This month we feature old houses down by the harbour in Pittenweem. The bright colours of these ancient tottering dwellings is a joy to behold. Pittenweem, clearly, has one of Scotland's most scenic harbours.
Lovely old houses by the harbour in Pittenweem
May 2012 News cartoon - Devo Maximus (total Scottish Independence)
The dictionary definition of the word 'devolution' is as follows: 'a modified home rule, the delegation of certain powers to regional governments by a central government'. So, is that clear now... no? It's like an independent Scotland, but not quite, and there is room for much debate as to what powers you may be allowed. The power to make your own laws or raise your own taxes is clearly very different to the power that may be given to knit your own jumpers. I jest a little. But not much.
The ordinary man in the street, the one who will ultimately decide Scotland's future, does not fully understand what it's all about. He can perhaps understand the need for the main question which will be Aye or Naw, but he does not know what's going on where devolution, or Devo is concerned. If not enough of us vote Aye, then what exactly are we going to get instead? If things continue on this current vein with the Scottish and UK governments trading blows in public, by the time we actually reach a ballot paper scenario there will be that much confusion that we risk a repeat of the voting shambles a few years ago where folk were so baffled by the concept of having to put more than one cross on more than one ballot paper than the result was a phenomenally large proportion of spoilt ballot papers.
We don't need words like Devo and Devo-max. We don't pay you politicians to come up with abbreviations that merely give the impression that you know what's going on and we don't. So let's stop beating about the bush. Is it Aye, or is it Naw? Got to be an Aye folks.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
May 2012
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I recently became a BT customer. Under difficult circumstances in an old building with ancient wiring, the BT engineers did a first rate job, and in no time I was connected.
The first call on my phone was to BT billing. I got through to a quietly spoken Asian guy. I just knew he was in a call centre in India.
No matter how well folk in call centres in India speak English, there exists such a difference in cultures that it can be quite difficult breaching that huge divide to make yourself properly understood.
That said, we got there in the end and I was given the required reassuring advice.
Later that day I received my first call on the new phone. It was from a quietly spoken Asian guy. It actually sounded not unlike the previous guy, although he remained anonymous. He was not selling. His call was concerned with government matters, and when did I last have loft insulation?
Coincidence? Perhaps, but I am left with a slight worry about iffy practises in BT call centres in India.
If ever there was a time to bring these jobs back to Britain, it is now. British folk would have jobs, money to spend, and may even use that money to make use of BT's fine telephone services.
GLASGOW HAS RECENTLY taken steps to control the numbers and activity of street charity collectors. Not a moment too soon. These people are more than just a nuisance. They hinder movement in main shopping thoroughfares, and actually encourage Joe Public to take alternative routes to avoid them. What you do not want, especially in this financial climate, is something that might in any small way put shoppers off from shopping in our High Streets. The next step has got to be a total ban.
I WAS RECENTLY walking near Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum when a tourist stopped me. He pointed towards the truly magnificent structure of the museum and asked if it had always been a museum. I momentarily wondered if I should give him a stout scud across the top of the head. Could such a stunning bit of architecture ever have been anything other than an art gallery and museum? Perhaps it had been built as a greengrocer's shop and someone with arty-farty ideas bought it over.
'A'-FRAMED PROMOTIONAL street signs continue to annoy me. They sit on the ground and generally get in the way. They are also totally superfluous to requirements. There was a huge one outside a pub in Partick, there just in case you failed to notice that there was a pub right beside it. There was another one in front of the Riverside Museum, there for anyone who didn't spot the very large sailing ship at the rear, a sailing ship that one can see quite clearly when inside the museum. I despair.

Under an old cottage in Scotland lies something very strange. It is a series of stone passages and chambers whose original purpose remains a mystery. Who carved them out of solid rock, and for what reason? Was Gilmerton Cove built to hide someone? Or to hide something? The secret lies under the ground.

Gilmerton Cove
Special feature on the Highland Chocolatier
Many towns in Scotland are struggling to hold their heads above water. Out-of-town shopping developments have seen High Streets in the likes of Paisley, Dumfries, and many other places turned into wastelands full of charity shops and closed shops. The shops that are still open find it difficult because, one - there is not sufficient throughput of people to allow profit, and two - the high level of rates makes it even harder, not just to make a profit, but to survive. In some desperation town councils have taken to painting shop-fronts on the deserted shops in the hope of making the place look more interesting and to perhaps give potential shopkeepers ideas of what could be done. But the situation remains grim.
I, however, have the answer.
In many cases the vacant shops have equally vacant premises above them. The answer is for town councils to buy these unoccupied properties, renovate the structure and create flats, and to then let out the flats. The rent would then be used to subsidise rates for the shops.
It may be thought that there could be a problem with this solution in that it can be hard to determine the actual owner of the properties, and some owners may not want to sell their property to the council. Well, in the majority of cases these premises above vacant shops have been lying unused for quite some considerable time. Indeed, in many cases the actual building structure has been left to decay, what with the growth of plants and water penetration. The owners are clearly not that interested in their properties, and it is their very lack of interest that is contributing in no small measure to the decline of our High Streets.
It is, therefore, time to stop pussyfooting around. Legislation is required to allow compulsory purchase of vacant premises above vacant High Street shops. Councils can then purchase them, renovate, and let out as flats. And to really attract shops back to our High Streets, the rental from the flats could be used to subsidise shop rates to such an extent that the rates could become almost negligible.
That is the answer to regenerating our High Streets and to creating fine towns in a Scotland we can all be proud of.
Reach 3,000*
potential customers
for a monthly equivalent
of around £6.
* Approximate online visits
during the month of March 2012
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Street cable-junction box lying open to the weather
This is a photo of a street cable-junction box. As you may see, it is lying open to the elements. Apparently folk break into them to fraudulently connect their own house. Which kinda makes you wonder why they can't be designed to thwart such attempts. Broadband and dog pee do not mix.
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