A few reflections on the Scottish Referendum

September 20, 2014

The Scottish Referendum ended with a win for the Better Together campaign and devastation for the devolutionists and its leader Alex Salmond. Here are a few unedited impressions of the end-game

September 18th 2014

An emotional roller-coaster of a final day of campaigning and a night waiting as the results were counted. The process is hailed as a template for democratic elections. The commitment was impressive, the over ninety percent registration, over eighty percent turn-out.

Hope and denial

Hope in bucketfuls from the Independent Scotland ranks. For that dreamed-for freedom.

Freedom from the auld enemy, reborn as ‘the politicians in Whitehall’. Denial in bucketfuls, too. Denial that Scottish leaders were of a similar moral standing and competence to Whitehall’s toffs and scoundrels. The anger of one old-school socialist brought memories of an earlier age of fire-breathing working-class Scottish Union leaders with a long rehearsed loathing of his class enemies.

The pain of loss

The expressions of a lost dream in which a free Scotland would have been free from Trident -that was often mentioned. Free from perceived unjust laws imposed from Whitehall. For some, free from fears of what might happen, for example to the NHS [National Health Service].

From under a duvet

A distraught and inconsolable young caller to a phone-in. Upset after campaigning all day, staying up all night. Polls show the Better Together win. More questioning. She is nineteen. Tearful. In bed. I imagine her curled up, foetal position, under a duvet, clutching her I-phone.

Whitehall. It’s politics as usual

Early morning. A prepared statement from David Cameron confirming concessions to Scotland but also to the other constitutive parts of the [still] United Kingdom. Seized on as an electioneering ploy.

The agony of Alex

Alex Salmond, indefatigable leader of the Yes campaign for two years. Final speech had been as confident as ever. Within hours of the result, he announces he will step down as first Minister of the Scottish Parliament. The mask of command had been wearily taken off.

World reaction

Excellent International review from BBC Scotland.

Local reaction

Just heard two Labour politicians in deeply-divided discussion [BBC Radio 5] much easier for the Better Together camp to seek reconciliation. Sad.


It depends what you mean by Independent: what you vote for and what you may get

September 16, 2014

I believeThe six words on the voting slip ask the ‘simple’ question: Should Scotland be an Independent Country? But independence is more a state of mind than a constitutional matter

The map is not the territory

When my local store sells me a copy of The Independent, its electronic screen says I have been sold an Independant. Experience, tells me I have not been sold the wrong product. Or, to use a term from the social sciences, the map is not the territory.

The independence being voted for or against is a concept constructed in the mind of each individual cross-maker. It will turn out to be the concept acted out in the future not just by cross-makers but a wider group of consequential cross-carriers.

I offer a few thoughts from the sidelines and beyond the geographic borders of Scotland.

How to become independent

Believe. Believe you have removed the ties that bind you to a state of dependency. Believe you will be independent fiscally, even if you have restrictions imposed by currency power brokers in London, Frankfurt and New York. Believe you will be independent militarily because you will not share military resources with England or America, who will not seek some compensation for the collateral damage produced through logistic disruption of their nuclear forces. Believe in the revenues accruing from oil both discovered and waiting to be discovered. And that the revenues will be directed through the wisdom of politicians to address the longer term well-being of an aging population.

But above all

But above all, believe you, the individual voter, will be liberated. You will be able to say truthfully ‘I am no longer under the control of a malign or at best uncaring foreign power. I am free and independent.’

And maybe the dream will come true.


Donald Trump shifts his attention to Ireland after losing Scottish wind-farm legal battle

February 20, 2014

This week the resilient Donald Trump bounces back from losing his battle against off-shore wind farms which he claimed were wrecking his plans for a super resort and golf complex in Aberdeenshire.  It seems that Scotland’s loss is to be Ireland’s gain

Donald Trump has bought a five star golf resort on the west coast of Ireland after losing a legal action against a windfarm being built near his golf resort in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

The billionaire property developer said that while he appealed against the court defeat in Scotland he would be diverting his energies to the exclusive Doonbeg golf and hotel complex on the Atlantic coastline of County Clare, restyling it the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

Trump had taken the Scottish government to court over a decision to approve a major experimental windfarm in Aberdeen Bay, which will be about two miles south east of his planned £750m golf resort, because it spoiled the view.

Trump’s tale

We have been followed the leadership style and actions of Mr Trump in LWD for some years.

His interest in building a world class golf facility in Scotland was dogged in legal controversies from the start. Initially, the legal objections came from environmentalists and local residents. Later, it was Mr Trump who sought legal rights to protect his interests.

Leadership style

The Trump style of leadership seemed blunt rather than devious or Machiavellian. This places him at some disadvantage over pressure groups whose leaders have long experience of challenging the powerful and drawing attention to their cause.  Maybe Donald trump will now learn from his experiences. Otherwise there will be one more extended story as the local bhoys prepare to deal with the latest foreign threat to their culture and coast line.


