Daily Record, Saturday 28th July

16 07 2012


By Colin Bunge

BRECHIN City’s groundman has promised Rangers a welcome they’ll never forget – by growing a GREEN pitch.

Keith Juggs, 53, is part of the wave of excitement sweeping the Angus town as the Rangers and their colourful travelling support make their way to the East Coast town to watch their team start their season with a Ramsdens’ Cup showdown with the Angus club.  And his choice of colour for the grass is being widely seen as a tribute to the Ibrox club’s new owner.

Excited Keith, 52, has been weaving his grass growing magic for the Gleeb Park cracks since 1978.  But he’s never experienced the excitement of an encounter with the Ibrox giants.

“I’ve been here 24 years and never known anything like it.  The summer rain has really made it tough to make sure we’ve a decent surface for kick-off.

“But I’ve put in some overtime making sure the pitch has been well-drained.”

The Angus club have been working non-stop to put on a show for the massive travelling support expected to descend on the town.

And even the town’s BAKERS are determined to put out the bunting and welcome mat for the Glasgow men.

“We’ve always made sure the club get the first batch of pies every other weekend”, Bob Gluff, head baker at Phartson’s on Brechin’s Main Street, told SportsWreckered.

“We never get many returns, and it’s good to have regular customers who seem to enjoy our pies and bridies.”

The game, kicking off at 3pm this afternoon, is being seen by many as the biggest and most historic event in the Angus town’s history, with local East Coasters pinching themselves at the prospect of the men from Glasgow’s Southside arriving in Angus.

And the club’s Glebe Park could see a capacity crowd, with rumours sweeping the Angus town the ground’s famous bush may be used as a temporary stand for the visit of the Ibrox cracks.

Meanwhile, local dignarities are predicting a windfall bonanza for businesses amidst the carnival atmosphere the Teddy Bears are predicted to bring to the showpiece occasion predicted by many.

“I know wee Annie at the Railway Arms should be getting a few extra hours on a Saturday, and she’s a bairn to keep.  She could be doing with the money”, Station Master Tam Flah said last night.

Today’s encounter is the Ibrox men’s first match since an alliance of Scotland’s rebel clubs sent them packing to Division 3 in a 25 to 5 vote.

David Murray was unavilable for comment.


Statistical Proof That Stewart Regan Is A Very Silly Man

6 07 2012

“Without Rangers, there is social unrest and a big problem for Scottish society,” claimed Regan. “They have a huge fan base and to contemplate the situation where those fans don’t have a team to support, where those fans are effectively left without a game to follow, I just think that could lead to all sorts of issues, all sorts of problems for the game.”

(Scotsman, 5th July 2012)

Let’s not waste time with background and introduction here, instead cracking on with simple empirical evidence of why Stewart Regan shouldn’t run a minoge, never mind a multi-million pound national institution.

“Social unrest” is not a binary occurrence.  There are levels, graduations, degrees of unrest.  The English riots last year, for example, were not the first, last and only time disorder has swept the streets.  Localised bampottery in schemes did not abate for the duration, only to suddenly reappear as soon as the last tellies in Tottenham had been looted.  “Social unrest” may increase or decrease, depending on a huge variety of factors.  Regan thinks the state of attending/not attending a Rangers game is one of those factors (apparently a very big one), and therefore you would expect “social unrest” to shoot up when Ibrox is half-empty, and fall when it’s a sell-out – after all, the crux of his argument is that those blank Saturday afternoons and midweek nights without a hypothetically dead Rangers will result in the under-footballed Rangers support taking to the streets and creating “social unrest”.

Crime stats tend to be a broad indicator of “social unrest”, at least the kind of “social unrest” Regan was talking about.  If he was anywhere near the truth, you’d expect a broad correlation between crime and attendances at Ibrox.  Here’s the crime stats for Scotland from 1930 onwards:

By Regan’s logic, East Stirling must have higher attendances than Rangers now…

Here’s the Rangers’ average attendances since 1930:

…sorry, did I say ‘logic’? I meant ‘wibblesomeness’.

