Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

I am writing this on Friday (24 June), the day that the result of the referendum to stay or leave the European Union (EU) was announced. I assume everyone reading this knows the result, the citizens of the (Dis)united Kingdom have voted by 51.9% to 48.1% to leave the EU. To say that I am shocked and disappointed would be an understatement. And, I am also ashamed. I am ashamed that my country, Wales, voted by 52.5% to leave. That is a higher percentage than the DUK average. I am ashamed to be Welsh at this moment.

Scotland, not surprisingly, voted to stay, in fact 62% of those voting in Scotland want to stay in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has already said that a fresh referendum for Scottish indpendence is “highly likely”, as she feels it is totally wrong for Scotland to be forced out of the EU against its will. And, I agree with her. I only wish I could say the same for Wales, but we actually voted to leave. 

As anyone who reads my blog (all two of you) will know, I am a massive rugby fan. Tomorrow, Wales will take on New Zealand in the 3rd and final test of their summer tour. We have not beaten New Zealand since 1953. Also, later tomorrow, our football team take on Northern Ireland in the 2016 Euros; if we win we will get to the Quarter Finals.

I would love us to beat NZ for the first time in 63 years, and for us to advance to the Quarter Finals of the 2016 Euros. But, I would willingly give up all of this to have had Wales mirror Scotland and have voted to stay in the EU. I have always thought of my small country as outward looking and inclusive, but it seems I was wrong. A majority want to turn their backs on our European neighbours. I would bet my mortgage that Wales will regret this decision in 5-10 years’ time and wish they had voted differently.

By 2020, I predict, Scotland will be back in the EU as an independent country; whilst Wales becomes an increasingly economically poor western part of the rump which is left of the (Dis)united Kingdom. With Scotland independent, the London government will be perpetually a Conservative one, and do the Welsh people honestly think people like Boris Johnson (the most likely person to become Britain’s next Prime Minster) or Michael Gove give a damn about the poverty blighting the South Wales valleys? The poverty that Maggie Thatcher set in motion when she dismantled the coal industry in the 1980s? They probably don’t even know where Wales is.

I have just seen this on Twitter, and so thought I would add it. Although I’m a little too young to be a baby boomer, my generation voted overwhelmingly to “leave” too. “Sorry” doesn’t seem adequate……

I am sad, I am angry, I am shocked. But, most of all I am ashamed. And envious of Scotland, a beacon of sanity in a sea of madness…….

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow (Thursday 23 June) the (Dis)united Kingdom is holding a referendum to decide whether its four constituent countries should stay as members of the European Union or not. The fact that I refer to the “United” Kingdom as the “Disunited” Kingdom may suggest that I want out of the European Union. But, I don’t.

I think Wales benefits hugely from being a member of the European Union (EU). At the moment, Wales cannot make the decision about our membership on our own, it is decided at a (D)UK level, which means England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all pooled together. So, it may be the case that Wales (and Scotland) decide they want to stay in the EU, but the overall DUK vote is “out” because most of the DUK’s population is based in England.

I am not sure what the reaction to such a scenario would be in Wales, but I am fairly sure that in Scotland it would trigger another referendum for independence. In September 2014 you may remember that Scotland held a referendum to decide whether they wanted to leave the United Kingdom. The “no to independence” won by 55% to 45%; but it is widely thought that a vote to leave the EU when Scotland are overwhelmingly in favour of membership of the EU would trigger another referendum for independence from London. Personally, I would love to see both Scotland and Wales gain independence from London, but I would prefer that not to happen because the DUK votes to leave to EU. 

I particularly like this graphic.,”mewn” is Welsh for “in”

Scotland is not only far more independently minded than Wales, it is also more pro-EU. I think Wales is more pro-EU than England, but not by as much as I would like. Which surprises me, because Wales benefits hugely from being a member of the EU. We are too small a country to do a lot of things on our own, and working at a European level to deal with big issues is just the kind of Europe in which I want to live. Wales also receives more back from the EU than we pay into it; EU grants have helped rebuild the ruin caused to Wales by 11 years of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister.

