders to invest their resources effectively. Developing new generation capacity is expensive and risky so we shouldn't be surprised that the schemes that come forward reflect that. That is why the Green Investment Bank being delivered by Lib Dems in Government is so important. Only when schemes can attract capital partly as a result of their sustainablity will small scale generation start to achieve the investment levels it needs.