Scottish politics

Scottish politics

The New Statesman has a look at Scottish politics where most importantly to me Chris Deerin suggests that neither of the likely candidates to become leader of the SNP can unite the party and effectively lead Scotland and that the rapid collapse of the SNP vote is likely.

In my article, Labour & Devolution, I argued that in order to win seats in Scotland, Labour needs to address “the constitutional question” with sensitivity; it seems from this, that this may not be so. Although Andrew Marr, again in the Statesman, seems to agree with me.

It is a commonly held belief that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.

Starmer and Sarwar seem to be ready to give nothing other than Union to the Scottish people and they may get away with it. …

On proposals for a British digital currency

The UK Govt have issued a consultation on how or whether to implement a Central Bank Digital Currency. I have written up my thoughts on LinkedIn & Medium and have some further notes on my wiki. I look at the arguments in favour, cite some Swedish sources, who are four years ahead of the UK, and conclude, “This is ideologically dangerous, technically complex, and a solution in search of a problem.” …

A growing authoritarianism

A growing authoritarianism

Today, the Guardian reports that Civicus, a global campaigning NGO, in its recently published monitor has downgraded the UK’s acceptance and tolerance of protest, ‘it is now classified as “obstructed” – putting it alongside countries such as Poland, South Africa and Hungary.’ Civicus classify countries as: open; narrowed; obstructed; repressed; or closed. Civicus say,

A significant deterioration in civic freedoms in the UK, particularly the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, has led to the country being downgraded from narrowed to obstructed.

I recently analysed both the Economist’s democracy index and Transparency International’s annual reviews, the former of which had the UK on a stand still. The Economist’s marking on Civil Liberties remains unchanged since 2017 with a 91% positive marking. As my article makes clear, I find this hard to justify then, and even less today as the Tory Government turns the screws on protest, judicial review and free speech. …

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day three.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day three.

Here is my write up on Day 3; the meeting kicked off in working groups and then returned to plenary. The plenary video is indexed on their web page. This article is made from mainly contemporaneous notes, but I had to revisit the video for the final two speakers. The plenary had guest speakers and allowed some of the working groups to present their ideas. My article here does my best to tell the story of what happened. Most groups seem to have some difficulty in imagining what will change, and there is much inertia and fear on what we'll lose and whether it'll get worse and crime will grow. I am disappointed at the failure to emphasis privacy except for Renate Nikolay, from the Commission and there were some belated calls for free speech, universal access and a need to regulate and suppress fake news. There is an interesting but inconclusive discussion on how to catch up with the USA and China, and a need for education and information. Possibly the most important contribution came from Rehana Schwinninger-Ladak, one of the knowledge committee, again from the Commission who classified the problems and solutions as about people, industry and infrastructure.

The full article is overleaf, please use the "Read More" button. ...

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day two.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day two.

On the second day of the EU’s citizens assembly on Virtual Worlds, I observed Working Group 6 which reconvened to further develop proposals aimed at informing the regulation and development of a digital Europe. The working group was directed to focus on the Commission’s digital principles, numbers four and five, “Fostering participation in the digital public space” & “Increasing safety, security and empowerment of individuals”. I wonder if the Commission’s short list of broad principles, is a better way of getting something on the table, rather than the detailed multi-point manifestoes that I have tried to build with others.

While the moderator tried to give the meeting some structure much of the meeting was very disjointed with citizen panel members saying what they wanted, which is their role, but rarely adding to what others say by improving or disagreeing. I believe the moderating team have created a summary to forward to the final plenary, if so they have done a better job than me.

This blog article is based on notes taken at the time, and while I have polished them and turned them into sentences, they do not tell really tell a coherent story but I hope that the combination of the wisdom of crowds and my comments, insights and lessons will be interesting

My notes and comments are below/overleaf; use the Read More button to see the full article.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day one.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day one.

The plenary sessions were set in a virtual world, which looked from the demo, very like 2nd life. Observers could not see or participate in this. I have a note but the ice breaker did not really work,  it was about engaging with virtual worlds, and my notes suggest that the delegates don’t know how to answer the question asked.  There were several technical problems on the video conference.

The moderators suggested that they broke the 1st plenary into four parts, inviting experts to answer questions generated by the syndicate working groups at the previous meetings. The topics were the economy, jobs & business, safety & security, health & well-being/the environment, and Society: Inclusiveness, Accessibility and Democracy.