There have been a huge number of lies and misinformation during this referendum campaign, but one  of the things I wanted to take issue with is the lie about how our lives in the DUK are now governed by “unelected officials in Brussels”. First, let me say something about the system of government in the DUK for those not living here who don’t know how it works.

The general election, which was held in May of last year (2015), saw the Conservative party win an overall majority in the House of Commons, even though they only got something like 20% of the popular vote. That is because of the “first past the post” system that is used in British general elections. Even though 80% of the adult population didn’t vote for them, they can pass any laws they wish to in the House of Commons because they have more seats than the rest of the parties put together.

Hardly democratic!

Secondly, the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament, has some 800-odd members, not a single one  of whom is elected! The House of Lords has law-making and law-modifying powers. True, there is the “Parliament Act”, which allows the House of Commons to rail-road something through even if the House of Lords opposes it, but the point I am trying to make is that the so-called “home of democracy” (Britain/England) is one of the most undemocratic countries in Europe!

And, this lie that laws are made by un-elected officials in Brussels really bothers me. Who votes for these EU laws? The European Parliament, that is who. 

They are elected by member states of the EU. Ironically, in the DUK, the EU elections are done by proportional representation, far more democratic than the first-past-the-post system used for the London government. Yes, the laws may be proposed by “unelected mandarins” in Brussels, but most of the laws brought before the British Parliament are proposed by unelected mandarins in Westminster – the civil service. 

If a majority of the EU’s parliament pass a proposed law, each country’s representative (usually the leader of that country’s government) makes the final “ok” about that law. It is a far  more democratic system than we have in Britain. So, the argument that we are ruled by un-elected officials in Brussels is just a lie, and does not stand up to any level of scrutiny.

It is possible that the main issue on which people will decide how to vote is immigration. Some people feel that the DUK is drowning under a tide of immigrants. Let me again explain some things to readers who do not live in Europe, or do not know how the EU and Britain’s immigration works. The EU has the principle of free movement of people. So, any one in any  member state can go and live and work in any other member state. The only restriction on this, as far as I am aware, is that you may not be able to claim welfare benefits from a country which is not your own, and you may not be allowed such free movement if you have a criminal record. Britain is not in the Shengen zone, so even EU citizens coming into the DUK must show a passport upon entry. Thus, they can be refused entry if there is a legitimate reason to refuse it.

There was a man on BBC Radio this morning who was saying something which has been shown time after time to be true – Eastern Europeans are prepared to work much harder than “British” people. If it were not for these hard-working people, a lot of the menial jobs in Britain would not get done. The British economy depends on such hard-working people, be they from Eastern Europe or beyond the EU; and if these people were not here who knows who would pick fruit and clean office buildings and work in fast food restaurants, because “British” people largely shun such jobs.

Also, more than 50% of the immigrants to Britain come from beyond the EU. The DUK Government has complete control over who it allows in from outside the EU. So, to think that leaving the EU will somehow stop the “tide” of people coming to work and/or study in the DUK is a fallacy. 

Study after study has shown that immigrants, be they from within our beyond the EU, are a boon to our economy. They add far more to the British economy than they take. The DUK’s economy would suffer if these immigrants were not allowed to come here.

As of my writing this, the polls are neck and neck; within the margin of error there is nothing to choose between the “remain” and the “leave” camps. I sincerely hope the undecided will realise what a massive error it would be for the countries of the Disunited Kingdom to turn their backs on Europe. We should be working with our European neighbours for a better, safer and more prosperous Europe. Not throwing our toys out of the pram just because the EU is not perfect. 

Of course it’s not perfect, but it is far more democratic than the Houses of Parliament are! And, by staying in it we can help improve the EU so that more of its citizens (all 508 million) feel that it is a model for how to cooperate internationally.