Political Mannequin Helena Torry in Prison Exchange Scheme

January 14, 2013

Helena TorryA bizarre story from Aberdeen in Scotland tells of a life-size dummy “arrested” and its creator released in what has been called a prisoner exchange scheme

In a recent Aberdeen City Council election, [April 2012] a creative protest saw a mannequin entered as a candidate with the name Helena Torry. Its purported election agent was Renee Slater, in real-life a political activist.

The authorities were not pleased, and began legal procedures against Renee for election fraud. At some stage Renee was incarcerated in a police cell briefly. When the dummy was recovered by the police, it was “held in custody” and Rene released.

Prisoner exchange

The “facts” of the case were taken and turned into the story of a political exchange between a dummy and its creator. Fact: the name of Helena Torry was entered on the electoral role. Fact: its purported agent Rene Slater was charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Fact: Slater claimed to have spent some time in a police cell and was released after the dummy was held by the police [Habeas Corpus act, 1649 to apply]

Renee Slater, who put the name Helena Torry forward to stand in the elections in protest against the candidates and their parties, won the case which had been brought by a council returning officer under the Representation of the People Act 1983. From these facts a story was constructed which is told with relish on the BBC politics show, where you can also find a U-tube of the interview, in which Renee tells the interviewer Andrew Neil [Jan 2013] that she had been in a police cell and was initially exchanged for the dummy.

It had been suggested that the dummy had shown more charisma than any of the other candidates.

You say Torrey I say Torry

The BBC is favouring the spelling Torrey. Other earlier stories and election posters have the spelling Torry.

Scotland the brave

There is a wit and vibrancy in this gesture which auger well for the forthcoming referendum on the possibility of an independent future for Scotland outside the United Kingdom.

Note to MBA students

You may find it instructive to apply the map reading and map testing approach to examine this blog post.


Donald Trump’s Love-affair with Scottish Golf Courses takes a blow

April 24, 2012

Donald Trump American entrepreneur, TV reality show star, and wannabe Presidential candidate is a golf enthusiast who has invested heavily in the leisure industry of Scotland. But he appears to be having a tiff with Scottish politicians

Mr Trump claims that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond had reassured him that proposals to build an off-shore wind farm close to his championship golf course would never win political approval.

The betrayal

But yesterday, [April 23rd 2012] according to the Scotsman:

Mr Trump said: “I feel totally betrayed and lied to by the Scottish Government. I was really misled and mistreated.”
The tycoon made it clear that, should the wind farm get the go-ahead, then the Menie [Aberdeenshire] development would end once the course is opened and construction on the planned clubhouse is completed. It will be a golf course and it will be a beautiful clubhouse and that will be it. That’s not what I want. We have a concept for a hotel which will blow everyone’s minds but I can’t have a hotel looking into those windmills.”

Another account of the turbulent meeting can be found in the Guardian.

Leaders we deserve have followed the Scottish business activities of Mr Trump for several years. His business style seems to have contributed to problems in implementing some of his cherished visions.

In 2010 we reported The Independent as saying:

The billionaire Donald Trump last week clashed with protesters opposed to his controversial plans to build the “world’s greatest golf course” near Aberdeen. Quarry worker Michael Forbes, who is refusing to sell his property which adjoins the £750m scheme, claims Mr Trump’s workers unlawfully annexed his land. The clash is the latest skirmish in an increasingly bitter battle to prevent Mr Trump from developing the site. More than 7,000 local people have signed up to join the “bunker”, co-owners of an acre of land sold by Mr Forbes [a local land-owner] to disrupt the US tycoon’s plans. The philanthropist and co-founder of the Body Shop (Gordon Roddick) and Green MP Caroline Lucas are the latest to join the campaign.

Wind Farms OK, Donald Trump not OK?

It will be interesting to see whether Mr Trump is succeeding in his dilemma of winning over regional opposition to his business interests while achieving his business goals.

Acknowledgement

Image from Ecohooks website and the pithily titled post: Donald Trump Pissed about Offshore Wind Farms


Katherine Garrett-Cox faces Leadership Challenges at Alliance Trust

April 9, 2012

Challenges facing the Alliance Trust bring back memories. Investment Trusts in the UK have been popular since their creation in the 19th century, as an alternative to stocks and shares for the investor of limited means and experience

The image of Investment Trusts retains the virtues of prudence associated with the stereotyped Scottish banker, and so valued (at least in principle) by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The format took a blow in the early 20th century through financial innovations which almost wiped out the industry, as entrepreneurial competitors found riskier and more profitable ways of capitalisation. One of the innovating firms which became subject to a government enquiry was Aberdeen Asset Management which re-enters the story this week [April 2012].

