Tuesday, 26 August 2014

No-one can stop us!

"No-one can stop us using the pound!"

That is true. No-one could stop us using the dollar or the yen either, if we chose to do so. It just wouldn't be smart. Neither would using the pound outside the UK currency union.

No-one can stop Panama and Ecuador using the dollar, so they do use it. But the dollar is a foreign currency, controlled by a foreign country. These two Latin American countries allow the USA to enforce fiscal and monetary discipline upon them because they can't easily do it themselves. They have to generate trade surpluses in order to accumulate domestic spending power. Their governments are not masters of their own economies.

So if Scotland wants to wrest control of monetary policy away from London only to hand it straight back again, this time with no influence over it whatsoever, then yes, no-one can stop us.

On the other hand, good luck generating the trade surplus needed to pay for the promised fairer society after the financial services industry has been forced to move south of the border in order to stay in the same jurisdiction as its lender of last resort. Most Scottish financial products are exported to the UK.

Good luck obtaining a fair share of The Bank of England's foreign currency reserves after you've refused to take a fair share of the UK national debt.

Good luck finding people to purchase Scottish government bonds when you've shown yourself likely to default whenever you don't get what you want.

But we can always console ourselves with the thought that no-one could stop us!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Scottish Referendum:
Currency Plan B (for Broke?)

This is the text of my letter,  published in The Falkirk Herald last Thursday:

"It's Scotland's pound and we're keeping it," they say. We are still being treated like children who do not understand economics.

The pound is the currency of the union. It is not Scotland's pound, nor is it England's, Wales' or Northern Ireland's pound. Scotland proposes leaving the union. You cannot divorce and expect to retain the joint account. When you're single again you must establish your own account and pay your own way.

It's no good repeatedly telling your ex-partners that it's somehow in their interest to continue underwriting your debts; after the 2008 crisis they won't believe you.

If Scotland used the pound unilaterally we would have to accumulate pounds by trade, since our government could not create for itself an increased supply of a foreign currency. Failure to generate a trade surplus would thus preclude the blithely promised fairer society. You might want it, but you can't have it if you can't pay for it.

Without a central bank, borrowing would become more expensive, especially if the Scottish government followed through on its reckless threat to throw over responsibility for its share of the UK National Debt. Remember a Scottish Chancellor under a Scottish Prime Minister recently increased that debt to rescue The Royal Bank of Scotland. No-one lends cheaply to those perceived as defaulters.

Loss of financial sector jobs could easily run into tens of thousands, reducing tax revenues, increasing the Scottish government's need to borrow and raising interest rates still further.

Using sterling without agreement has costs. It's not just a matter of thumbing our noses at the rest of the UK and saying we'll do as we like.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A new edition - Prophets of Baal

We all know that you can't judge a book by its cover, but people tell me that the original cover for 'Prophets of Baal' was not really inspirational.  The more I looked at it myself from the point of view of a newcomer, the more I felt it looked as though the story must be about a small boat sailor who spends his time observing seagulls.

Now I have nothing against sailing.  Far from it, as readers of a recent blog post will have noted.  And I am also quite a keen bird photographer.  In fact the seagull that used to feature  on the cover was a photograph that I took myself.

However the old cover was supposed to pose this question: 'Can witches transform themselves into gulls and perform sea magic whilst they're at it?'  It rather seems that the picture must have been asking this question in a very obscure language that not too many readers understood. So I decided to turn to a professional* instead of trying to express myself in pictures as well as words.

There is a question posed in the book that is considerably more fundamental.  That question is: 'Can a modern woman be as glamorous as the lady on the new cover and still be a witch?'  Well, I suppose you might be able to guess the answer.  But what will you do about it?

This is the original synopsis.
What's it about? Well, if you love that old detective genre classic the English country house murder, here's a new twist for you! Naïve young private investigator Toby Le Tocq is soon all at sea in more ways than one when he takes a casual interest in a two hundred year old case. Locals are strangely divided. Some want to drive him away, whilst two beautiful and aristocratic women compete for his affections. But is it really just blind luck? In the blood of the two rivals flows an ancient power of sorcery. When Toby falls for the younger witch he is enmeshed in a web of intrigue, crime and revenge. Behind it all is the battle for control of a vast demonic power. If the girl he loves is to be saved from death, Toby faces not just a struggle to understand the occult but an ancient battle for supremacy that somehow he cannot help believing he has fought before. And unknown to Toby, both sides have picked him to play a leading role in the latest round!
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*(I am indebted to Cristi Iancu at dreamstime.com.)

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Me And My Dog

Last weekend, my dog had a bad time. I had a bad time too, an emergency hospital admission, ambulance, siren, flashing lights and everything, after a pair of wonderful paramedics rescued me from an asthmatic collapse. But this story is not about me.
My dog was first on the scene. He responded to my call for help and, realising at once that the crisis was unprecedented in his experience, he became very concerned. It seemed there was nothing that a dog could do to help.
Yet he knows that his people are always there to help him when he needs it. When, through no fault of his own, he found himself in SSPCA kennels, we came and adopted him. That was very important because he hated the kennels, wouldn't eat properly and lost a great deal of weight. A good home, affection and regular exercise soon made a new dog of him.
On the occasions that he has been clumsy and fallen in whilst exploring the riverbank near his new home, his person has been there to help him out. When there are worrying things about, his people are about too.
In return, he is totally committed to protecting his people and his home against all intruders and perceived threats of any kind whatsoever. He has taken over from the alarm clock the responsibility for getting sluggards out of bed in the morning and he also takes seriously the duty of regulating the behaviour of all other animals (except the cat.)
But how can a dog be expected to cope with a medical emergency that requires more than just a good licking with a big sloppy tongue? And how should a dog react when strange people come and start doing things that he doesn't understand with strange apparatus?
Well, first, it is obvious to him that these people are not enemies but are there to help. They are too busy helping to be able to defend themselves (and his person) therefore a dog must keep watch outside the door of the room where his person has collapsed and ensure that no troublemakers interfere with the rescue attempt.
But then what? His person is taken away in circumstances that he knows are very troubling and he is left behind. His other person also goes away and comes back alone. The next day she goes away and comes back alone again. It has been almost twenty four hours, an eternity in dog time. He has no idea what has become of his person, no-one can explain to him and he is very upset indeed. He doesn't eat properly and he mopes. What else can he do?
At last his other person goes away for the third time. She comes back for the third time. He doesn't feel like getting up. He's seen this twice before. But what's this? His ears prick up. There's someone else in the car. Could it be? Is it? It is! Hoo-rah!
I am welcomed home as if I had been gone for weeks, smothered in licks and climbed over by a dog who weighs not far off my own weight and is much more solid. The tail thumps around so hard that the dog is almost wagged off his feet and the whole great body capers around in joy. The relief is palpable; the instruction never to scare him like that again is scarcely less so.
You know what some people say about animals showing humans only cupboard love? It's nonsense.