Read Full Post »

At number 76 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 greatest guitar riffs is “A Girl Like You” by Scottish singer-songwriter Edwyn Collins. This song was released in 1995, and appears on his third album “Gorgeous George”.

At number 75 in BBC Radio 2's 100 greatest guitar riffs is "A Girl Like You" by Edwyn Collins.

At number 76 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 greatest guitar riffs is “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins.

“A Girl Like You” got to number 4 in the Disunited Kingdom singles charts, to number 32 in the US, and was a hit in many other countries. It topped the charts in Belgium. It remains his best known hit.

I’ve never known a girl like you before
Now just like in a song from days of yore
Here you come a knockin’, knockin’ on my door
And I’ve never met a girl like you before

You give me just a taste so I want more
Now my hands are bleeding and my knees are raw
Cos now you’ve got me crawlin’, crawlin’ on the floor
And I’ve never known a girl like you before

You’ve made me acknowledge the devil in me
I hope to God I’m talkin’ metaphorically
Hope that I’m talkin’ allegorically
Know that I’m talkin’ about the way I feel
And I’ve never known a girl like you before

Never, never, never, never
Never known a girl like you before

This old town’s changed so much
Don’t feel like I belong
Too many protest singers
Not enough protest songs

And now you’ve come along
Yes, you’ve come along
And I’ve never met a girl like you before

It’s alright, yeah (x29)

Here is the international version of the video of this song (the video released in the US was different, you can find it on YouTube). Enjoy!

Read Full Post »

Today I thought I would share this great song by Scottish band Belle & Sebastian – “The State I am in”. It is the first track on their debut album Tigermilk, and was released in 1996.


The words and music are by founding member of Belle & Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch. The “Mark’s and Spencer’s” referred to in the song is the same “marks and sparks” referred to by David Bowie in the Mott the Hoople song “All the Young Dudes” that I blogged about here.

I was surprised, I was happy for a day in 1975
I was puzzled by a dream, it stayed with me all day in 1995
My brother had confessed that he was gay, it took the heat off me for a while
He stood up with a sailor friend and made it known upon my sister’s wedding day

Got married in a rush to save a kid from being deported
Now she’s in love
Oh, I was so touched, I was moved to kick the crutches from my crippled friend
She was not impressed that I cured her on the sabbath
I went to confess
When she saw the funny side, we introduced my child bride to whiskey and gin
To whiskey and gin

The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard
He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called “The State That I’m In”
And so I gave myself to God
There was a pregnant pause before he said okay
Now I spend my days turning tables around in Mark’s and Spencer’s
They don’t seem to mind

I gave myself to sin
I gave myself to providence
And I’ve been there and back again
The state that I am in

Oh, love of mine, would you condescend to help me
Because I’m stupid and blind
Oh, and desperation is the devil’s work
It is the folly of a boy’s empty mind
Oh, and now I’m feeling dangerous
Riding on city buses for a hobby is sad
Why don’t you lead me to a living end
I promise that I’ll entertain my crippled friend
My crippled friend

I gave myself to sin
I gave myself to providence
And I’ve been there and back again
The state that I am in

This is the second Belle & Sebastian song I have blogged about, the other one being their cover of “Poupée de Cire”, here. Enjoy!

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow (Saturday the 9th of March) Wales will take on Scotland in their penultimate match of the 2013 6 Nations. In almost a reversal of two weeks ago, when Tipuric was picked to start and Warburton was on the bench, Wales’ interim manager Rob Howley has decided to start Warburton against Scotland and leave Tipuric on the bench.


It is an interesting decision by Howley to start with Warburton rather than Tipuric. I am sure Tipuric will come on in the latter part of the game. To my mind, Warburton is the better choice in a tight game where tackling and the breakdown are paramount, whereas Tipuric excels when the game opens up. So I think Howley’s choice is the right one, but I am sure there is a 50/50 split amongst Welsh rugby fans about this. Alun Wyn-Jones, who also started on the bench against Italy two weeks ago, is this week deemed to be fit enough to start the game against Scotland.

