31 May 2008

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
A pint of beer at Harare's cricket ground is Z$800 million. A 13-amp plug on Tuesday cost me Z$1.3 billion. Photocopying a two-page document came to Z$269 million. The Z$10 million note, introduced at the beginning of the year to reduce the snaking queues outside the banks, will not buy so much as a banana.
If you read the article, please do not expect me to explain how much is a quadrillion ...

30 May 2008

Quote of the day

From The Guardian, here:
The world's most populous nation is becoming more carnivorous. In 1980, when the population was still under one billion, the average Chinese person ate 20kg (44lbs) of meat; last year, with an extra 300 million people, it was 54kg. The country as a whole now chomps through more than 60m tonnes of meat a year, roughly equivalent to 240 million cows, or 600 million pigs, or 24 billion chickens. It is a worldwide trend that is taking grain away from the world's poor. The consumption of meat in developing countries is rising by more than 5% a year.

29 May 2008

Questions, questions

I hesitate to criticise the new national drugs strategy, particularly as I think that the government is moving in the right direction.

But the ministerial statement is remarkably unspecific. If they are serious about putting the emphasis on promoting recovery from drug problems rather than simply managing the problems, then it is going to cost a lot. "Person-centred care" is much more expensive than handing out methadone. But the only reference to resources is the following:
The programme of action will be supported by a package of £94 million over the next three years. Health Boards will receive a 3.8 per cent increase in funding for drug treatment services. Funds are also spent on tackling drug use from other general budgets allocated by Government to local authorities.

A 3.8 per cent increase in funding drug treatment services is not going to go very far. Has any attempt been made to assess what is needed? Is this 3.8% increase based on need or on what was left in the kitty after other commitments? And is it included in the £94 million or is it additional? And how much is spent on drug treatment services at present?

In any case, surely a national strategy should start by setting out the scale of the problem. It is all very well to suggest (as the statement does) that the total cost to society of problem drug use amounts to £2.6 billion, but where is there any estimate of the number of problem drug users, the types of drugs abused and their geographical distribution? Because any action programme must start from such an analysis.

Nor is there any indication of what new facilities will be required to provide "person-centred care" nor how many extra staff will be needed. Unless this information is available, then it is impossible to cost the strategy.

Perhaps all this will become clearer in the weeks to come, but until then it seems less of a strategy and more of an aspiration.

28 May 2008

Crisis time

Sure, I feel their pain. I honestly do. The hauliers, the fishermen, the rural lobby. And they are only the first to be affected. Gradually, the hurt will extend to other sectors of the population, especially to those who rely on the combustion engine.

But bear in mind that the full implications of the hike in oil prices to $135 a barrel have yet to work their way through to petrol prices or gas prices or electricity prices. It will get worse before it gets better.

And, yes, the oil price will probably fall back during the summer, affording some relief to hard-pressed consumers. But it will only be temporary relief. As sure as eggs is eggs and demand exceeds supply, the oil price will resume its upward course.

And, if $135 a barrel causes such pain, what will happen when the price goes beyond $200? Sooner or later, it will.

26 May 2008

For those who might be interested.

Tonight, radio 4 FM at 7.15pm:
Leonard Cohen Special
Next week, one of the most influential singer-songwriters in musical history performs live for the first time in fifteen years, at the start of a world tour that will bring him to Britain. In his decade and a half away from the stage, Leonard Cohen has endured psychological crisis, spiritual transformation and the loss of much of his money in a financial fraud. But his songs - including Suzanne and Hallelujah - have remained indelible in his recordings and numerous cover versions. In a Front Row Special, Leonard Cohen talks to Mark Lawson about song-writing, God, money, and stage-fright.

There ain't no cure for love.

In praise of Will

I can only admire J Arthur's extensive analysis of Scottish football's prospects in next year's European competitions. This is way beyond the capacity of any dead tree sports journalist, certainly those in Scotland.

I hope he will not take it amiss if I suggest he might get out a little more ...

A moral conundrum

So the Royal Bank is buying a fancy new £4 million scanner which it will give to the Lothian Health Board. In return, RBS employees get privileged access to the scanner for 25% of the time. The BBC spells it out.

Is this a Good Thing? Is it better to have three-quarters of a loaf rather than no loaf at all?

