31 August 2008

Biting off more than you can chew

One of the principal reasons why Scottish Ministers have tended to keep their mouths shut about matters beyond their competence is that they have no-one to advise them. But, according to Scotland on Sunday, this does not seem to bother the SNP administration:
ALEX Salmond and his ministers are to draw up official Scottish Government foreign policy independently from the rest of Britain, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The First Minister has decreed that he and other SNP ministers are to declare Scottish Government positions on everything from the future of Nato to the conflict in Iraq, if asked by members of the public.
The major shift in policy is disclosed in an internal memo, leaked to Scotland on Sunday, which changes the way ministers deal with public correspondence. Anyone writing to the Edinburgh administration asking for ministers' views on such "reserved" matters as foreign affairs will now get an official reply, representing the views of the Scottish Government.

All very well, but some foreign affairs are quite complicated. For example, to take a view on how Europe (for want of a better phrase) should react to events in the Caucasus demands careful consideration (although I readily admit that Miliband's blundering about on this matter gives little indication of any thought processes). Similarly, getting 'our boys' out of Iraq without allowing the country to disintegrate may involve some delicate judgements.

And who will advise Scottish Ministers on these matters? Scottish Executive civil servants have no more knowledge of most foreign affairs than any other citizen. I rather doubt that the Foreign Office will be prepared to advise Scottish Ministers.

Furthermore, if Scottish Ministers take an official view on Iran or the Ukraine, they may be asked to justify that view, either in parliament or out of it. They have neither the knowledge or the advice to enable them to do so.


What does this remind you of? Scotland on Sunday reports:
GORDON Brown is preparing to lead his party into the crucial Glenrothes by-election, but only from his neighbouring seat in Kirkcaldy, Scotland on Sunday has learned.
The Prime Minister has vowed to maintain the convention which states that the occupant of No 10 does not actively campaign in by-elections.But the Brown camp is now eyeing up numerous dates in the Prime Minister's calendar over the next two months in his own Kirkcaldy seat, which they may turn into de facto campaigning visits.

Perhaps, it might be the signing of the Lisbon Treaty but turning up late. Alternatively, it might be welcoming the Olympic torch but refusing to touch it.

When will he learn that seeking to triangulate your way out of difficulties merely risks getting the worst of both worlds? If you're going to do it, do it whole-heartedly.

30 August 2008

Music of the week

For insomniacs everywhere.

The video may not be very good; the clothes may be somewhat doubtful. But that was what 1980 was like.

Charlie Dore:

29 August 2008

Where to go on holiday?

Well obviously not the States (even if you could find a reliable airline):

(£ against the dollar; source - BBC)

And Europe is not looking too good, either:

(£ against the euro; source - BBC)

Portobello, once again, I suppose ...

No we can't?

It was an occasion, certainly. (Can you imagine Mr Cameron or Mr Brown attracting 80,000 people to Wembley or Hampden? Even if Sheryl Crow was doing the warm-up?)

A bit too glitzy for my taste, but Americans seem to like that stuff. And our politicians can only dream of being allowed to produce a stream of uncosted pledges which would simultaneously deliver tax cuts and increased public spending. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that it was thoughtfully put together and beautifully delivered.

You may read the text of his speech here.

28 August 2008

What's in a name?

I confess to a pang of regret that Celtic were not drawn in the same group as BATE Borisov of Belarus. Apart from the pleasing alliteration, the football club has the delightful name of Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electrical Equipment. Or so I am reliably informed.

Anyhow, these tractor boys have to face Real Madrid, Juventus and Zenit St Petersburg. Not a snowball's chance.

Yes you can

Will you wait up (or get up) for Obama's speech? According to the schedules, it will be shown on BBC Parliament at 4 am tomorrow (Friday) morning. You might also catch it on Up All Night on Radio 5.

Me, I kinda sleep irregular hours anyway. So, sure, I intend to witness what might be extraordinary.

27 August 2008

No excuses

Motes and planks and glass houses. The Guardian reports:

Overweight people were told today there are "no excuses" for being obese as the Conservative party launches a new "responsibility" deal on public health. The shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, used a speech to the thinktank Reform, entitled No Excuses, No Nannying, to set out proposals on how the government and business can work together to address problems caused by poor diet, alcohol abuse and lack of exercise.
"Tell people that biology and the environment cause obesity and they are offered the one thing we have to avoid: an excuse," he said.
"As it is, people who see more fat people around them may themselves be more likely to gain weight."