The first speaker, Harman van Sprang, referenced the sharing economy. I wonder if this is npw an out of date concept as industrial music, and the DatenKraken have enclosed or sought to criminalise what was often published as free content. He also spoke in reply to a question that cities are the centre of innovation. He was brought to this conclusion after being approached by the city of Seoul and came to VR as a means modelling the future. See also, It seems that urban planning is an attractive application for virtual worlds, as Euractiv reports a few days later on how the City of Berlin is using such technology to simulate, test and prove urban designs.

Van Sprang also referred to web 3, which both, he & I categorise as a drive to own one’s own content, the road to Web 3 can be seen as a journey from content to conversation to value. The original web for most people was an act of consumption, Web 2.0 enabled citizen content publication, and Web 3 is seeking to enable ownership, which may allow authors to establish value. For this to be useful and democratic, we need to extend the definition of authorship and copyright laws need to strike the balance between ownership and the right or collective benefit of building derived works.

Eric Marchiol of Renault, forecast that virtual reality was useful for planning , modelling and logistics. Renault have modelled their factory and he showed a video describing the solution and its benefits. From what he showed us, I think the benefits come from a common data schema including all relevant objects which includes people in the plant. He showed an example of certain objects, in this case a drill, which before the project had multiple data descriptions and existed in each of many applications. However, what shook me is that he described that Renault had a real time monitoring system implemented inside their virtual world. I wonder whether the three-dimensional representation is necessary for this functionality. He also described the virtual world as useful for simulation. This of course requires the implementation of science and physics rules within the software to be sufficiently accurate. Marchiol also spoke of health and safety as a dimension of the security problem, which I found refreshing, given the obsession over ‘safety’ often interpreted as censorship, within the Commission materials. From this presentation, I can see that some are using VR as an effective planning and simulation tool, and other training applications are obvious.

Dr Mariette van Huijstee came back to talk and sought to answer one of the questions on digital identity and privacy. She provoked me into asking myself that since an un-forgeable proof of a digital identity is based on encryption, is it possible to install surveillance back doors while promising people the ability to prove their identity.  I say no. I think that asking this in the context of proving one’s identity makes the contradiction more acute.

Elisa Lirone, in my opinion, misunderstands the history of virtual reality. Facebook may,  by having bought Occulus Rift VR, the VR headset vendor and have renamed themselves as Meta to ideologically colonise the solution space but this ignores the 30 years of games development, the establishment of MMOs and the work of organisations like second life, who not only developed a virtual world, but permitted the users to own their own code and the rendered objects and this created markets for digital objects, as did some of the games. (Somewhere in this blog is an article on how people in low wage economies would grand games for might game artefacts and then sell them for real money. It’s dated 2004! Doom was launched in 1993.)

It’s clear that I believe that 3D virtual worlds will have a limited application, but they were not invented or developed by the social media giants.

I again will need to review the stream, You will be able to find the links on this website after the session : Virtual worlds panel (

This was written from contemporaneous notes, but I have taken some time to polish them and have added the notes about the Euractiv article and Berlin’s planning applications; I have backdated this to the day of occurrence. …



On Tuesday, the Government presented a new bill called the Illegal Migration Bill. It’s centre piece is that any asylum seekers who enter the country illegally will have their claims denied and be ‘removed’ from the UK. Rishi Sunak proudly proclaimed the goals of the legislation in a tweet, with a big picture of the word denied.

The Bill, unusually, does not come with a certificate that the law complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. A number of organisations, including the United Nations have stated that they consider the Bill to be in breach of international law and the UK’s duties under these laws and treaties to treat asylum seekers fairly and with dignity. We must remember that these people are fleeing threats of death or war. Alasdair McKenzie writes a more detailed review of the Bill as it stands. He says, “It’s extraordinarily authoritarian.” Also, this article at Euractiv also describes the law’s effects including the argument that one had been brought to the UK as slaves.

The Bill has passed its first reading, on which it seems there is no vote [hansard | parliament live ], the BBC report it, saying ‘The United Nations refugee agency has described the moves as “very concerning” and would block even those people with a compelling claim to asylum.’ They also quote Sunak, Braverman and Cooper. This concern, of abrogating the UK’s legal commitments is echoed in the Guardian.

Zoe Gardner highlights the difficulties that such brutal and scofflaw behaviour will have on the EU and the French. Of course, the UK needs the latter’s help to genuinely close down the Calais camps, but leaving the ECHR is not the way to do it and of course the US will be watching closely as to how the UK Government treats the ECHR.