I think Wales go into this game as favourites, but we should not underestimate how difficult it is to win at Murrayfield. Wales have been playing Scotland since 1883, and 58 games have been played between the two countries at Murrayfield. Of those 58, Scotland have won 32 of them. In fact, Wales went many years without registering a win there; from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s. But, Wales have won 9 of the last 10 matches between the two countries, and since 2000 when the 6 Nations was created they have played 6 times at Murrayfield, winning 3, losing 2 and drawing 1. But Welsh fans need to remember that, tomorrow, Scotland too will be chasing 3 wins in a row, and so will be fired up. In addition, their new coach Scott Johnson knows the Welsh players well from his time spent coaching Wales and the Ospreys, so he will have done his homework on the Welsh team and their expected game plan.

If Wales can win tomorrow it will set up a fantastic finale against England in a week’s time. Barring disasters, England should cruise to a comfortable win against Italy at Twickenham, leaving them with only Wales to beat to win their first Grand Slam since 2003 (Wales have won three Grand Slams since then!).

Should England win by a large margin against Italy, it will mean that they are almost certain to win the 6 Nations, even if they lose to Wales in Cardiff. Although this will be a pity for we Welsh, the prospect of derailing England’s Grand Slam hopes in Cardiff will be enough to fire up the Welsh team to hopefully put in their best performance of the 6 Nations.

But first we have to beat Scotland tomorrow!

Read Full Post »

The second weekend of the 2013 6 Nations is now over, and it was certainly a weekend of tension and even a few surprises.

Scotland v Italy

Italy went to Edinburgh with their confidence high after their superb win over France in Rome last weekend. In addition, Scotland had looked only average in their defeat to England at Twickenham. But, the form book was torn up with Scotland playing superb rugby, possibly their best display ever in the 6 Nations. They ran in 4 tries, and were comfortable winners of a match which never saw Italy play to the heights that they did against France a week before.


France v Wales

If ever there was a match which could turn around a team’s fortunes then this was it. I have blogged about the game already here. But, just to say that Wales were determined and clinical, looking like the side that got to the 2011 World Cup semi-final and which won the 2012 6 Nations with a Grand Slam. At the end of the game one could just hear some Welsh fans singing hymns and arias, but it was hard to given given how loudly the mainly French crowd were boing the home team. If Wales can win in Ittaly in a fortnight and then in Scotland two weeks after that we will return to Cardiff to play England with 3 wins out of 4 and the game against England could end up being the championship decider. Wales fans can but dream!


Ireland v England

This was an attritinoal match played in poor conditions. Ireland never played with the confidence or skill with which they had beaten Wales the week before, and England were clinical and desciplined. 4 penalty goals to 2 in Engalnd’s favour, and the try line never looked in danger of being breached. As Shane Howarth, who has played for New Zealand and Wales, said on Welsh TV last night, Engalnd look lke they are doing everything right, and it is a bit worrying for the rest of us!


What does the 3rd weekend hold?

The 6 Nations now takes a break with the next set of matches being in a fortnight rather than next week. Ireland go to Scotland, with both teams having won one and lost one. France go to Twickenham, facing the unheard of prospect of losing 3 matches in a row and possibly finishing the 6 Nations bottom of the table. And as I have mentioned above, Wales go to Rome with the chance of getting their 2013 campaign back on track if we can win there. Several teams have everything to play for. I can’t wait!

Read Full Post »

The opening weekend of the 2013 6 Nations rugby championships is over, and it was quite a weekend of matches.

Wales v Ireland

Wales opened their defence of their 2012 Grand Slam with a home game against Ireland. Ireland came out of the blocks with all cylinders firing, and by the 11th minute had scored a try. Wales repeatedly lost possession at the breakdown, and Ireland went into half-time with the scoreline at 3-23.