Bigger and bigger

Not sure that I understand demographics. The Times reports:
Forecasts published by the European Commission suggest that Britain will overtake Germany within 50 years as the population rises from 60.9 million today to 77 million.
The projected 25 per cent increase triggered renewed calls for the Government to stem the flow of immigration, which has surged since Labour came to power 11 years ago. Increasing population, together with a rise in the number of elderly people, will heap further pressure on public services, particular the NHS.
Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that the report showed a coherent strategy was needed to deal with population growth. “This not only requires an annual limit on immigration, which takes into account its impact on the public service infrastructure and cohesion,” he said, “it also requires us to tackle other issues like family breakdown which have a direct effect on resource use in our country, as well as to improve our skills base.”

If we are all getting older and not breeding sufficiently to maintain the size of the workforce, we will run into trouble like this, reported in The Herald:
The cost of providing the Scottish Government's popular free personal care policy has risen by 15% in a year.
Official figures published yesterday show the cost of delivering the policy rose from £280m to £321m in 2006-07.

Instead of limiting immigration, surely we need to encourage it, so that the workforce will be big enough to pay for the costs of the elderly.

26 August 2008


Senator Obama is a lucky man. Mrs Obama is quite something. The speech may have been corny in places and overly concerned with pressing the appropriate buttons. But the delivery was splendid - Gordon Brown could learn a lot. I don't know about her husband but I'd vote for Michelle as president.

Footie politics

All this talk of a GB football team for the London Olympics seems a bit pointless. It is not as though Jim Baxter, Denis Law and Kenny Dalgleish were still in their pomp. I struggle to think of any current Scottish players who would merit inclusion in a GB squad. Barry Ferguson against Gerrard, Lampard, Cole, Hargreaves et al? McManus against Ferdinand, Terry and co? I suppose Craig Gordon might be in with a shout.

The present English team might not be world-beaters, but it is difficult to see that a leavening of Scottish (or Welsh or Northern Irish) players would effect any improvement. Which is not the point of course. But why play an essentially English team under a GB flag?

On a point of historical interest, there was indeed a GB football team which used to play in the Olympics in, I think, the 1950s. It was composed entirely of amateurs, as in those days professionals (in all sports) were excluded from the Olympics. (How quaint, I hear you respond.) But I think I am correct in asserting that the GB team included Davie Holt, the Hearts full back of that era, who remained an amateur during his time at Tynecastle.

25 August 2008

Great quotes of the Olympics

1. Chris Hoy

Next day, Hoy meets some Scottish journalists. One puts it to him that: 'In the last 24 hours everyone has been offering an opinion on Chris Hoy. But what does Chris Hoy think of Chris Hoy?'
Hoy doesn't miss a beat: 'Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day that Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse.'

2. Rebecca Adlington

"Someone asked me whether they should make a statue of me somewhere. How daft is that? Who'd want a statue of me with my big shoulders?"

3. Bryony Shaw

Expressing her delight at clinching a bronze in the dramatic windsurfing competition in Qingdao, Shaw told the BBC "I am so fucking happy."

Book morals

It seems to me a little ungenerous, perhaps even distasteful, for someone to describe her mother's dementia in a book which is to be serialised in the sunday papers. But then I suppose Carol Thatcher needed the money.

23 August 2008

Music of the week

Here is - as one of my interlocutors describes it - some more old fogey music. This time Janis Ian:

She wanted to be a mechanic

Internet telly is a wonderful thing. You can watch programmes when you want (within certain limits) - and, if necessary, you can pause them when the telephone rings or when you need to visit the loo.

But they are far from perfect. Habitually, I watch Newsnight Scotland (sad, I know) the following day on the BBC's i-player. (And Mr Brewer's smirk when, at the end of the programme, he mentions that it is available on the i-player really pisses me off.) But this week - for reasons unexplained - Newsnicht for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is simply not available. But, hey, I'm cool; I can live without it.

But ITV's 'Catch-up' equivalent takes the biscuit. This week, ITV3 has been re-showing various episodes of Rebus, for which much credit. But do not, for heaven's sake, try to watch last night's episode on Catch-up (here). Leave aside the obvious difficulties with the sound level. Focus on the fact that in an episode that lasts 90 minutes there are four ad breaks. The show is preceded by two showings of an MOD ad for the Royal Navy; the same ad is repeated three times during the first ad break, three times during the second ad break, four times during the third ad break and four times during the fourth ad break. Just in case you missed it, the same ad is then repeated twice at the end of the show.

