Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Boo!  Boo!  Boo! to Horsecross.   

rotten tomatoes for Horsecross

Rotten Tomatoes for Horsecross

Horsecross which runs Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre has just introduced booking fees after being booking fee free since it opened – apart from touring shows which imposed their own booking fees.

Booking fees are a rip-off tax on the arts, and Horsecross is charging 50p a ticket.    So I have just bought 12 tickets in one transaction for several events which comes to around £180, and I now have to pay an extra £6 “arts tax”.    

It does not cost £6 to process £180.

The lunacy is that if I buy 12 tickets for the same event the booking fee is waived on tickets 11 and 12.    That’s real Alice in Wonderland logic for you, as is the waiving of the booking fee if you turn up in person and pay in cash.

If I go into a supermarket, I don’t have to pay extra for the shop to process my transaction.    Horsecross should be no different.   There are plenty of arts organisations that don’t charge booking fees, and Horsecross should be one of them.

Consider this post a generous dose of virtual rotten tomatoes.

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With the press and media so preoccupied with snow stories, and whether Gordon Brown will be ousted from No 10 ahead of a general election, the small stories struggle for space.

But today there is a small story which really matters:    The Festival of British Youth Orchestras which has taken place in Edinburgh and Glasgow for the last 30 summers does not have funding to continue.     Every August, some 2000 musicians from across the UK flock to Scotland with their groups to perform grown-up concerts in front of critical audiences.      Many professional musicians started here, perhaps playing their first concerto.

It will be a very very sad day for schools music if this is allowed to go under.    Surely we need to nurture our young talent, not limit opportunities?      It is a paradox when funders are falling over themselves to support the several el sistema initiatives which are being run in the UK, including the wonderful Big Noise in Stirling, that our Youth Orchestras are being left high and dry.

Perth Youth Orchestra has performed every year since the festival started, and the Glasgow and Edinburgh concerts are a big highlight of the year for our local young musicians.      There will be a big hole and a lot of disappointment this summer.

Perth Youth Orchestra

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What a total nightmare.    The proposed Glasgow Airport Rail Link GARL is a casualty of the Scottish Govermnent’s budget, and will now apparently not be happening.

Glasgow Council are furious, and I am sure that the Commonwealth Games people will also be very unhappy – although they probably can’t say too much as they are due to receive funding from the Government to put the games on.      But GARL was a carrot used in the bid for the Games.

Why can’t Scotland manage to link its airports (Prestwick excepted) with the major cities?      Other countries seem to be able to do this.

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homecoming_2009Homecoming 2009 is an initiative to encourage people with Scottish connections living abroad to visit the old country in 2009.   It is to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth, and there are 200 events running from Burns Night through to St Andrews Day.   It is costing the taxpayer dearly, yet we are hopeful of a return – difficult in a year of worldwide economic turmoil.

So on Friday, the promotional video was unveiled.      Various Scottish celebs sing a line of Dougie McLean’s song Caledonia in front of iconic scenery.     The idea is imagination on auto-pilot.   I have to say that it is appalling.   Most of the performers look very uncomfortable, and Sean Connery only manages to speak his line.    It is badly shot with poor sound.

Surely we can do better than this.   We badly need to.    There is a lot at stake.

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The loss of normal Newsnight last night, and the complete absence of anything relevant to Scotland in the entire The World at One program on Radio 4 yesterday lunchtime has got me thinking about the news in Scotland.

The Times newspaper in Scotland has dedicated coverage to Scotland, with pages that the rest of the UK simply don’t see.    Yet this regional coverage is not available on their website, while the UK stuff is.    And of course, there will be other stories which Scotland does not get because there has to be room for the Scottish pages.

It has all become a bit messy.    I like a UK, and indeed a worldwide perspective on things, yet like to know what is happening in Scotland too.     I would like to think that those living outside Scotland would be intested in what is going on in Scotland.     Perhaps there is a bit of ‘having ones cake and eating it’ about this, but it needs sorting out, and I am not sure whether a ‘Scottish 6’ (campaign for a Scottish 6 o’clock news) will improve things.    Probably not – we already have Reporting Scotland on the BBC which does OK, and the early evening mix of national news at 6 and regional to follow works as it is.

I like Newsnight, and I tolerate Newsnight Scotland – tolerate, because the program is too rushed, the technical presentation is typical BBC Scotland (not as good as it should be) and the presenters don’t exactly set the heather alight.    I also resent being deprived of the last Newsnight story every night.

 The BBC were taken to task recently for not covering important regional stories in the National News.    I agree with this, and the organisation will have to get smarter about how it handles stories from around the UK.

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I have just turned on the TV tonight hoping to see Newsnight, but instead there is a program interviewing the main candidates for the Glasgow East by-election.    They have spent all the normal Newsnight time doing this, and now are in over-run time interviewing the minority candidates ‘in the interest of fairness’.    I can’t say I have been very impressed by any of the candidates, major or minor, and for my money the Lib Dem performed best on this program.   

