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Saturday, October 18, 2008


Originally proposed in the 1970's by Princeton Professor Gerald K O'Neill as a result of a class design project for living off Earth this is a cylinder up to 6 km wide which provides artificial gravity by spinning.

O'Neill has created three reference designs:

Island One
A sphere measuring one mile in circumference (1,681 feet or 512.27 meters in diameter) which rotated, and people lived on the equatorial region. See Bernal Sphere.
A later NASA/Ames study at Stanford University developed an alternate version of Island One: the Stanford torus geometry, a toroidal shape 1,600 meters (just under a mile) in diameter.

Island Two
Also a sphere, also 1,600 meters in diameter.

Island Three
Two counter-rotating cylinders each two miles (3 km) in radius, and capable of scaling up to twenty miles (30 km) long. [1] Each cylinder has six equal-area stripes that run the length of the cylinder; three are windows, three are "land." Furthermore, an outer agriculture ring, as seen in the picture on the right, 10 miles (15 km) in radius, rotates at a different speed for farming. The manufacturing block is located at the middle (behind the satellite dish assembly) to allow for minimized gravity for some manufacturing processes.

To build this requires material mined from the Moon, both metals to construct it & rock (the slag from the mined metals) as shielding at the sunward end against solar radiation. Once we have an extensive lunar settlement it would be possible to build a mass driver which, either by catapult or linear accelerator, could throw material from the Moon's surface at orbital speed - fortunately since lunar gravity is 1/6th of ours this only requires 1/36th of the speed we need. Obviously to build all this is not possible until we have such an extensive lunar settlement & even once we have such infrastructure built the cost is going to be in the many 10s if not hundreds of billions of $s. On the other hand looking at Iraq & Wall Street that is cheap at the price.

A 3km radius, 20 km long cylinder would have a surface area of 375 km, which is pretty small by planetary size of 500,000,000 km but remember that 75% of that is sea & of the rest barely a 10th isn't to cold, too hot, too hilly, too desert, too jungle or too covered in tsetse flies to be habitable & it gets to look better. Ass the fact that the weather is always going to be what we want & that no rule suggests we bring along midges or alligators & it gets really attractive. Then add the fact that there is no reason to spin it at anything close to the one gravity we are used to (indeed you always have zero G at the centre) at it gets to look like a very nice place to retire to. At Singapore's population density of 6.489 people per km we could have 2.4 million living there which would produce expensive but not outrageous real estate.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Last night the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow held a lecture by Baroness Shirley Williams. She spoke for an hour on Principles & Politics.

Apparently of 93 professions MPs place 93rd in public respect with estate agents & journalists respectively above. She explained how in the 18thC politics was a matter of noblesse oblige among the upper classes & thus respected & uncorrupt (I think most historians would disagree) & went on to list politicians from Wilberforce, who fought slavery, to Robin Cook, who resigned over the Iraq war, who had acted from principle.

She then proceeded to say what a principled politician of the future should stand for:

If not a global government at least global governance.
Fighting "climate change" on which politicians should not disagree because "we cannot afford to go on with Punch & Judy politics" on warming.
That "extreme differences of wealth & poverty are incompatible with democracy" (applause) I have to say that though I am pretty libertarian I do agree with this & I don't know of an economically non-damaging way out of it - currently I am prepared to put it in the back burner until we have reached close to our growth potential but do recognise that is not a solution
Proportional representation (strong applause) Again I strongly agree.

She also supported Re-nationalising railways; on Iran that it is merely trying to get respect & be treated equally by the international community & that according to the government's Joint Intelligence Committee "there is no reason to believe that it is trying to make nuclear weapons" which I found persuasive: that Sarah Palin merely represented the anti-intellectual trend in America.

Clearly we disagree on more than we agree on & in the Q & A section I asked:

"You held up Robin Cook as a man of principle. How would you respond to the fact that he, as Foreign Secretary told Parliament that it was the KLA in Kosovo, not the Serbs, who were engaged in genocide & 2 months later was bombing Serb hospitals to help them? He continued after NATO took over Kosovo & appointed the KLA as "police" providing them with new uniforms & guns & sending them out to commit atrocities. Within days they had murdered 210 unarmed civilians a few hundred yards from the British military HQ in Dragodan. They were responsible for the genocide & ethnic cleansing of 350,000 Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, Macedonians & even Christian Albanians. They were allowed to kidnap thousands, possibly 10s of thousands, of schoolgirls & sell them to western brothels. We have recently discovered that they were allowed to kidnap thousands of Serb teenagers & while they were still alive, cut them open to steal kidneys, lungs & hearts for our hospitals. How can you say politicians supporting this are "principled"?