Would it have been a Better Thing if the Bank had only asked for 10% of the scanner's time? And, if you think that the 25% deal is acceptable, at what percentage of exclusive access - 40, 50, 75, 80 - does the deal become unacceptable?

Difficult one ...

25 May 2008


A Sunday Telegraph columnist states:
It is excellent news that the Government has appointed Sir Michael Parkinson to be "dignity ambassador" for elderly people in care.

I don't think so. I find it distasteful that someone who has used his position to exploit elderly people through advertising for an insurance company's Over 50 Plan (and a French insurance company at that) should be appointed to anything by the government. Does he really need the money from his advertising fees? And now he is whoring for Murdoch's Sky Plus.

Putdown of the week

The Sunday Times is perhaps a little too cutting in its dismissal of the Scottish Tories:
Cameron, after visiting Crewe, flew on to Ayr racecourse, where the party’s Scottish conference was under way. North of the border the Conservatives have just one MP. The decrepit band of blue rinses gathered for the Scottish conference were a stark reminder of the hurdles that still lie between him and the keys to No 10.

Actually, to secure a turnout of 600 is not bad going. And they looked a bit less decrepit than usual ...

Rip-off of the week

From The Sunday Times (here):
The health minister Ann Keen is this weekend revealed to have insured her 70-year-old husband’s life for £430,000 – and to have claimed the premiums on parliamentary expenses.
Keen took out a joint HSBC “first death” policy with her husband Alan, also a Labour MP, which meant if one of them died the other would get the payout.
The £867 monthly premiums were submitted as part of their parliamentary expenses. The couple are already entitled to generous payouts if one of them dies under the Commons pension scheme.


23 May 2008

The rise of the nerds - or maybe the geeks

Keep up! You need to understand these social phenomena. The New York Times reports, I hope with tongue in cheek (or maybe not):
The future historians of the nerd ascendancy will likely note that the great empowerment phase began in the 1980s with the rise of Microsoft and the digital economy. Nerds began making large amounts of money and acquired economic credibility, the seedbed of social prestige. The information revolution produced a parade of highly confident nerd moguls — Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and so on.
Among adults, the words “geek” and “nerd” exchanged status positions. A nerd was still socially tainted, but geekdom acquired its own cool counterculture. A geek possessed a certain passion for specialized knowledge, but also a high degree of cultural awareness and poise that a nerd lacked.
Geeks not only rebelled against jocks, but they distinguished themselves from alienated and self-pitying outsiders who wept with recognition when they read “Catcher in the Rye.” If Holden Caulfield was the sensitive loner from the age of nerd oppression, then Harry Potter was the magical leader in the age of geek empowerment.

No, I don't understand it either, but I first read Catcher in the 1960s when geeks and nerds were unheard of.

Barnett re-visited

Oh yes, the Barnett formula. The Herald reports:
David Cameron today drops his biggest hint that a future Conservative government would scrap the 30-year-old Barnett Formula.
Asked if it was time to get rid of the formula, Mr Cameron says: "This cannot last forever, the time is approaching ... If we replace the Barnett Formula with a needs-based formula, Scotland has very great needs and Scotland will get very great resources."

Sounds simple, doesn't it? This magical needs-based formula will easily replace tired old Barnett. Well, it's not simple; an acceptable needs-based formula will be damn difficult.

For example, how do we assess Scotland's need for spending on health care? We know that in general the health of the Scottish population is poorer than elsewhere in the UK: on average we die earlier than those south of the border; the prevalence of various conditions of ill-health is greater in Scotland; and we probably drink and smoke more while our children are fatter. So how much extra health spending per head do we 'need'? There are no automatic answers, especially if you consider that some of this extra need may in a sense be our fault.

So who could be trusted to draw up this needs-based formula? I don't see either HM Treasury or the Scottish Government as disinterested parties in preparing what would be a highly political calculation.

Which of course is why the Barnett formula was drawn up in the 1970s on the back of a fag packet, thus avoiding what would have been a lengthy, complex and disputatious process to assess relative needs. And has it served the UK so badly for the past 30 years that the formula must now be regarded as broken?

21 May 2008

Another mystery

Having just listened to PMQs, I am left wondering who is this person, Alky Ada, that the Prime Minister says is attacking our brave boys in Afghanistan?

Wogan will be disappointed

I see that Dustin the Turkey failed to qualify. Oh well, back to the drawing board ...

