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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Estonian State of Mind

Down to Parnu, Estonia's summer capital for the celebrations of Estonian Independence Day. At the church service I was sat behind the Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, who had announced his departure from office the previous day. He seemed preoccupied and serious, as well he might. He is the longest serving Prime Minister in Estonian history, and a large number of his predecessors ended their lives in the Soviet GULAG. After the church service I was a guest in the VIP enclosure to stand with the President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves to watch the military parade. This was the largest such independence day parade in modern Estonia, and as an array of modern equipment and stern faced soldiers passed- including this year a detachment from the British Grenadier guards- I could not help thinking about whether or not Estonia was facing an existential threat. The American squadron of F-14s was slightly late, and we later learned that this was because they had been forced to divert to intercept a Rus

A positive case for Britain? Where to start!

A Yes supporting friend of mine called last night and said that he had still not seen one positive argument for the Union. I suppose that he might still be trying to cope with the destruction of the economic case for Scottish separation that has taken place over the past four days. Let me then quickly summarize a positive case for the continuation of Britain. Britain matters Britain matters economically . The sixth largest economy in the world, our peers are not just France and Germany, but Japan, Brazil, China and even the United States. Britain has significant economic influence over the whole EU (just for comparison, as a separate state, Scotland would be the economic peer of Greece). Britain is a leading member of all the major international economic groups of the world- and not merely a member but a leading player.  Our cars, for example, from Jaguar to Aston Martin, Rolls Royce to the Mini to name but a few are technical marvels and style icons. Britain

SNP meltdown: A blow upon a bruise

I am slightly reluctant to write- yet again- on the Scottish referendum, but the news that keeps coming in is critical for the whole future of Scotland and indeed Europe. The SNP policy of currency union is a shambles. It literally can not work, and the use of Sterling could only be maintained for a short period while Scotland set up a new currency and ultimately prepared to join the Euro. The inchoate rage which has descended on the Yes campaign reminds me why I have so strongly opposed the Nats all these years. Wishful thinking and bluster does not make a coherent economic policy. This is a totally avoidable own goal by Yes and it has been made because Alex Salmond is still trying to pretend that Independence is more or less the same as Devo Max. Brian Wilson in the Scotsman is devastating in his critique of the foolish bluster that the SNP has embarked upon in the face of the collapse of a key plank of SNP policy. After the currency collapse, worse has come on Europe. The Portu

Hindsight is 20-20 : A Scot speaks from 2020

An OpEd piece from The Scotsman that came through a time warp from February 2020. Looking back on the first three years of an independent Scotland, there is little, from the perspective of 2020, that we can say we did not know before the referendum of 2014. So how is it that we face such difficulties? How did Scotland fall into every trap? More to the point, how do we now address the deep crisis that we now face? On sober reflection it is clear that the 18 month timetable from the September 18th referendum to the establishment of a separate state was extremely short. Too short to complete the transitional arrangements to allow Scotland to obtain full membership of the European Union. The unhappy compromise of a duel-headed UK/Scottish delegation at EU ministerial meetings lasted a bare three months, as it became clear that the Scottish government was less interested in the drudgery of technical meetings and more interested in making gestures over negotiations with the rest of the

Speaking truth to power

The Internet is said to be killing off professional journalism. As with sport and business and many other professions the gap between the top of the tree- the millionaire columnists (or centre forwards or CEOs) and and the journeyman hack (or sub editor or middle manager) has widened by a factor of a hundred in the past two decades. The difference is that the bottom of journalism is now essentially unpaid. Perhaps that is also become true elsewhere, but the number of unpaid internships in the media seems still to be rather ahead of other sectors. Journalists are now more or less exclusively drawn from the wealthy- usually privately school educated- middle class. Whereas a Brian Redhead say or a Walter Cronkite  established journalism as a trusted profession, the emergence of agenda- driven journalism in the mold set by Rupert Murdoch brought hard nosed economics and even harder nosed opinions to the business of establishing and reporting facts. Yet there is an interesting paradox- a

BRIC, BRICS or MINT: the true story of investment fiascos

"Market gurus" in Investment Banking are in the business of marketing like everyone else, so much of what they do is more to do with presentation than reality.  I have been forcibly reminded of this in recent weeks as yet another "emerging markets" crisis has unfolded on the currency and stock exchanges of the planet.  In a way "Emerging Markets" is itself more a presentational than real idea, because the only thing that the so-called  "emerging markets" really have in common is that they are poorer than the so-called "developed markets". About three quarters of the worlds population lives in "emerging markets", and some are growing and some are collapsing. Hence the need for an overpaid "market guru" to try to make some kind of sense of the huge pile of data that comes from 75% of the world. Jim O'Neill, an economist with Goldman Sachs, is usually credited with coining the acronym "BRIC", standing fo