She said "I agree with you that the KLA did such things but the Serbs committed similar atrocities"

I replied "No, as Robin Cook made clear it was always the NATO armed KLA who were engaged in genocide. Our government knew that".

She replied "No the Serbs committed atrocities - stop shaking your head - have you been to Kosovo - I was in Kosovo with Paddy Ashdown & I saw the Serbs committing atrocities."

At that point I (perfectly properly since I had had a chance to answer & it was her lecture not our debate) was refused the microphone. My very strong suspicion is that she was not in Kosovo during Yugoslav rule & that she did not see any Serb atrocities. What she may have seen is Paddy Ashdown showing her places & claiming that they had been the site of Yugoslav crimes. Since Ashdown has quite certainly already perjured himself on oath during the Milosevic show-trial that is not credible.

I have contacted Baroness Williams & should she wish to withdraw or substantiate the claim to having personally seen the Yugoslav forces committing atrocities I will certainly publish it. Let us see what much vaunted political principles amount to?

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Last night I saw the film Stone of Destiny based on Iain Hamilton's book . It is the story of the taking of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey back to Scotland in 1950. It is better than Taggert at getting locations right & indeed there are a number of open air scenes around & south of the Kelvin Park where they have gone to considerable lengths to get the right cars & period cars & people standing about. Granted the buildings ar a lot cleaner that they were before the Clean Air Act. The University Quad plays itself, part of the outside of Westminster Abbey & less credibly the entrance to the student Union, but all these are merely nit picks about an honest attempt to portray an important instance in Scottish history - an ultimately successful attempt to change the course of a nation by force but not by violence.

There are some minor inaccuracies put in for narrative purposes. The final scene of them being arrested handing back the Stone is false - they were not so silly as to stay after telling the police they had put it in Arbroath Abbey. In fact, though the police had identified the plotters it is clear they were much less willing to put it to a jury than Iain Hamilton was. Bill Craig did not so much get cold feet as think it needed more organising - certainly it is clear it did but on the other hand as MacHiavelli said once you have a conspiracy it is best to get on with it before too many people talk so it is diffisult to say who was right. Also for narrative purposes it is Alan who persuades the Gyspies to help return the Stone whereas in Iain's book it is Bill Craig (called Neil at the time to hide his identity) in what reads in the book like Victorian melodrama:

"As we drew nearer we noticed that there were two caravans and two fires. It was the first one we were interested in for the blind back of the second one effectively screened the hiding-place from the gipsies at the second fire.

In the leaping flames we could see an ancient gipsy couple sprawled against the fence, their boots outstretched to the blaze. It was clear that the man could have put his hand through the fence & touched the Stone. Their caravan beetled over them and the firelight fell across the black entrance. It was open and winter. The trees leaned uneasily to the warmth and the darkness pressed close in as though trying to extinguish the fire and those who warmed themselves at it. A lurcher pup came at us jumping and fawning, and was called off by the woman. We came close to the fire.

"Can we have a heat at your fire?" Neil asked like a cheery traveller out of the night. The woman invited him in with a "Sir" and a smile. I said nothing. We sat silent for a long time. The firelight danced across the bronze faces of the gipsies in the frosty night. Then Neil started to talk.

He talked of the cold at first and the woman nodded and smiled. He did not go hurriedly and there were many long pauses. Then he asked them how long they were staying & the woman said , "For a day or two." At this the man mentioned that it was late, and the hint was obvious.

Then Neil started talking in earnest while the flames leapt across our faces and the sparks shot up and the lurcher pup crept close to be fondled.

He talked first of all about the gipsies and how they were harried by the authorities. He talked about the free life they lived, and how in these times there were many people who talked about liberty and many more who were soiled of it by denying it to those whom they did not understand. He told them about our country in the north which was a little county, and which, like the gipsies, was striving to preserve its liberty & be itself. Their ways and customs were not ours but the problem was the same all the world over. Darkness was coming down on the world and only a few people like the gipsies and the Scots foresaw that darkness and tried to live like a light. The gipsies made no sound and no movement.