A dog's breakfast

I have been reading the SFT Business Case and it is like wading through treacle. Still, where else would you find such pretty diagrams as this little gem:

Does the accompanying text make any sense? I doubt it:
SFT has always been conceived as being representative of the whole public sector, and, if it is to deliver its efficiency potential, it has long been recognised that this original ambition must be crystallised in SFT's governance.
There is however always a balance to be struck between appropriate representation and governance, and effective management.
For the immediate next phase SFT will be moved forward more efficiently under direct oversight of Scottish Ministers. However, once its more detailed business case is confirmed, it could be overseen by an Infrastructure Board for Scotland, possibly made up of senior representatives from across the public sector and chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. The purpose of the IBfS would be to oversee SFT delivering its strategic objectives, and to input to the future strategic direction of SFT.
SFT Finance and Investment will be a separate private sector classified entity in which SFT D&D has a minority share. Careful structuring of the constitutional documents will be required for this entity to ensure the public sector can exert appropriate influence whilst not undermining its private sector classification. Its potential organisational form has not been assessed in detail, although the flexibility and transparency of a Limited Liability Partnership ( LLP) structure is initially attractive. It is anticipated that it is likely to fall to be regulated by the FSA. It will have its own management team who will report to the LLP members committee.
The details of how investment will be raised from the private sector has not been explored in any detail as part of this SBC.

So one part of this company will be a public sector entity while another part will be a private sector entity? How is that going to work exactly? And the last sentence of the above quotation rather gives the game away.

Incidentally, it may be all very well for local authorities to issue bonds (although why they would wish to do so when it is cheaper to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board is another mystery), but it will not enable them to escape public expenditure controls (which apply to capital investment rather than capital financing).

20 May 2008

Will they ever learn?

Is the Home Office getting carried away with a lust for databases? The Times reports:
A massive government database holding details of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public is being planned as part of the fight against crime and terrorism. Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecoms companies would hand over the records to the Home Office under plans put forward by officials.
The information would be held for at least 12 months and the police and security services would be able to access it if given permission from the courts.
The proposal will raise further alarm about a “Big Brother” society, as it follows plans for vast databases for the ID cards scheme and NHS patients. There will also be concern about the ability of the Government to manage a system holding billions of records. About 57 billion text messages were sent in Britain last year, while an estimated 3 billion e-mails are sent every day.

Do we really send 3 billion e-mails every day? An average of about 50 per person per day? If this is true, we are sending more than 1000 billion per year (that is 1,000,000,000,000).

I appreciate that there are some clever people at GCHQ but even the most sophisticated word recognition technology would have trouble in managing a database of that size, especially when you consider that it would need to hold details of the ISP, the sender, the recipients, the date of sending and presumably the title of each e-mail. And that's before you get to the phone calls and text messages.

I just cannot see it ever happening.

19 May 2008

Putting a kilt on it

How parochial can you get? The Scotsman reports:
JOE Jordan knows better than most people that players need to seize opportunities to play in an FA Cup final or else likely regret it for ever more. The Portsmouth first-team coach challenged his players to rise to the occasion last week, and, no matter the debilitating fatigue, keep their concentration until the very end.
His words won't help soothe the frustrations of Kevin McNaughton, Gavin Rae and Steven Thompson, the trio of Cardiff City Scots whose hopes of glory were shattered by Kanu's winner.


Do turkeys vote for Christmas?

Mr Macwhirter does not understand:
... giving Holyrood power over elections may be the only way of ensuring that a repeat of last year's election-night chaos doesn't cause a serious breakdown in relations between the Scottish parliament and Westminster. The present divided responsibility exacerbates electoral tension and invites Holyrood politicians to blame London for anything that goes wrong. This is not the way to introduce stability to the constitutional settlement.
I can't understand why the MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee, who yesterday ruled out any transfer of authority, can't see this.

I would have thought it obvious. As it is, Scottish MPs have little enough to do. They are unlikely to support a proposition which would further diminish their responsibilities and influence.

18 May 2008

Factoid of the day ...

... or revelations you might otherwise have missed.

According to The Sunday Independent, which has been considering the impact of higher oil prices:
... the speed of ships is being cut as it is cheaper to use more ships travelling slowly than fewer ones going faster.

which seems both significant and trivial, somehow.