Not only is the law morally reprehensible, the language used to promote it is equally repugnant and has led commentators such as Gary Linekar and Tanya Bueletmann to compare it to the racism and tactics of the German Nazis which will only encourage the far right to continue their attacks on immigration camps and hotels. This, has also, allowed the Tories to change the topic from their nasty racism to the neutrality of the BBC. Care4Clais & the FBU have organised a statement of solidarity with refugees signed by many of the UK’s leading trade union officials.

On the issue of totalitarianism, there’s also this, an infographic comparing the Tories’ legislative programme with that of the Nazis, detailing their common approaches on protestors, the victimisation of gypsies and Roma, the dilution of fair elections, permitting the stripping of citizenship, the restriction of judicial review, the excising of human rights law from the UK, and the blaming of immigrants & minorities.

Some of Labour’s spokespersons, including their shadow home affairs spokesperson, Yvette Cooper,  are treading a fine line, criticising the government on competence rather than on values, a reminder that people that sit on fences get splinters up their arse.

Refugees have the right under international law to apply for asylum here. The Tories for performative reasons want to make it harder and to remove those who enter the country without permission which is pretty much impossible to get.  …

How democratic is the UK in 2022

How democratic is the UK in 2022

The 2022 version of the Economist’s Democracy Index is out, and I am surprised to find that the UK remains classed as a Democracy and maintains its position as 18th in the World. I last looked at this in 2018 and wrote quite a long article, being surprised at how few Democracies are defined as such by the Economist and how, if the US was classed as a flawed democracy, the UK was not. Democracy is,

Government by consent expressed through free and fair elections and under the rule of law without favour.

The Economist’s index measures over five classifications and sixty questions. The five classifications are Elections (with 12 questions), Government (14), Participation (9), Culture (8) and Human Rights (16). The article looks at theirs and my scoring in each category.

In summary, I believe that, on “Free, fair and meaningful elections”, the UK’s score is serious damaged by the existence of the House of Lords and FPTP votin. There is an inadequate regulation of election finance laws with recently weakened independence for the regulator and an inequality of access to the press and media.

On Functioning of government, I mark the UK down on a weak democratic control of the Government, and no basic human rights law. In the UK, the Government controls the legislature and not the other way around.

On Civil Liberties, I am concerned about the lack of social rights and the limited access to judicial review, there is a serious crisis of confidence in the police, racism is rife within the nation expressed both economically and in terms of relations between minority communities and the state and the government always over-reacts to public order outrages, and is inciting the political atmosphere to pass even more regressive laws.

I talk about the importance of the recommendations of Gordon Brown’s Commission on the constitution of the UK. I commented on the Commission's report in an article, called, New Britain, New Britcon [also on Medium]. The Commission ducked the issue of proportional representation which would be another means of ensuring that the legislature, i.e. Parliament held the government accountable and not the other way round.

Some of where we disagree is about methodology, some of it is values based, but there is a big difference in our scores and the issues I raise need to be addressed by the Economist in their methodology and by the rest of us in terms of building and/or defending a democratic state.

Even Norway’s democracy, the Economist’s No. 1, can be improved.

There is considerably more detailed critique overleaf, including three diagrams. Use the "Read More" button ...

Horizon Europe

As the UK government sorts out the argument with EU over the border between Eire & Great Britain, rejoining Horizon Europe becomes a possibility although it seems that Rishi Sunak is not so keen. In an article on Linkedin, called “Horizon Europe, more than just cost”. I note that in the final year of Horizon the UK rresearch entities were granted €5bn. The most important point made by my article was that the value of Horizon is as much the contribution of the other partners, some of whom must be from a 2nd country. The value of Horizon to researchers is the leverage of the domestic investment as much as the grants. …

Is Brexit worse than expected?

Is Brexit worse than expected?

I was talking to a friend, who asked if anyone had predicted the current chaos caused by Brexit, which led me to look for and find my personal manifesto for remain [ or on medium ], both published in May 2016

I got the economy, rights, and the loss of freedom of movement right. I was also right on sovereignty and remain so on peace and hope!

I didn’t predict the collapse of offshore fishing industry, food rationing, or an energy cost crisis or that we would have a trade agreement that didn’t allow people to come here to work, although on fish & food, others did. I, and I think most people, have a better understanding of what we’ve lost. I think we’ll be back. …