I watched Neil's face, young and earnest in the firelight. He had forgotten that he was playing a game, which was well. The gipsies did not understand the game. They may not even have understood his words, but he was down beyond words to the level of sincerity, and they knew and trusted that.

Then he talked about liberty itself, and how in the end of the day it is the only precious thing. The slaves who would not be free because their masters fed and clothed them were still with us to-day, but food and drink vanished and left in the end only freedom or slavery. Freedom could be preserved not in caravans or houses, but only in men's hearts, and as soon as they stopped valuing it, it disappeared. "We're not like that," he ended. "And to keep our freedom we need something out of that wood. It's not wrong but it's illegal. We are doing right but we will have to go to goal if we are caught." He looked at the gipsy simply & with no defiance.

The gipsy, who had as yet scarcely spoken, answered him.

"You can't get it just now," he said without moving. "There's a local who isn't a gipsy at the next fire and you can't trust him."

For a Long time we followed the gipsy philosophy of staring into the glowing fire as though it contained all wisdom and all knowledge. Then the outside world broke in, in the shape of Alan & Johnny. They pulled the car over to the edge of the road and walked over to see what kept us so long. The gipsy woman looked up with patient serenity, and the lurcher bounded to meet them.

"They are our friends," said Neil, and the gipsy smiled.

"Where is the Lia Fail," whispered Johnny fiercely. I answered nothing & soon all six of us sat silently staring at the fire.

In a little while another gipsy drifted in from the group beyond the other caravan to see, no doubt, who had visited his friends. The two men talked for a little while in their own language, and then the newcomer went back to his own fire.

"It will be all right," said the gipsy. "The stranger will be gone soon."

Shortly afterwards a man came from the direction of the other fire. He mounted his bike and rode off down the road. The gipsy came back from the other fire and told us it was safe.

My excitement uncoiled like a spring and I vaulted the fence. Alan followed with the torch. The Stone was exactly as we had left it. The litter on top of it was frozen stiff and it came off in one piece like the lid of a box. It had protected the Stone well and the frost had scarcely touched it. The four of us got round it and manhandled it up the slope and under the bottom bar of the railing.

When the gipsies saw the weight we were carrying, the two men rushed to our assistance. We carried it bodily across the grass and placed it into the place already prepared for it at the near-side front seat. Alan and Johnny tumbled in. "Go on and wait for us up the road," said Neil."

Melodramatic or not they got the Stone & I can confirm that my father could indeed be that persuasive a speaker and did hold that love of liberty.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Princes Square, Glasgow used to be a small rectangle off one of Glasgow's main shopping streets but pretty run down. Then they put this roof over it, added escalators & put in balconies around what used to be upper floor windows & opened those windows as shops. Now it is a very posh shopping area.

Earlier this year our Evening times reported:

The Evening Times revealed last month that Glasgow businessman James Mortimer wanted to cover the city's top shopping street.

And today the leader of Leeds City Council told Glasgow: "Go for it."

Councillor Andrew Carter said: "I know Buchanan Street well and this could present a real opportunity for Glasgow.

"What we did in Leeds was put a roof over two areas of the centre, turning it into an arcade. It is not as wide as Buchanan Street, but it has been hugely successful."

And indeed in 2006 I suggested something more extensive:

15) Roof over the pedestrian area of Glasgow. Sauchiehall ST, Buchanan St, Gordon St, Argyll st possibly also providing walkways at first floor level. Thus giving the whole area many of the benefits of mall shopping without destroying the traditional appearance.

The effect everywhere of keeping the weather out has made places more attractive ever since the Victorians started roofing over main railway stations. Indeed the world's first shopping mall, Southfield 1954, was largely done by roofing over an already existing centre.

My main complaint is that when these have been done in recent years they have been vastly overengineered to look like the Crystal Palace. The roofing over of the British Museum courtyard was done so that every piece of glass was a different size & fitted together in only one way.

The effect is undeniably awesome but it plays down the extent that modern mass produced materials could do it for a fraction of the cost & weight.