You’ll be shocked – shocked! – to notice there’s absolutely no correlation!  None whatsoever!  Guess what – an individual, or group of individuals, or indeed society’s propensity to attend Rangers games makes bugger all difference to the levels of “social unrest” recorded.  In fact, you might as well draw in a chain of fox heads on sticks for all the difference it makes:

Foxes are notorious Albion Rovers fans.

Of course, the more cynical amongst us may actually suspect that Regan’s comments were more aimed at instilling apprehension, doubt and uncertainty into those clubs and their fans who have merely campaigned for the footballing authorities’ own rules to be followed, even loosely, and that his remarks were based on nothing other than moonbeams, fairy dust, and a jaw-dropping contempt for the intelligence of Scottish football fans.

But as I say, that would be cynical.

Free Stuff For Kids and GCC

4 07 2012

Some of you may be aware of my recent inglorious failure in the recent council elections.  I mention that merely as a ‘declaration of interest’ in regards what I’m writing about today.

Back in the halcyon days of my childhood, I spent a fair bit of time in and out of Pollokshaws Library picking up whatever reading material took my fancy.  A frequently renewed item was a book called “Free Stuff For Kids”, which pretty much did exactly what it said on the tin.  Generally the deal was you sent a Stamped Addressed Envelope off to a no doubt bored Office Junior in some company or organisation, and in return they forwarded some tat to yourself in order to catch you in the prime of your innocence before healthy cynicism infected your being.  I still have the FREE Esperanto course and FREE stamps (Guinea-Bissau if I remember right) planked in a box somewhere.

Free Stuff For Kids

Your childhood gateway to a cornucopia of junk.

Of course, very little of the ‘stuff’ was actually free.  Quite aside from the sheets of stamps required to be dispatched, the ‘free’ part only really applied to the scabby-heidit wean in question.  Much like Viz’s Junior Beer, the methodology was ‘start ’em early’.  Someone – most likely the marketing department, and thusly the consumer or taxpayer, was paying for all this junk (the Esperanto lessons were probably funded by someone’s Irn Bru bottles though).  It’s the same for the bigger ‘free’ things you tend to avail yourself more of as you get older – education, the health service, roads – there may be no charge at the point of use, but someone, somewhere is paying for it.

(The economists amongst you are likely unimpressed at this homespun hackery and are muttering about externalities as we speak.  Good.)

It’s that kind of ‘free’ (here comes the tenuous connection with politics, folks) that was used as a description for the wi-fi scheme proposed by Glasgow Labour in their manifesto earlier this year.  And not just a postscript hidden away at the back – it was one of the five main pledges most heavily plugged.

“Labour will make Glasgow a wireless city, providing a free wi-fi network across the entire city, and will increase uptake of broadband among social tenants.”

Firstly, let’s assume Labour aren’t about to make Glasgow an entirely wireless city, unless they’re planning to rip out TV aerials and phone sockets across the city.  Let’s also assume we can all agree encouraging the digitally excluded to get ADSL into the home is a good thing.  We’re left with “free wi-fi network across the entire city”.

Of course, what ‘free’ means here is free at the point of access.  Co-incidentally, the name for what are basically routers on poles when talking about public wi-fi is access points (this stuff just writes itself).  You’d think someone would have looked at the costs of setting up these access points, and lo and behold, you’d be right.  Let’s have a look at how much moolah they think this sort of thing costs:

That’s a lot of potholes.

Once you apply some metricfication of the kind of witchcraft-generated units our USian cousins seem to adore, it turns out Glasgow City Council will be forking out a minimum of £8.5 million to assemble and install the kit.  Then another £2.5 million a year just to keep the bits flowing.  That’s £21 million over the 5-year term of the administration*.  And that’s assuming no big change in router tech and speed in that five years – which is admittedly not a big possibility, but then again 10 years ago we were all using 56k modems and wondering what the hell those sounds all actually meant.

At a time when GCC are – not exactly uniquely – a bit strapped for cash, it seems a strange choice of priorities when the road network is literally falling to bits and there’s a major international sporting event on its way.  That’s not to knock the idea in principle, but like a lot of ideas in principle, it’s only ever going to happen when we’re rolling in it.  Regardless, we’re not talking ‘free’ here – either an increase in fees and charges elsewhere or cuts elsewhere.