Newsnight Scotland has been featuring the Glasgow East by-election nightly for the past while.   I know that this is an interesting by-election, but this coverage is overkill.

I want BBC2 Newsnight back please.   There is a lot going on in the world beyond Glasgow East.   And it is now midnight and I can’t even see tonight’s Newsnight on BBC i-player yet, which makes it missable on the day of transmission, which kind of misses the point after all.

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Lisbon Treaty

At least the Irish were given the choice, although, Zimbabwe style, they may get another vote to come up with the ‘correct’ answer next time.

In the UK, we have no choice – Gordon Brown and his chums have railroaded this through parliament and approved it on our behalf.      It is an undemocratic disgrace.      We should have been given the chance to choose.

NO means NO.   What part of that do the eurocrats have a problem with?

Don’t know if these things do any good, but if feel hard done by, you have until 22nd June to sign this petition:   http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Abandon-Lisbon/ 

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We have become used to CCTV cameras everywhere these days, even although we may not be too happy about them.    Our mobile phone logs into the nearest base station every so many minutes, effectively tracking its location.    As we drive along roads, number plate recognition is used to monitor traffic flows, but increasingly to track criminals.    Our supermarket knows exactly what we buy.    How we choose to live our lives is becoming more and more in the public domain.

But now the government in its Communications Data Bill is proposing that ISPs have available all of our e-mails for the past 12 months as well as how much time we spend online and a record of where we go when online.   

This is really a step too far.    It is exactly equivalent to the government asking the Royal Mail to open, photograph and have available for examination, every piece of mail we receive (or send too).    There should be a massive fuss about this.

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We have a community owned woodland walk in our village.    It is a pleasant and much used circular walk with a stream running through it.     Members of our community give up their time freely to maintain and enhance this space.

We had an in-service training day this week – a day where school pupils do not go to school, but their teachers do.     This leaves children with a free day on their hands, and a day where supervision by parents may be stretched due to work commitments.

So a group of these free-ranging kids got hold of some extra strength bleach – the really heavy duty stuff, and went down to the community walk.   They poured this concentrated chemical over bridge handrails, on the ground and over a memorial stone.    This was simple premeditated badness.

Our walk is used by walkers, by children and by dogs.    Imagine a young child holding onto a handrail and then putting their hand to their mouth – as children do.     Imagine dogs walking through concentrated bleach and then trying to clean their paws.    Imagine the bleach falling off the bridges into the stream and killing the fish.

We called the police and tried to keep walkers away meantime.    We gave up waiting for the police after an hour and a half, and it was dark.    A car might have taken a turn round the car park later on – but that is all that it was.     And we have heard nothing more.    The police clearly are not interested, which is appalling.    We obviously have wait until we have a child with blisters down her throat requiring hospital treatment before anything gets done.

As a farmer, I have to monitor and record all my chemical use.   There are very strict rules about the distance between spraying activity and watercourses.    I have to record and have available for inspection the minute detail of all spraying activity.   We are talking about dilute chemical here.     If I pollute a waterway, I will (rightly) be taken to court.    And, yes, I have had a randomised snap inspection by the authorities.

But it seems that if children pollute a waterway with concentrated chemical, then nobody cares, including the police.    The children in question should be found;   the people who are supposed to looking after them should be hanging their heads in shame.    It is similar to the situation where children set fire to a healthy beech tree last summer.



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Ineos, the people who run the large oil refinery at Grangemouth are in a dispute with the Unite union over pension rights.    The Union have called a two day strike next week, but the problem is (so the employer says) that you can’t just turn a refinery off for two days – it takes a week to close and more time to open again.    Ineos say that Scotland could have no fuel next week and shortages for a whole month – because of the two day strike.

I realise that there is some ‘positioning’ going on here, but yesterday’s headlines said ‘Don’t Panic’.   This predictably produced queues of motorists at forecourts, as pictured in today’s papers.    I expect that tomorrow we shall see a picture of a forecourt with a ‘no petrol’ sign.    It has been irresponsible behaviour from the parties involved and the Press in particular.

You see, even with Grangemouth closed for a month, there is enough fuel to go round.     We have 70 days stock.    Grangemouth produces 10% of the UK’s fuel, and with early mobilisation and transport arrangements of fuel from elsewhere, it should be possible to maintain fuel supplies.     It is a message that the Government needs to publically support.

During the last fuel protests, as we watched the supermarket shelves thin, and as we began to drive everywhere much slower than normal to conserve fuel, I think we were 24 to 48 hours away from serious civil unrest before the protest was called off.

I hope that it does not come to this again.    Ineos and the Unite have been urged to keep talking by the Scottish Government, who themselves have started early contingency planning.

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