17 May 2008

The saga continues

This is about Iceland the country, rather than the frozen food store. The Telegraph reports:
The central banks of Norway, Sweden and Denmark have joined forces in a stunning move to rescue Iceland, offering a credit line of €1.5bn (£1.2bn) to beat back speculators and shore up the battered krona.
The solidarity gesture is a powerful signal to hedge funds betting on Iceland's downfall that they are up against the international system. The swap accord doubles the foreign reserve cover of the Icelandic government at a stroke.
Iceland's central bank said the deal was a "precautionary measure" to stabilise the currency, which has crashed 25pc this year.
Stefan Ingves, head of Sweden's Riksbank, said the accord aimed to restore stability after months of mayhem. The Icelandic krona surged 3.7pc on the news.

As I recall, Iceland was one of the SNP's favoured examples of how small countries might prosper. I imagine that we will not hear so much about 'the arc of prosperity' from now on.

15 May 2008

On getting old

Look, if McCain can still hack it ... The Times seems to think that the oldies are being subjected to unfairness:
... ageism is the only “ism” that one can brazenly get away with these days. You cannot satirise someone's race, gender or disability - but a codger? Fill your boots. I'll admit to ageist moments myself, such as when I'm tutting in the queue for the cash machine and the elderly person at the front is bent double over the keyboard slowly pressing every single option key and always, always requests a receipt. Or driving in the middle lane of the motorway, invariably wearing a flat cap, at 25mph.

Well OK, I admit that I always ask for a receipt from the hole in the wall; but that's because I don't really trust machines. And, while I don't drive, I do occasionally wear a flat cap. Does that make me an old codger? (Probably.)

14 May 2008

Quote of the day

Gordon Brewer on last night's Newsnicht Scotland (here):
"Scottish Labour's policy on an independence referendum is a little clearer tonight, if only a little. The party's MSPs met this afternoon and seem to have agreed that they might support an SNP referendum bill or they might not, depending on what was in it. The decision could be interpreted as a brilliant manoeuvre to combine political flexibility with strength of purpose or as yet more mental gymnastics."

I am not alone

How comforting to learn that there are at least 436,999 other anoraks out there. The Guardian reports:
BBC Parliament's ratings are usually so low that individual programmes often do not register in the audience data published by research body Barb.
However, it posted an average weekly reach - the number of people watching at least three consecutive minutes - of 437,000 viewers for the week ending April 27.

13 May 2008

Gobble, gobble

Some less than helpful advice from The Guardian if you are ever attacked by turkeys:
A resurgent wild turkey population has caused problems in Boston, where the 1.5m-tall turkeys are known to chase joggers and schoolchildren, often in mobs. Wildlife officials advise fighting back with a broom or open umbrella. Don't be a victim. Be the dominant turkey.
Oh aye, like I constantly carry a broom or umbrella around. You don't see many joggers running with a brush. Still, I don't suppose that it is a problem I am likely to encounter in Edinburgh's douce Stockbridge.

12 May 2008

That which does not kill me makes me stronger

How does she keep going? How does she get up in the morning and go to work? When The Scotsman is describing her as appearing "to stumble from crisis to crisis" and The Herald states that she has made herself "a laughing stock"; and while so-called labour worthies (ie disappointed ex-ministers McLeish, McConnell and Wilson) line up to put the boot in.

It must hurt. It must hurt like hell. It must take considerable courage to keep on keeping on. If it were me, I would long ago have said 'stuff this' and told them where they could stick their leadership of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament.

So my compliments to Ms Alexander. She may not be the greatest political strategist in the world, but let no-one say that she doesn't have the guts for the job.

10 May 2008

What we really really want

Wendy explains it to The Times:
Nobody understands. I don’t know why.
It’s perfectly simple. The Scottish Nationalists want independence, and we don’t. So, they want a referendum, and we don’t want a referendum. But, although we don’t want a referendum, we reckon that if there is one, we want it soon, so that people are more likely to want what we want them to want. Which is to say, not to want anything.
So, in saying that we want one now, we want the SNP to say that they don’t want one now. And they will, because they want to get what they want. And that’s what we want. Because, if they have one when they want, they might get what they want. And who would want that?
I don’t know why Gordon is confused. He must be some kind of idiot.

If only politics were that simple ...