I just hope that the MOD is not paying per showing ...

Quote of the day

The best job at the Olympics (here):
Some of the Chinese "volunteers" have a great job as well. You need to pick carefully, though, if you're thinking of doing it in London at 2012. You could end up being the guy who wipes the sweat off the weightlifting podium in between jerks – he didn't look that thrilled. Over by the discus cage, however, the volunteers with the best job in the Games have arrived. They are the two nerdy looking guys who control the jazzy little red cars that take the discuses and the javelins back to the throwing zone after the distance has been measured. These two volunteers just sit on little chairs with their remote controls in hand and guide the cars back and forth. How did they blag that one? I presume that their parents are probably party apparatchiks – book yourself in for that job now is my advice.

21 August 2008

Fans with typewriters?

Were they at the same match? The Herald reports:
Strap yourselves in: Scotland are intent on taking the swashbuckling route to South Africa. George Burley removed any lingering doubt over his intentions for the imminent World Cup qualification process with a cavalier approach to neutralising Northern Ireland at Hampden Park.
As a result, last night's final warm-up was thrilling, adventurous and, in a remarkable change of tack, occasionally over-indulgent. Alas, for all their territorial, technical and tactical superiority, Scotland were tangibly unrewarded.
Nevertheless, this was an experiment rich in promise and possibility.

The Scotsman takes a different line:
Wish fulfilment remained well beyond George Burley's reach last night, when the Scotland manager's hoped-for victory over Northern Ireland failed to materialise. Most worryingly for Burley and the home fans, such a frustration seemed inevitable virtually throughout a largely undistinguished 90 minutes.
The second-half penalty kick substitute Allan McGregor saved from David Healy and the ordering off just minutes before of the Irish left-back, the 18-year-old debutant, Ryan McGivern, were isolated moments of excitement in a match that could not reasonably be used as a measure of the Scots' prospects in their opening World Cup qualifier in Macedonia next month.The Scots for a long time appeared generally ill at ease, deriving in no small part from the way in which they were deployed.

"Thrilling" and "adventurous" or "largely undistinguished"? I suppose it depends upon whether your glass is half-full or half-empty. The fact remains that it was a nil-nil draw.

19 August 2008

It's not rocket science

This may seem like a fairy story, but once upon a time there was a Labour Party which operated a system of succession planning. When an MP was reaching retirement age - admittedly a somewhat flexible concept - a replacement would be (informally of course) identified and he or she would 'nurse' the constituency. When the time came, the replacement would be effortlessly eased into the position of candidate. This may appear to be a species of cronyism and, in one sense, I suppose it was.

But was that system any worse than the chaos that surrounded the prospective Labour candidate for Glasgow East and that now envelops Glenrothes? The SNP appears to have got its act together - why cannot Labour? The late Mr MacDougall was seriously ill for two years but when the worst happens the Labour Party representatives run around like headless chickens - McLeish, May, Rowley? Did nobody think to look ahead?

Is there anyone in charge of the party organisation?

It's all become a bit silly

I blame that Tony Blair. It was he who decreed that Kelly Holmes should be made a dame, just because she won two gold medals. And a precedent was set. Populist, yes, but hardly respectful of honours. I don't remember David Hemery being knighted; and Sir Steve Redgrave had to win oodles of medals before he secured his title.

So now, we face the prospect of Sir Chris, Dame Rebecca and Sir Bradley. How can the government avoid it? Not easily, I suspect.

The only good thing is that it will bring the whole silly honours shooting match into disrepute.

Remember the also-rans

Nice piece from Charlotte Leslie in The Guardian:
I celebrate the magnitude of Olympic glory not as one of the winners, but it means so much to me because I am one of the losers. I used to swim. I never got to Olympic standard, but between the tender ages of 11 and 14, I was a national finalist (backstroke) and Olympic glory didn't seem utterly impossible.
Then my feet didn't grow. I didn't grow. And I subsequently watched several of my 15-year-old rivals zoom ahead, eventually to swim in the Olympics, while for me, four hours of training a day with City of Bristol swimming squad, at 7,000m per session, resulted not in better times, but the slow realisation I just wasn't quite good enough.

Join the rest of us, Charlotte. And just because I never got my marathon time below 3:38 doesn't mean I can't appreciate the effort and talent of the Hoys and Adlingtons.

17 August 2008


No, I don't know what it is. I can't even pronounce it with any certainty.

But they won a gold medal. Must be worth something.

What are the comrades saying?