This is a large commercial greenhouse which apart from carrying its own weight is carrying piping to spray water on plants. If this is being done cheaply across the world then it would be possible, if it was being done by engineers more than architects, to keep the weather off popular pedestrian areas everywhere. Not roads in use because of car fumes, though even there pavements could be largely enclosed for even less cost. In warmer parts of the world where lack of shade is a greater problem than rain, mirrored roofs instead could be used. Not normally a problem here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Some weeks ago the press reported that Professor Struthers at Dundee University, Scotland released a warning about the lack of Vitamin D, produced in the low levels of sunlight endemic to Scotland but I'm afraid I assumed this was just another of the scare stories that the media so love & tame researchers produce (salt, obesity, sugar, milk, lack of milk, passive smoking etc.) which surface regularly. However I have since read an article from Dr Donald Miller who has written previously on the radiation hormesis/LNT theory question & clearly has a sensitive academic bullshit detector. This is an edited version of the article. The full article is very much worth it if you have any doubts:

There are thirteen vitamins humans need for growth and development and to maintain good health. The human body cannot make these essential bio-molecules. They must be supplied in the diet or by bacteria in the intestine, except for vitamin D. Skin makes vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun. A light-skinned person will synthesize 20,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D in 20 minutes sunbathing on a Caribbean beach.

Vitamin D is also unique in another way. It is the only vitamin that is a hormone, a type of steroid hormone known as a secosteroid, with three carbon rings.

....The vitamin D hormone system controls the expression of more than 200 genes and the proteins they produce. In addition to its well-known role in calcium metabolism, vitamin D activates genes that control cell growth and programmed cell death (apoptosis), express mediators that regulate the immune system, and release neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin) that influence one’s mental state.

.....Rickets, a softening and bending of bones in children, first described in 1651, is another nutritionally-specific disease ....An autopsy study done in Boston in the late 1800s showed that more than 80 percent of children had rickets.

Early in the 20th century an investigator found that cod liver oil could prevent rickets in puppies. The nutritional factor in the oil that promotes skeletal calcium deposition was named "vitamin D," alphabetically after already-named vitamins A, B, and C. Rickets was thought to be another vitamin-deficiency disease, and the curative agent, a steroid hormone, was mislabeled a "vitamin."

Now, a century later, a wealth of evidence suggests that rickets, its most florid manifestation, is the tip of a vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency iceberg. A lack of Vitamin D can also trigger infections (influenza and tuberculosis), autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease), cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Practitioners of conventional medicine (i.e., most MDs) are just beginning to appreciate the true impact of vitamin D deficiency. In 1990, medical journals published less than 20 reviews and editorials on vitamin D. Last year they published more than 300 reviews and editorials on this vitamin/hormone. This year, on July 19, 2007, even the New England Journal of Medicine, the bellwether of pharmaceutically-oriented conventional medicine in the U.S., published a review on vitamin D that addresses its role in autoimmune diseases, infections, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (N Engl J Med 2007;357:266–281).

.... A growing body of evidence indicates .... that vitamin D can prevent a whole host of cancers – colon, breast, lung, pancreatic, ovarian, and prostate cancer among them. Colon cancer rates are 4 to 6 times higher in North America and Europe, where solar radiation is less intense, particularly during the winter months, compared to the incidence of colon cancer near the equator.

.....There is now strong scientific evidence that vitamin D does indeed reduce the risk of cancer. Evidence from a well-conducted, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt that this is the case, at least with regard to breast cancer. A Creighton University study has shown that women over the age of 55 who took a 1,100 IU/day vitamin D supplement, with calcium, and were followed for 4 years had a highly statistically significant (P <0.005) 75% reduction in breast cancer (diagnosed after the first 12 months) compared with women who took a placebo (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1568–1591).

Some of the genes vitamin D activates make proteins that halt cancer by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death), which destroys aberrant cells before they become cancerous, like adenoma cells in the colon and rectum. Others promote cell differentiation and reining in of out-of-control growth of cancer cells (like prostate cancer cells). Vitamin D-expressed genes inhibit angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that malignant tumors need to grow, as studies on lung and breast cancers show. Other genes inhibit metastases, preventing cancer that arises in one organ from spreading its cells to other parts of the body, as studied in breast, and prostate cancers.