The current head of Alliance Trust, Katherine Garrett-Cox is one of the most successful bankers of her generation also known as the ice-woman, superwoman and Katherine the Great. It may or may not be coincidence that one of her earlier jobs in a glittering career was at Aberdeen Asset Management.

Background

Bill Jamieson of The Scotsman provides a background analysis:

Katherine Garrett-Cox is head of Alliance Trust, one of Scotland’s largest companies by market capitalisation. It can certainly claim the largest private shareholder following: investment has been its business for generations. But now, as if the eruption of a public row over performance and stewardship – the second in two years – is not sufficiently concerning, the prospect of a hostile approach from rival Aberdeen Asset Management (AAM) compels wide attention.
Laxey Partners, an investor activist group speaking for 1.7 per cent of Alliance’s shares, has accused Garrett-Cox and the board of lacklustre performance and misleading shareholders about the expenses of the business. It has tabled a motion for the annual meeting on 27 April calling, inter alia, for the board to concentrate on improving performance and to consider outsourcing the fund’s investment management.

How has a £2.1 billion investment trust, famed for its defensive, conservative approach to equity investment – qualities that have swung back in to favour in recent years – found itself under such attack? And why has a trust with an impressive record of sustained dividend growth [for forty five years] has failed to rally support among the industry analysts and commentators who set such store by long-term dividend performance?

Dynamic leadership has situational aspects

Jamieson concentrates on two factors contributing the problems at Alliance. The first seems to be a clash of values between a deeply conservative corporate culture at Alliance and a more dynamic culture at AAM. The second and related issue is the leadership style of Ms Garrett-Cox. He notes that

Alliance may now be running out of time [although some investors] would look askance at a boarding party raid from a 1.7 per cent-owning group based in the Isle of Man and the possible entry of AAM which nearly broke the investment trust industry in the split capital trust debacle [a financial innovation for Investment Trusts] investigated by the Treasury a decade ago. AAM’s Martin Gilbert said then he wanted out of the retail investment business. But amnesia among stockbrokers is an occupational hazard.

If you are seeking to build a high-volume fund management platform you need a galvanizing leadership and love of profile. Recent non-executive board appointments have been drawn in the main from the [worlds of] governance, compliance and regulation, rather than front-line investment experience. All this, and Garrett-Cox’s ice maiden persona, has worked to turn Alliance from being a radiator into a fridge.

Patterns of behaviour

The story illustrates the dangers of adhering to a traditional culture in changing times, and the merits of dynamic leadership. However it may also be taken, as Jamieson suggests as the capacity for ‘amnesia among stockbrokers’ verging on what has also been called wilful blindness and a refusal to learn the messages of the past decades of financial turbulence. There is a strangely old-fashioned feel to a narrative of a buccaneering leader operating out of a tax haven. Nor does a simple reading of the story capture the more innovative skills which were a part of Garrett-Cox’s career under different circumstances.

Acknowledgement

Image from Opitslinkfest blog


Scotland’s Rugby Triumph and the Robinson Factor

November 22, 2009

Scotland’s rugby team shows great team-spirit in beating the much-fancied Australians. Their new coach Andy Robinson must take some of the credit

Sport often provides moments of triumph and irony packaged up together. So it was on Saturday [21st November 2003]. It was a day with too much sport for anyone without the benefits of recording technology. Come to think of it, it’s been that sort of week, with calls for video-replays to prevent cheating footballers thwart the efforts of gallant Celtic warriors in their efforts to reach the World Cup finals.

Rugby Union followers on Saturday found two internationals being screened simultaneously mid-afternoon. Truth to tell they were not exactly memorable games. England lost to the New Zealand All Blacks. No surprise there. Wales just about avoided gifting the game to Argentina’s Pumas. An exasperated Brian Moore awarded man of the match to Argentinian Lobo, arguing that he didn’t have to pick someone on the winning side.

Scotland v Australia

Many neutrals may have missed the final game of the day between Scotland and Australia. This was barely mentioned in the English media in the run-up to the game. The result was presumed to be as inevitable as that of the England/ New Zealand game. Australia would win by many an Ozzie mile.

Except it didn’t happen. Scotland scrapped. The wind gusted. The Ozzies couldn’t break down the Scots defence. Their usually reliable kicker Matt Giteau was by his standards woeful.

Then at last the Australians crashed over for a last-minute try. Giteau had one more chance to win the game. He missed again. Scotland had won against the Australian team for the first time in over 20 years.

Andy Robinson

The irony of the result came from the contribution made by the new Coach, Andy Robinson. He had been sacked by England for lack of results earlier in the year. England’s results have continued to be less than impressive. Meanwhile he has been demonstrating that his coaching skills might not have been a problem which England fixed on his dismissal.