Dear oh dear. The Sunday Times hits the nail on a sore spot:
A friend of Brown, who is MP for neighbouring Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said McLeish suffered from “intellectual arrogance”.
He added: “I can’t stand the little bastard. I couldn’t wish it on a nicer man. If he wins it he can go into well-deserved obscurity in the House of Commons. If he loses, fine.”
Another Labour MP said: “It can’t possibly be Henry. If we had to put Henry up it would be a wider sign that the Labour party was in deep, deep trouble. If we can’t find a youngish candidate it just shows that the cupboard is bare and we can’t afford that.”
Another said: “It would look as if we had completely run out of talent if we had to go back to someone who resigned in disgrace seven years ago.”

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

15 August 2008

Sticks and stones and all that

Obviously, you have to have a stupid name to get on in the armed forces. This morning, Major General Barney White-Spunner is all over the papers. This will no doubt bring joy to his ultimate boss, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup GCB AFC ADC DSc FRAeS FCMI RAF. And then there is Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy KCB CBE DSO ADC BSc(Eng) FRAeS FCGI RAF.


12 August 2008

Music of the week

I was going to let you have something gentle but, what the hell, what we need is good old-fashioned rock'n'roll:

If you are desperate for the Sabre Dance, it's here.

It's a hard life for some ...

It's a crying shame. All the other Ministers received their bottles of whisky, their coffee table books, their ties and scarves. So show a little sympathy for those who were given nothing - Malcolm Chisholm, Rhona Brankin, Sarah Boyack, Johann Lamont, Des McNulty and Cathy Jamieson.

It's just not fair.

You can view the list of gifts given to Scottish Ministers during 2006-07 here.

Chucking our money away

Look, don't be like that - it was only £227,000,000.

The Times reports on the Ministry of Defence's latest snafu:
As a spy drone, it had its disadvantages. To land, it had to flip on its back. It could not operate in extreme heat or in thin air and became known as the “bugger off” because it frequently did, never to return.
The Phoenix unmanned air vehicle, which cost an estimated £300,000 each and was brought into service with the British Army in 1998 after a protracted development programme, is now officially dead.
MPs on the Commons Defence Committee revealed in a report published last week that the Phoenix, which provided target information for the Army's artillery regiments from an operating height of about 9,000ft, was unable to cope with the heat in Iraq when it was deployed in 2003. It had to be used only in the cooler months. The Ministry of Defence also confirmed that it was never sent to Afghanistan because the air was too thin there.
The Phoenix has now been taken out of service and replaced by a more sophisticated aerial spy platform called Hermes 450.
Are heads likely to roll? What do you think ...

11 August 2008

Tra la la

You might have thought that by now they would know what they wanted to do about local government finance. It is not so long ago that the Burt Report's recommendations were jettisoned by Scottish Labour in favour of (very) modest changes to the council tax (which they never got round to implementing). Then the Scottish Government (as we must learn to call it) produced its proposals for a local income tax. If the Labour Party did not approve of LIT (which they did not - for very good reasons), you might have thought they would have settled on a robust alternative. Alas, what they settled on was far from robust.

So we now have a situation where all three of the leadership candidates have pronounced themselves dissatisfied with the existing council tax, but none of them appears to have a clear idea what to do about it (other than more reviews, of course, and more consultation, equally of course).

If I were a member of the party, I would be in despair.

10 August 2008

It's a joke, isn't it?

No, don't laugh. Somebody called Ms Hjul of The Sunday Times thinks Tavish Scott could be part of a dream ticket:
Tavish Scott, the LibDem finance spokesman, is leadership material, a fact which has been recognised by most of the important people in the party, in Scotland and London.
He is head and shoulders, literally, above the competition, Ross Finnie and Mike Rumbles. He has, astonishingly for a LibDem MSP, a recognisable public profile, and, as he says himself, he could “give people a really positive reason to vote Liberal Democrat”.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the former party leader, said Scott had commitment, vigour, youth, and experience, and there even has been talk of dream tickets, with Scott in Scotland and the equally youthful and vigorous Nick Clegg in London.

It just goes to show that even hard-bitten journos (if Ms Hjul qualifies as such) can be fooled by a pretty face.