09 May 2008

Appearing to be tough on crime, appearing to be tough on the causes of crime

People may accuse me of being a lily-livered, liberal wimp but this kind of thing makes me feel uncomfortable. The BBC reports:
Youths who persistently misbehave and intimidate others in their communities should be "harassed themselves", Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said.
She said she wanted police in England and Wales to "turn the tables" on those who would not "live by the rules".
This could include repeated home visits and checks to identify benefit fraud or council and road tax non-payment.

If police have reason to think that a crime has been committed, then by all means crack down hard on the alleged miscreants. But police harassment of young people of whom they disapprove for no specific criminal reason might be considered a step too far, even if it does have the encouragement of the Home Secretary.

But since when did this government care about civil liberties? Or indeed about effective action against anti-social behaviour? All that seems to matter is 'sending a message'.

08 May 2008

Bendy Wendy and the wendyrendum

You may consider that it is becoming tedious. But it is certainly attracting attention from south of the border. For the first time that I can recall, Radio 4's World at One actually carried extracts from First Minister's Questions; and even The Guardian saw fit to report the latest developments. Furthermore, Nick Robinson (here and here) has suddenly become an expert on Scottish politics.

Incidentally, Ms Alexander's renewed call for an early referendum rather contradicts the Prime Minister's position of yesterday - if that was not what she had said before then, she has certainly said it now.

Anyway, if you think that the blogosphere and the media are making an excessive fuss over the issue, wait until the referendum bill actually appears ...

07 May 2008

Curiouser and curiouser

More on Wendy's referendum plan which is running into the sand. Brian Taylor sums it up:
There's a further development on this story. It appears that there may be substantial obstacles in the path of Wendy Alexander's back-up plan - to table her own bill.
Firstly, she would require the support of at least one other party to table such a bill. Secondly, if there is the prospect of a Government Bill on a comparable topic - then a member's bill is ruled out.
Given that SNP ministers plan their own Bill for a referendum in 2010, this would appear to be a problem.

Sure enough, the Parliament's guidance on public bills states:
3.9 The final proposal [for a Member's Bill as opposed to an Executive Bill] is then published in the Business Bulletin for one calendar month, whilst the consultation summary or (as the case may be) statement of reasons is made available via the “Proposals for Members’ Bills” page of the Parliament website. During this period, any member may notify support for the proposal, this being recorded in the bulletin. If, at the end of the month, at least 18 other members, drawn from at least half the parties or groups represented on the Parliamentary Bureau, have indicated their support, the member has the right to introduce a Member’s Bill. This is unless a Minister has indicated either:
that the Executive will introduce legislation (which could be a Bill or a statutory instrument) to give effect to the proposal within the same session (i.e. the period, usually of four years, between general elections to the Scottish Parliament), or
that Her Majesty’s Government will introduce such legislation within the same or next session (a session at Westminster meaning a Parliamentary year, rather than the span of years between UK general elections).

I willingly confess that I was ignorant of these requirements. But then I'm not the leader of the Scottish Labour Party in Parliament and I didn't plan to introduce a Member's Bill.

Oh, and Big Gordon is unhappy, as Brian Taylor explains.

06 May 2008

Time drags by real slow - or not as the case may be

I see that the Alexander siblings have decided that a referendum on independence might after all be a Good Thing. Wendy is even prepared for the test of a simple yea or nay to independence, thus forswearing the triple option referendum of independence, status quo or enhanced devolution (which - if you believe the polls - would have reduced the level of support for independence). And she wants it to happen as soon as possible -or at least well before 2010, which is where the SNP administration's plans are leading.

But, assuming that Mr Salmond were to resist Ms Alexander's (rather vulgar) invitation to 'bring it on' and sticks to his planned timetable, what could Ms Alexander do about it? She would either have to bring forward her own bill for a consultative referendum to the Scottish Parliament or rely on her London colleagues to bring forward a similar bill to the Westminster Parliament (or more likely to include similar provision in the forthcoming constitutional bill). The latter course of action pre-supposes that the Prime Minister supports her latest change of heart (or emphasis), a proposition which may - or may not - prove to be the case. But let us place that question to one side, as the choice of legislature does not -I suggest - invalidate the following thesis.

To state the obvious, we are now in May 2008. Even if Ms Alexander, like Marvo the Magician, had a bill up her capacious sleeve which, with a drumroll and an expansive flourish, she could instantly lay before the tribunes of the Scottish electorate, there is no possible prospect of securing the passage of such a bill during the current (2007-08) parliamentary session. The mill-wheels of the Scottish Parliament grind slowly, with a bit of consultation here and a referral to committee there, debates on principle first and on detailed proposed amendments to follow. And, anyway, the likelihood that Ms Alexander has a bill up her sleeve is improbable, to say the least.

