Tiger of the Stripe Blog

Forget Fake News, Worry About Fantasy Politics

I thought Nicola Sturgeon was bad enough pressing for a new referendum on Scottish independence when Scotland is even less able to support itself than it has been for much of the last 300 years. Now Gordon Brown is proposing even greater devolution for Scotland. This would include setting VAT rates and the power to conclude international treaties. Fine, let Scotland set its own VAT rates, but why should England continue to subsidise Scottish extravagance? This is particularly obnoxious because every penny of subsidy helps the SNP look good to the Scottish electorate. As for the ability to conclude international treaties, this is pure nonsense. Only a sovereign state can do so.

Scottish independence would be extremely bad for the rest of the UK but it would be catastrophic for Scotland whose budget deficit is twice that of the rest of the UK. If Gordon Brown and the Labour Party in Scotland want to head off a vote for Scottish independence, they should come up with some sensible ideas not this game of Fantasy Politics.

Do We Need Polystyrene? Whether Incinerated or Buried, it is an Environmental Hazard

Expanded polystyrene container for bedding plants

My wife keeps bring back bedding plants from the garden centre. They are invariably in expanded polystyrene containers and I was getting very concerned about the environmental implications. There are articles on the internet that suggest that it is recyclable but I know that Richmond upon Thames council doesn't recycle it. I contacted my ever-helpful councillor, Pamela Fleming, who told me that there didn't seem to be any London boroughs which recycled it. On further investigation, she told me that the root problem was that there is no identified demand for the recycled product. WRAP, the Waste and Recycling Action Programme, advises 'Avoid the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS), oxo-degradable or bio-degradable polymers as they are not currently compatible within existing household plastic sorting or reprocessing systems.' In the meantime, councils are planning to move from landfill to incineration. Given that this has been shown to produce soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in varying quantities according to the method of combustion, and since PAHs are toxic and carcinogenic, this doesn't seem a very acceptable solution.

Expanded polystyrene is also widely used in packaging for electrical goods. It seems to me that there is absolutely no excuse for using it. Most of this can be replaced with cardboard. Some years ago there were even computer manufacturers using popcorn instead of expanded plastic. Its use in garden centres seems so at odds with the idea of nurturing a little bit of nature near your home that I am surprised that it has been so widely accepted. On obvious (if possibly more expensive) substitute would be containers made from coir or some other natural fibre.

Scottish National Party and Nicola Sturgeon must be Delusional

If Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party are serious about another independence referendum (which I very much doubt), they must be delusional. While Scotland's exports to the rest of the UK were £49.8 bn in 2015, its exports to the rest of the EU were just 12.3bn. If Scotland left the UK, either before or after the UK leaves the EU, it would be outside both the UK and the EU. It would then take years for it to rejoin the EU. The worst of all possible worlds.

Worse than that, the UK’s budget deficit was a worryingly high 4% in 2015–16 but Scotland’s was a disastrous 9.5%. Scotland could only afford this because the English taxpayer picked up the tab.

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