Connecting the dots

This seems an intriguing idea. I haven't seen it mentioned in the Scottish press but The Observer has the story:

Scotland is drawing up plans to build the world's longest electricity connector - to Norway - to help meet its renewable targets and end its dependence on nuclear power. The whole project could cost more than £2bn.
Jim Mather, the Scottish Executive's energy minister, will meet his Norwegian counterpart in October to discuss the proposal.
Norway gets almost all its electricity from hydro-power, which works by releasing water from a higher reservoir into a lower reservoir via a turbine which generates electricity. The water is then pumped back up to the higher reservoir for use later. If the 1,000km (620-mile) connector between the countries is built, when Scotland is windy and has surplus electricity, it would be exported to Norway to provide power to pump the water back up into its higher reservoirs.
When the wind does not blow in Scotland and there is a shortage of power, Norway would activate its hydro-plants to make up the shortfall. This would solve the issue of wind power's intermittency, frequently cited by critics.
Scotland wants to use the connector to provide power to North Sea oil operators. Drilling rigs and platforms use about four gigawatts of electricity, equivalent to the demand from about four cities the size of Birmingham. Currently, operators use expensive and dirty diesel generators or gas to power their facilities.

I don't know how much a nuclear power station costs but I doubt if it is much less than £2 billion in construction costs alone. If the estimated price-tag of the connector is realistic and provided it has sufficient capacity, it offers a cleaner, greener option, as well as significant cost advantages.

08 August 2008

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
So just what do you have to do to get fired around here? At Royal Bank of Scotland, gross moral turpitude and some energetic expense fiddling might just do it. Apparently, the worst loss in British banking history may not.
Sir Tom McKillop will stand up as chairman of RBS today to announce a loss of as much as £1.7 billion. He will, we can assume, attempt to justify last summer's €10 billion purchase of ABN Amro. Bad timing, couldn't see it coming, huge opportunities still, you can probably write the script.
RBS is a curious beast. Until the purchase of NatWest in 2000, its word went unchallenged in the incestuous Scottish establishment. You can bet that if anyone on an Edinburgh newspaper wrote in the above terms, the matter would be raised on the golf course with the writer's editor and his or her career would take an abrupt

As I don't have an editor, nor even a job, I can say that it is passing strange that nobody seems to be blamed for this disaster. And, as I have already pointed out, some of the scions of the Scottish establishment do not think it is a disaster.

07 August 2008

Interpreting the Labour leadership runes

Mr Gray has garnered 13 leadership nominations, compared with Ms Jamieson's 12 and Mr Kerr's 10. (There are 46 Labour MSPs, so at least 11 of them have kept their powder dry.)

Mr Kerr has blotted his copybook with Scottish Westminster MPs by implying (in the nicest possible way of course) that the leader should have more responsibility for the party in Scotland than simply running the Holyrood group. Accordingly, the MPs (allegedly guided by the perception of Gordon Brown's preference) are lining up to support Mr Gray, to the extent that the latter would appear to have that third of the electoral college in the bag. Mr Gray's first problem - not insuperable, I admit - is that he is not a West of Scotland MSP. His second problem is that he is allegedly the favoured candidate of Gordon Brown.

Mr Kerr also has form, perhaps unfairly, in terms of his ministerial record at the health department. Nevertheless, even although he is unlikely to gain the majority of votes in one third of the electoral college, it would be foolish to rule out his chances overall.

Nobody knows how party members will vote. The unions are thought to favour Ms Jamieson on the basis that she is perceived to be the most left-wing candidate (not that you would know it from her ministerial record at Justice).

Nevertheless, it seems to me to be entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that the new leader of the Labour group at Holyrood will be someone who does not command the whole-hearted support of the majority of that group. But that goes with the territory.

We're all doomed

Global warming. The Guardian reports:
The UK should take active steps to prepare for dangerous climate change of perhaps 4C according to one of the government's chief scientific advisers. In policy areas such as flood protection, agriculture and coastal erosion Professor Bob Watson said the country should plan for the effects of a 4C global average rise on pre-industrial levels. The EU is committed to limiting emissions globally so that temperatures do not rise more than 2C.

I don't disagree with the need to make preparations. But if the temperature rises by 4C, we're in deep doo-doo. The positive feedback loops will kick in, with methane released from the tundra, serious polar melting, etc, thus accelerating the rise in temperatures even further. Nothing would be able to stop it.

Thus a DEFRA civil servant forecasts the end of the world.

06 August 2008

05 August 2008

The mysteries of high finance

I was going to write a piece about the banks but I am far from sure that I sufficiently understand the fancy footwork which is going on. Here, for example, is the BBC's Mr Peston on Northern Rock:
The government is to inject up to £3bn of new equity capital into Northern Rock.
Or to put it another way, the nationalised bank is having a mega rights issue that taps its one shareholder.
The way to see it is as a tweaking by the government of its promise that all those taxpayer loans would be repaid.
It's now saying, in essence, that the final £3bn - plus £400m of preference shares that will also be converted into ordinary capital - will only be repaid if the bank is eventually sold and denationalised at a profit.