Vitamin D also expresses genes that curb cardiovascular disease. One gene controls the renin-angiotensin system, which when overactive causes hypertension (high blood pressure). Others stifle the immune system-mediated inflammatory response that propagates atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure (Curr Opin Lipidol 2007;18:41–46).

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurologically devastating disease that afflicts people with low vitamin D levels. Around 85,000 people in the UK have MS. In Scotland it is estimated that there are 10,500 people with MS – more people per capita than anywhere else in the world.* ....Researchers have shown that the risk of MS decreases as the level of vitamin D in the blood increases .... Studies show that people who live below latitude 35° (e.g., Atlanta) until the age of 10 reduce the risk of MS by 50% (Toxicology 2002;181–182:71–78 and Eur J Clin Nutr 2004;58:1095–1109).

In a study published earlier this year, researchers evaluated 79 pairs of identical twins where only one twin in each pair had MS, despite having the same genetic susceptibility. They found that the MS-free twin had spent more time outdoors in the sun – during hot days, sun tanning, and at the beach. The authors conclude that sunshine is protective against MS.

New research suggests that influenza is also a disease triggered by vitamin D deficiency. ...Randomized clinical trials need to be done to test the vitamin D theory of influenza. With what we know now, however, perhaps an annual shot of 600,000 IU of vitamin D (Med J Aust 2005;183:10–12) would be more effective in preventing influenza than a jab of flu vaccine.

Our species evolved in equatorial Africa where the sun, shining directly overhead, supplies its inhabitants with year-round ultraviolet B photons for making vitamin D. Our African ancestors absorbed much higher doses of vitamin D living exposed in that environment compared to the amount most humans obtain today. A single mutation that occurred around 50,000 years ago is responsible for the appearance of white skin in humans. It turns out that a difference in one rung, or base pair, in the 3 billion-rung DNA ladder that constitutes the human genome determines the color of one’s skin.

The majority of the world’s population now lives above latitude 35° N and is unable to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight for a period of time in winter owing to the angle of the sun. Scotland starts at latitude 55 & heads north At a large solar zenith angle, ozone in the upper atmosphere will completely block UVB radiation. In Seattle (47° N) and London (52° N), from October to April UVB photons are blocked by the atmosphere so one’s skin cannot make vitamin D. (The half-life of circulating vitamin D is approximately one month.)

Except for oily fish like (wild-only) salmon, mackerel, and sardines and cod liver oil – and also sun-dried mushrooms – very little vitamin D is naturally present in our food.

....A majority of Americans have insufficient or deficient vitamin D blood levels. In veterans undergoing heart surgery at the Seattle VA hospital,47 degrees N I found that 78% had a low vitamin D level: 12% were insufficient; 56%, deficient; and 10% were severely deficient.

In order to enjoy optimal health, we should maintain a vitamin D blood level of ≥50–99 ng/ml. Without sun exposure, to reach a level of 50 ng/ml requires taking a 5,000 IU/day vitamin D supplement. There are two kinds of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the kind our skin makes, and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), a synthetic variant made by irradiating plants. Vitamin D2 is only 10–30% as effective in raising 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels compared to vitamin D3, leading the authors of a recent study conclude, "Vitamin D2 should not be regarded as a nutrient suitable for supplementation or fortification" (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:694–697).

Concerns about vitamin D toxicity are overblown, along with those about sun exposure. As one researcher in the field puts it, "Worrying about vitamin D toxicity is like worrying about drowning when you’re dying of thirst." .....

Sensible sun exposure should be encouraged, not maligned. If one avoids sunburn, the sun’s health-giving benefits far outweigh its detrimental effects.... A U.S. Navy study found that melanoma occurred more frequently in sailors who worked indoors all the time.

....The rise in skin cancers over the last 25 years parallels the rise in use of sunscreen lotions, which block vitamin D-producing UVB radiation but not cancer-causing ultraviolet .... 1,500 deaths occur each year from non-melanoma skin cancer, but 1,500 deaths occur each day from other cancers that vitamin D in optimal doses might well prevent.

.... The cost of taking a 5,000 IU supplement of vitamin D every day for a year is £12. I have started getting them at Lidls for £2 a bottle The cost for 5 million Scots taking this supplement would be £60 million. The number and variety of diseases that vitamin D at this dose could prevent, starting with a 50 percent reduction in cancer, is mind-boggling.