The alternative would be pretty much further privatisation of the airwaves and public realm.  GCC decide they want a city-wide wi-fi network.  Tenders are advertised, issued and filled.  Maybe even a small rent is charged for the use of municipal property§ to install access points on.  O2, Orange, 3, Vodafone etc. aren’t exactly renowned for their corporate largesse.  The cost of providing such a service (and to be honest, it’s a push to imagine any company taking it on) would be borne by advertising delivered through the network, a tiered service with preference given to paying corporate customers, and through the acquisition and sale of individual and collective usage data (your rights over which will be annulled the minute you tick ‘I Agree’ on the network’s usage licence).  Again, not what a lot of folk would call ‘free’.

Of course, the alternative to all the analysis is that Labour were happy to say anything in the run-up to May’s vote, whether it was possible to deliver on it or not.  But surely that can’t be possible?

* – I had thought the big, bad teuchters in Edinburgh were ripping off Glasgow, bus by bus, but it seems not.

§ – This also raises the question of the role of Glasgow Life and other ALEOs part of the “Glasgow Family” [boak].  Do they receive the charges instead?

Le Tour and Independence Day

2 07 2012

It’s been a dreamy notion of mine over the years to pick up a caravanette and traipse around Western Europe for three weeks over the summer, following the caravan of the Tour de France.  The fact I have no drivers’ licence, speak about as little French as  it’s possible to escape from my Standard Grades with a pass with, and no means to pay for such a jolly, has never quite punctured that particular inner tube of hope.

But it turns out all I might need is a ScotRail day return*.  Already over a year in the planning, the Scottish bid for the Grand Depart of Le Tour 2017 is kicking up a sprocket or two.  Although the idea of the planet’s biggest spectator sporting event coming to grace our sodden shores is fantastic enough by itself, it’s the timing that makes it potentially awe-inspiring.

As things stand, a Yes vote in Autumn 2014 would trigger negotiations on the final settlement between the rUK and Scotland.  Most public pronouncements on what happens next indicate the Scottish elections of May 2016 go ahead as scheduled currently, albeit electing MSPs with a considerably wider remit.  The other date crucial to all this is the date of formal independence, i.e. at what stage MSPs formally take legal and constitutional responsibility for those matters reserved under the Scotland Act 1998.

Given the precedent under that Act – where the formal transfer of power took place on the 1st July 1999, 7 weeks after the elections to Holyrood – it seems sensible to assume a similar timescale, if only to keep things orderly with regards the mandate the parliamentarians elected in 2011 have with regards matter newly under their remit post-Independence.  Members elected in May 2016 would have no such issue.  So 1st July 2016 seems likely to be the date of formal independence.

Here’s where Le Tour comes in.  You’ll note I’ve left out the “de France” part, and for good reason.  Whilst undoubtedly French to its core (and all the better for it), the race has become more and more of a ‘Tour de France and other places’.  It has evolved over time to be a celebration of Europe, with an obvious French bias (a situation brought into sharper focus when you realise a French rider hasn’t won the thing since 1985).  The race starting in the capital of a newly-independent European nation state carries with it a host of political and cultural statements about Scotland’s place in the world, and Europe’s potential embrace of a 28th EU member nation.

Imagine a prologue Time Trial along the cobbled streets of the Royal Mile, heading downhill to the Holyrood building, round the foot of Arthur’s Seat, and heading back towards Princes St and the Castle.  The first stage taking in the Forth Bridge, the Wallace Monument, Loch Lomond and thence into Glasgow.  And the next day heading south, finishing in Carlisle as a symbol of the new partnership of equals between the people of these Isles.  All along the routes hundreds of thousands of people waving the flags of umpteen nations, most prominent amongst them the Saltire.  And dozens of commentators on dozens of TV channels around the world explaining the background and recent events in Scotland.

Le Tour started slightly earlier than normal this year, partly due to quirks of the calendar, and partly due it being an Olympic year in the Northern Hemisphere.  Usually it kicks off on the first Saturday in July.

In 2017, that Saturday is the 1st of July.  Potentially the first anniversary of Independence Day.

* – Which still begs the question as to which internal organ I want to sell to pay for it.