But (and it is a big but), if she gets her skates on, she could in theory have a bill ready for the start of the 2008-09 parliamentary session in the autumn of this year. (I am nevertheless obliged to point out that it is difficult for opposition parties to draft a bill, as the legal expertise lies with the official authorities under the control of the administration; but let us not be too pessimistic.) If such a bill were introduced later this year, then theoretically it could complete its parliamentary process and become an Act sometime in mid-2009, thus facilitating the holding of a referendum in the autumn of 2009 or, more likely, the spring of the following year.

The more astute of you will have noticed that we have already arrived at 2010. This is not so surprising. If I were the First Minister and I wanted to hold a referendum in 2010, then I would be planning for the bill to underpin such a referendum to go through the parliamentary process in 2008-09. To leave it any later would be risky in the extreme, especially in the light of the Scottish general election in 2011 and the increasingly distinct possibility of a UK general election in 2010. (Unless of course Mr Salmond did not expect to carry the bill, in which case the timing would be less crucial - but now that the concept of a referendum has attracted the support of the Alexanders the omens are becoming more propitious.)

So what is Ms Alexander playing at in demanding that Mr Salmond 'bring it on'? 'It' will be 'brought on' as soon as it can and, in any case, sooner than many of us would like.

I leave my readers to judge whether Wendy is being extremely clever or has simply not thought the position through.

05 May 2008

Over the top?

I enjoy football on TV. But I recognise that some do not. This seems excessive:
Between June 7, when the tournament kicks off with joint hosts Switzerland playing Czech Republic, and the final on June 29, the two channels will show 27 live games on BBC1 or ITV1, plus a further four on the digital channels BBC3 and ITV4.
Of those, 23 will kick off at 7.45pm in the middle of prime time, necessitating the rescheduling of soaps and other shows.

Thus, during a period of 23 days, 31 matches will be shown, with the vast majority on the major terrestrial channels.

Incidentally, I gather that we are supporting Poland.

Brown and Marr

The Prime Minister looked as if he hadn't slept for a week. And all this 'feeling your pain' nonsense just doesn't ring true. How is he going to turn the situation around? The Times comments:
It's all part of his “fightback” and, we must assume, some sort of masterplan.
Actually, we could have done with more of a plan. He refused to tell us any details of how he’s saving our economy. Indeed, his only actual plan seemed to be that he wants to get out more and meet us. He wants to listen. He wants to empathise. He also wants to apologise. The man for whom sorry has been the hardest word now, suddenly, can’t stop talking about his mistakes, about the 10p tax cut, the general election that wasn’t, blah blah blah.
It’s all a bit much: if he knocks on your door, you might want to hide.

Actually, I would settle for some basic competence. No more holding firm when it is obvious that you will back down at the last minute; no more back of a fag-packet solutions which fall to pieces upon inspection; no more pandering to the Daily Mail; and, above all, no more talk of long-term decisions which are neither long-term nor decisions.

02 May 2008

Quote of the day

Mike Ewart, Scottish prisons chief, takes on Gordon Brewer of Newsnight Scotland:
"What part of 'exceptional' do you find it difficult to understand?"
There are not many politicians in Scotland who would be so bold. And poor old Gordon looked a bit flummoxed. You can see the whole interview here by clicking on the button on the bottom right; the interview runs from about 15 minutes in.

More good news

The Telegraph reports:
After ten years of absence from British playgrounds, Opal Fruits are set to make a return.
Mars, the manufacturers, is bringing back the sweets for a limited period in conjunction with the supermarket chain ASDA.
The fruit chews that were "made to make you mouth water" were replaced by Starburst in 1998, the name under which they had been exported to the US in the seventies.

Sometimes, just sometimes, life can be so rewarding ...

Reasons for Rangers supporters to be cheerful ...

... unlike certain other fans headed for Moscow.

1. You don't need a visa to get into Manchester.

2. You don't have to donate an arm and a leg in order to catch a flight to Manchester.

3. The beer in Manchester is a lot cheaper than Moscow. (The locally brewed Holt's is particularly palatable.)