Within a few minutes of the start of the second half Ireland had extended their lead to 3-30 through a try by Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s 3rd try of the match. Wales looked like they were not only going to lose, but lose by a large margin. Then, as often happens in sport, Wales started to go into the ascendancy and the game turned around. Over the next 35 minutes, Wales completely dominated, and scored 3 tries to bring the score back to 22-30. However, Ireland must be commended for the resoluteness of their defence. With Wales camped for long periods just metres from the Irish tryline, the Irish defence withstood wave after wave of assaults and managed to keep Wales’ try tally down to 3 tries, when it could have been several more.

In the opening match of the 2013 6 Nations, Wales lost at home to Ireland 22-30.

In the opening match of the 2013 6 Nations, Wales lost at home to Ireland 22-30.

Cardiff has become a happy hunting ground for Ireland, their win on Saturday marks their 11th win in the last 14 visits to Cardiff. Wales’ chances of a back-to-back Grand Slam are now gone, and in fact based on Saturday’s display I would be surprised if Wales finish the 2013 Championships with more than 1 or 2 wins.

Wales have the difficult task next Saturday of going to Paris, a place where they have not won since 2005. Ireland welcome England in Dublin in game which will almost certainly decide who (in anyone) wins the Triple Crown this year, and may well decide who wins the 2013 6 Nations Championships.

England v Scotland

England came into the 2013 6 Nations Championships on the back of a stunning win against the All Blacks in early December. It was no surprise to see them running out comfortable winners against Scotland.

In the 2nd match of the weekend, England ran out easy winners against Scotland 38-18.

In the 2nd match of the weekend, England ran out easy winners against Scotland 38-18.

The half-time score was 19-11 to England, and to be honest they never looked in danger of losing this match. Remarkably it is now 30 years since Scotland last won at Twickenham, in 1983. England go into their next match against Ireland in Dublin with confidence high, and that match should be the pick of next weekend’s fixtures.

Italy v France

Since Italy joined the 5 Nations in 2000 to make it the 6 Nations, they have been the whipping boys of the Championships. In the 13 previous Championships in which they have played they have only registered a few wins, over Scotland, Wales and in 2011 over France. Much to most people’s surprise, Italy pulled off another win against France on Sunday, deservedly winning by 23 to 18. This is their second win in a row over France at home, having beaten them for the first time ever in 2011.

The final match of the weekend provided the biggest upset, Italy at home beating France 23-18.

The final match of the weekend provided the biggest upset, Italy at home beating France 23-18.

Next up for Italy is a trip to Murrayfield to play Scotland. They will be surely be hoping to register only their second away win in their history in the 6 Nations, and if they play like they did against France they have every chance of of doing so.

Which was your favourite moment of this weekend’s 6 Nations matches?

Read Full Post »

In Wales, our National rugby team is either playing fantastically or playing dreadfully. In 2012 we saw both extremes. After winning the 2012 Six Nations Championships with a Grand Slam in March, Wales went on tour of Australia in June and lost all 3 tests against the Wallabies. All 3 were close, but particulary the 2nd and 3rd ones, two games Wales should really have won.

Wales win 2012 6 Nations

Wales win the 2012 6 Nations Championships with a Grand Slam, beating France in the final match.

Wales went into the annual Autumn Tests series with high expectations amongst her supporters, including myself. I blogged about my hopes here. Well, the reality was very different, Wales lost all four tests, the first time this has happened in the Autumn Test Series since it started in about 2002. I guess, in hindsight, that it was not a big surprise to lose to Argentina in our opening game. Wales traditionally start the Autumn Series very badly, and so to have such a tough team as Argentina to play in our opening test was always going to be a challenge.

But, before Wales could recover from the disappointment of losing to Argentina, we lost to Samoa the following Friday. Again, Samoa are a tough team, and we have lost to them before, even in Cardiff. But coming on the back of such successes earlier in the year, it was a tough defeat for the Welsh rugby public to bear. The following week came our annual beating by the All Blacks, whom we have not defeated since 1953!