Scotland which is indeed northerly (matching Hudson's Bay) maintains a high level of habitability because the Gulf Stream runs offshore, however this also means the west of the country where most of us live, is relatively cloudy.

Scotland also has the honour of being at the top of the listing of all sorts of illnesses like heart attacks & MS. Since I started taking Vitamin D tablets a few weeks ago I wouldn't claim to have become tremendously fit but a sinus problem I have had for ages has improved significantly. This is barely anecdotal evidence on the other hand it is as good one could hope for.

This is where government devolved to our northern latitude could usefully act. Though the free market is effective on many things achieving health care for the entire population is something government can do far more efficiently. It would be within the regulatory power of Holyrood to insist that a sellers of a staple food in Scotland (bread, salt, milk?) should be required to have a sufficient level of D added for a 5,000 IU supplement - the cost of the government providing it would, I suspect, be far less than £12 per person. Unless all the evidence is completely wrong nothing could do nearly as much to improve Scotland's dreadful health record.


Monday, October 13, 2008


This is the Solway Firth which forms much of the border between Scotland & England. It is extremely low lying indeed at low tide a very large area of it is above water level. It has long been known as a place where the tide coming in can outrace a galloping horse. This is the only map I could find of it & while not as large as I would have liked & older it gives the idea & shows how much of it is ground at low tide.

Holland consists of deeper land recovered from the sea by people to whom the horse & cart were the peak of technology.

We could reclaim either by building a short dyke from what is shown here as Salterness across, a distance of 8 miles. Alternately from the point south of Whitehaven north a distance of 20 miles. The latter should produce a land area of near [50% x 20 x 40} 400 square miles the former of {50% x 8 x 21} 84 square miles. At £10,000 an acre for agricultural land, which seems to be right inn Cumbria that is worth £2.5 billion or 0.5 billion. I can have no figures for what such a length of dyke would cost but I suspect it would be feasible on those figures if done as a private project. If used as building land it would obviously be many times more valuable. It would certainly be very much larger & less expensive than the plan for a £70 billion artificial island in the Thames.

This does in turn bring up the possibility of creating an airport there. The middle of the estuary is, by definition, miles from any disturbed locals so it could be done without such complaints. It would be about 30 miles from Carlisle, 100 from Glasgow & Newcastle & 130 from Manchester. A really large airport could act both as a European hub if the London airports are going to be prevented from expanding as seems likely & as an industrial centre for "just in time" worldwide distribution. This would have enormous economic effects on the north & be a progressive alternative to the Tory report that suggested all the northerners move south to London because that is where the infrastructure is "People in the north should be told bluntly that their best chance of an affluent future is to move south". Producing modern infrastructure would be easier than building millions of new houses in London.

It would also be possible to build a much better road, along or behind the dyke, to Galloway, which would be very useful if the Scottish Tunnel Project is invoked to build tunnel connections to Ulster & the Isle of Man (Belfast would also thus become a city 100 miles from the airport). Don't know if it would be economically sensible but drilling out the tunnels might provide mass to help build the dyke.

Government - It shouldn't be part of either Scotland or England & I would suggest giving it a regime like the nearby Isle of Man while making it a customs free zone.

Does anybody know any economic or engineering show stoppers with this or are they all political & "green"?

Sunday, October 12, 2008


This is going to be a quick fisk of yhe Scottish Lib Dem leader's Conference speech yesterday. Years ago I fisked their policy motions in some detail long in advance of the conference, but then they stopped publishing them long in advance. Then I fisked them after they had been passed, but they stopped publishing the full motion, just the title. Then I reviewed the titles. This year they haven't even published the titles of the policy motions they are supposed to be debating. Note that legally the Conference of members & delegates is the sovereign body determining policy but now they aren't even allowed to speak out loud.

I remember when the party debated & passed, against the leadership's wishes, a radical motion calling for a Royal Commission to spend years discussing whether it would be wise to reduce the punishments for having a spliff. This was naturally denounced as the end of civilisation & something never even to be thought of by political "leaders" of all parties, including the Labour ones who eventually brought it in. Liberal Democracy sic transit gloria - Latin for put all the copies of the Constitution in a van & take them to be pulped.