Clear? Now let's move on to Mr Linklater of The Times on RBS (here):
On the surface, the figures look terrible - a £5billion profit last year has become a loss of more than £1billion, if the figures analysts are quoted turn out to be correct. The anger felt by shareholders at the bank's £5.9million writedown earlier this year has developed into a wider concern by the public, which will see the loss as symptomatic of a decline in confidence in a hitherto impregnable financial institution.
Figures that look stark in a headline, however, are not necessarily the best indicators of a bank's underlying position. What is striking about the reaction within Scotland to the predicted results is how relatively sanguine it is. Most analysts make the point that the bank is still profitable, that the £1billion-plus figure analysts predict does not represent an actual loss, more a potential one, and that, against the background of the global credit crunch, it might in fact turn out to be a pretty good result.

A loss of £1 billion could be 'a pretty good result'? What would be a bad result?

My head hurts ...

04 August 2008

It's the taking part that counts

Oh yes, the Olympics. Questions, questions.

Are our druggies faster/stronger than their druggies? Do world records mean anything these days? What new 'sports' do we have to tolerate this time?

And will the BBC overdose itself on coverage? (Looks like it, from the tv schedules.) And why do they employ all these inarticulate ex-athletes? And will Sharron dress provocatively to cover the swimming? Do bears defecate in the forests?

How long will Sue's facelift endure? (At Wimbers, it sort of disintegrated during the second week - something to do with the botox, I think.) But Hazel will be unbearably perky every breakfast-time.

Will girning Andy win a medal for Scotland?

It all starts on Friday. Happily the forecast is for rain.

03 August 2008

Music of the week

Something of a wee treat this week:

Quote of the day

Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times (here):
It is said that on the eve of the 1997 general election, Satan appeared before Tony Blair and offered him a bargain. “What is it?” Blair asked the Antichrist.
The Devil replied: “I will give you not just this general election, Mr Blair, but three general elections with crushing majorities. In return, however, I will claim the souls of you and your wife, your children and any subsequent children you have.” Blair listened to this, narrowed his eyes and said: “Um . . . okay . . . what’s the catch?”

01 August 2008


First you set out to woo her. Then you declare your interest in marriage, preferably on one knee. And you negotiate the terms, the dreaded pre-nup. The prospective mother in law (in this case the British Government) declares herself satisfied, even approving. Then at the last moment you get cold feet. The Independent reports:
The nuclear power generator British Energy today said discussions over a possible takeover of the company have failed to reach an agreement.
The firm, which owns eight nuclear power plants and generates around one-sixth of the UK's electricity, is the subject of takeover interest from EDF, the French state-controlled electricity company.
EDF had been expected to announce a £12 billion deal this morning, but it said last night that "conditions for a major development in Great Britain" had not been met. It did not provide further details.

British Energy has its headquarters in East Kilbride. Is the failure of the takeover a Good Thing for Scotland? Don't know. Does it matter? Yes, enormously. You'll see ...

Not so hot pants

It has nothing to do with the fact that I get excited by Kate Moss. But you have to keep up with fashion, and my current style guru is the wonderful Hadley of The Guardian, a lady whose syntax is as contorted as her views on shorts:
The rise and rise of shorts, in numbers and hem heights, confirms my long-nurtured opinion that, with the exception of poor government funding, nothing has wreaked as much damage on the British fashion world as Kate Moss. Never mind the drug rumours, the sharpness of her hipbones and her impressively consistent taste in moody-looking dark-haired men with an aversion to shaving: no, I'm talking about the clothes she cruelly convinces other people to wear.
Every wrong trend from pirate boots to pixie haircuts has emanated from this young lady, and she continues to prove she is worth more than the millions she gets paid in her ability to convince the British public to wear the daftest things.
Never known to be averse to getting it out, Kate and hotpants were as inevitable a couple as Ronnie Wood and a 20-year-old Russian cocktail waitress, and the fact that she has included them in every single one of her collections for Topshop served to sway the swayable that this is a look they should not only admire in the pages of Grazia, but copy.

Me? No, don't be silly. I'm still wearing shorts I bought ten years ago: M & S, knee-length, respectable, navy blue - you get the picture. But I like to know what I should be wearing if I cared about it.