Our final match was against Australia, our 4th against them in 2012. Just like the 2nd and 3rd Tests in Australia in June, Wales were in a match winning position as the 80 minutes were up. In fact, with 80 minutes on the clock Wales were actually in the lead. But, bizarrely, we kicked possession away and Australia counter attacked, and scored a last minute try to steal victory. The narrowness of the defeat, and the nature of it happening in the dying seconds, made this the hardest defeat of the Autumn series, and maybe of the entire year.

So how will Wales get on in the impending 2013 Six Nations? My fear is – not very well. We are coming off the back of 7 (seven) straight defeats, so confidence in the squad has to be pretty low. Also, we will be without our inspirational team manager Warren Gatland, who has been appointed the Lions coach for the summer tour of Australia, and so is on sabbatical from his Wales duties.

It is also the year when we play 3 games away from home, and only 2 at home, which of course makes it a slightly tougher proposition. Our fixture list is

Wales’ 6 Nations games, 2013
Date Country Kick-off time (GMT) Home/Away Record in all competitions (Played/Win/Loss/Draw)
Saturday 2nd February Ireland 13:30 Home 118/65/47/6
Saturday 9th February France 17:00 Away 92/45/44/3
Saturday 23rd February Italy 14:30 Away 19/16/2/1
Saturday 9th March Scotland 14:30 Away 117/66/48/3
Saturday 16th March England 17:00 Home 123/55/56/12

It may surprise readers to see that the only nation in the 6 Nations that Wales have lost more than won against is England, with the games standing at 55 wins to Wales and 56 to England. The game against England in March provides an opportunity to equalise the series of games between the two countries. On the other hand, the game against France in February provides France with the opportunity to equalise the series between the two countries, currently Wales have 45 wins to France’s 44.

Of course, how players across all 4 home nations perform will determine who gets picked by Warren Gatland and his team to go on the Lions tour of Australia in June, so this year the players are playing for more than just their country.

Who do you think will win this year’s 6 Nations?

Read Full Post »

In 1997, a referendum was held in Wales to decide whether we wanted some form of self-government. It was voted in by the narrowest of margins, so since 1999 Wales has had some level of devolved government, the Welsh Assembly Government.

This gives Wales its own control over certain aspects of everyday life like Education, Health, Food and Highways and Transport. In Wales we have free medical prescriptions for everyone, whereas in England it is only certain groups (e.g. the old, pregnant women, children, the jobless) who get free prescriptions.

A few weeks ago Wales became the first country in the United Kingdom (or, Disunited Kingdom as I prefer to call it) to ban plastic shopping bags. Ireland banned such bags several years ago, but no country in the DUK had banned them until now. Strictly speaking, they are not banned, shops are required to charge 5p for them. Of course, most people won’t pay 5p and so are either not using a bag or, if they have too much to carry in their hands or put in their bag, they will take a reusable bag with them to the shop.

Given the amount of plastic bags one finds littering the streets and countryside, I am all in favour of this move. As I am in the other differences the WAG has introduced to life in Wales compared to England, such as free prescriptions and a higher subsidy to higher education.

In today’s Western Mail, there is an article analysing how successful some of the policies the WAG has introduced (which are different from England) have been. It is a pretty interesting read.

I lived in the United States for 9 years. Most people in the DUK don’t realise that individual States in the US have far more autonomy from the Federal Government in Washington DC than even the Scottish have from Westminster (and Scotland have more devolved powers than Wales). When you consider that states in the US have tax raising powers, something Wales does not (yet) have, it amuses me when some people in the DUK think that the level of devolved power we do have in Wales is too much.

If you live in Wales, do you think the majority of measures passed by the WAG with the “made in Wales” stamp are a good thing? If you don’t live in Wales, what would you like to see changed in your own country or state?

Read Full Post »