Speech opens with 5 paras of naming bigwigs in the audience - omitted.

"..... Politics is the most fluid it has been for a lifetime. And we can prove that in Glenrothes; with Harry Wills as a great champion for Fife. Politics is indeed fluid, both main parties are deeply unpopular & the LDs should be romping it. We will indeed see what happens in Glenrothes but they placed fourth after the Conservatives in deeply anti-Conservative Glasgow East

People should be turning to us. The Labour campaign is only about saving Gordon Brown. The SNP campaign is only about Alex Salmond’s ego. True they should

The tectonic plates of Scottish politics really are shifting. To take advantage of the changing political climate, we must move outside our comfort zone - away from the Holyrood bubble. We must engage individuals, families and communities about the problems that they face in their daily lives. And we must provide the big ideas – the practical solutions – that will make life easier for them. That would be nice

Last week I went to Scottish and Southern Energy in Perth. They told me that the number of red reminder bills they are sending out is up 30% as people are finding it tough to heat their home. Indeed & who is it supports us having electric bills 4 times those in nuclear powered France? Which Party's leader said that "nuclear is the easy answer" & that it must at all costs be destroyed because the public would never put up with subsidising windmills if they couldn't be scared by an artificial electricity shortage? The last Scottish LD leader that's who.

In 1992, Bill Clinton famously told the world, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. And that’s what people are telling me everywhere I go in Scotland. They’re worried about their job. People in Scotland expect us to respond to their fears on the cost of living. And we have to do it right now. & the LudDims have refused to have a conference discussion on the economy since devolution started, though they did have 2 on bicycling at one conference.

Our economy is facing a serious downturn. One hundred thousand jobs building houses are at risk. The banking crisis threatens tens of thousands more. Energy costs up by half; Food costs up by 30 pounds a month; Inflation the highest for 16 years. Now people are worried about their mortgages and keeping a roof over their heads. We can’t turn our backs. We've got to find ways to help people out. How cynical. The LDs have been in power in Scotland for years. They are as responsible for this as anybody.

It’s the measure of a political party that it can respond to urgent new demands. That’s why Liberal Democrats insist that the Scottish Budget has to change. People want to hear what we can do for them. People are tightening their belts. It’s right that Government does as well. The SNP, for all their faults, have been cutting the bloated spending the LDs left them making 2.5% efficiency savings - not the world but better than promising the world.

Families are feeling the pinch. They are having to make sacrifices just to make ends meet. We Liberal Democrats will respond to that. Across Britain, Liberal Democrats will give tax cuts for people on low and middle incomes. But I know we can do more in Scotland.

We should use the Scottish Parliament’s power to cut income tax by two pence in the pound. Saving the average Scot more than three hundred pounds a year. Putting money back in the pockets of people who need it most. And it forms the centre of the radical plans we will bring to the Scottish Budget. We do it not because we’re hung up on ideology. We take action because it is the right thing to do. Right now. We’ll help those on low and fixed incomes even more when we scrap the unfair council tax that they hate so much. What a bunch of corrupt liars. This is the party who 2 1/2 years ago said that cutting taxes was as a matter of principle "illiberal" & "too right wing" to even discuss. Every MP, MSP & Councillor knows this & knows that this promise is a cynical lie which if they ever got power they would break instantly, as they did with their promise of a referendum on the EU treaty.

..... We’ll take action to drive the green-collar jobs that form the future for Scotland’s economy. We will bring new investment to marine renewable energy. This moron is an economic illiterate. The idea that Scotland can survive with subsidised environmentalism as the only or even prime "future of Scotland's economy" is pure lunacy.

You might have heard of the Saltire Prize for energy – it’s smallest prize in the world. The SNP announced it nearly two years ago. It has been launched on at least eleven occasions. They’ve gone to America and set up a self-help group for it. The SNP boast that it is the biggest prize there’s ever been. No, it’s the smallest. The smallest number of winners. They say it’s like the Nobel Prize. But people win the Nobel Prize every year. Nobody has won the Saltire Prize. Moron again, or else fraudster. He has absolutely no idea how prizes, X-Prizes & otherwise, work. You get prizes for winning not for entering. The Saltire Prize is for producing a "commercial sea turbine". You don't give a prize for just saying you would like a go. Well ok you do if the objective is to distribute money to your eco-pals but not if you want to achieve something.

Back in the real world Scottish marine energy companies can’t wait much longer. They need support for Research and Development to create the world-beating energy ideas in Scotland. Even the Republican petrol-heads in the USA have set up a marine energy research scheme. Ireland already has one. Scotland used to have one - until the SNP killed it off. And that’s a demand I now make for the Scottish Budget. Bring back research support for marine energy in Scotland. Do it now, before Scottish companies have to pack up and give up. Do it now before someone else wins the technology for the 21st century. Do it now because he is clearly convinced that a "commercial sea turbine" isn't going to work & the objective isn't to do anything but to hand out money to his supporters.

.....The SNP can’t be trusted with Scottish Higher Education. Hundreds of thousands of students already know that. They were told before the election that the SNP would dump their debt. Then they found out they were just going to dump the policy. Then it turns out they were going to dump students completely. Well, I have been to campuses. I can tell you that students are going to dump the SNP. This would be a fair point rather than a cynical lie if he hadn't already promised to gut government spending to fund tax cuts.

Now the top priority for the SNP is to pass new laws to forbid any student from buying a bottle of beer or a spoonful of sherry for a trifle. Sherry trifle the standard diet of most students

....I want a Scottish Budget to work for families, individuals and businesses Anybody not among those? More money & lower taxes guaranteed for everybody then . We will ask the Government at every parliamentary committee: “How does this line of spending meet the urgent economic needs of Scotland?” We will insist that every proposal for extra spending meets the tough test: “Does this put more money in the pockets of families and individuals right now?” So no money whatsoever for investment, even in porkbarreling for sea turbines them - clearly at least one of the statements is a lie People expect us to work together. But if the SNP’s top priority is to spend tens of millions on new quangos; or the Tories want to dream up new spending gimmicks; we’ll tell them that their plans will simply have to wait. Interestingly enough no mention of Labour with whom they shared power & never persued spending cuts in this way or practiced the "bonfire of the quangos" promised then. Same old lies then.

The Liberal Democrats are the party with the ideas to help people out in difficult times. The LudDims are, as a statement of undeniable fact, the party that expel & drive out people for having ideasTax cuts into people’s pockets right now.Is officially to right wing to even consider until focus groups told them telling this lie would be populist Fair local tax locked into the Scottish system. Renewable energy – supported not squandered. In government their target was £1 billion a year in Scotland squanfered on windmill subsidies Top level skills for a permanent place in the economic premier league. And practical help for small business before it’s too late for too many jobs No mention of what they are & the SNP & Tories have already cornered the market on cutting business rates.

.....The show is over. And Labour’s show is over. Their curtain is coming down. We have had it all over ten years from Labour: morality; comedy; tragedy; mystery; farce; bloodshed; But now we have had enough. Let’s face it: if the answer to the question is “Peter Mandelson”, then you are asking the wrong question. That's not a bad line whatever it means

And what else is on offer? If there is anyone in this hall, who ever thought, that being a small, independent country would be any more use than a chocolate fireguard when the economic heat comes on, I’ve got only one word: Iceland. Almost fair

.....As the world faces recession or depression, the SNP set up summits on seagulls and chose to use Parliament to debate Non-Native Invasive Species. I was excited about that one. I thought it was something to do with Vikings. But more of their programme is doing actual harm to the economy. Did I already mention that the LDs have held 18 conferences (2 a year since Devolution) without discussing the economy.

....And the construction industry is really worried. The Institute of Civil Engineers have gone public: “Smaller engineering contractors”, it says, “are being hit hard by delays in public project awards.” The real thing hurting contractors is the disgusting degree of government bureaucracy that ensures the new Forth Bridge will cost £4.2 billion, rather than £314 million which is the inflation adjusted price of the previous one, or £40 million which is the price the Norwegians cut equivalent tunnels for or the regulations that prevent housebuilders building. None of the parties, other than the Greens have been so overwhelmingly supportive of such useless regulations as the LudDims, though, to be fair, none of the others are guiltless either.

....If the other parties forget what they are there for, we will not. Indeed what you stand for is Ludditism, opposition to traditional liberal values, that cutting taxes is as a matter of principle "illiberal" & that you support fuel poverty & thousands more hypothermia death among pensioners - undeniable fact

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