Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday, 22 August 2016

First review - new Sun Dancer restaurant and bar in Nairn

The new Sun Dancer restaurant and bar in Nairn finally opened a week ago yesterday (i.e. Sunday 14th August); I do not think it has yet been advertised in any way, certainly it was not in last week's Nairnshire on Tuesday 16th, so it seems to have undertaken what is usually known as a "soft opening". Rumours locally are that it was originally scheduled to open in May, presumably in order to catch the late-Spring and early-Summer trade, but local rumours are that its opening was delayed for various reasons; I will not repeat any of the reasons I heard about though, as this is mere hearsay and the important point, as I see it, is that it has now opened.

I visited with my partner yesterday Sunday 21st August around lunchtime and we had ice cream milkshakes in the ground floor cafe - very nice they were too and the interior is bright, cheerful and modern in feel and the young lady serving us was pleasant and friendly. We asked if we could visit upstairs to see the bar/restaurant and being told "yes" went up to take a look.

It was much more spacious than I imagined it would be (I live close by so have followed its progress over the months). It is well laid out and the tables are not too crowded together. There is a bar area in one corner, with comfortable and quite smart furniture in that part of the floor. The tables and chairs of the main restaurant part are also quite smart and the balcony at the front has some tables and chairs, pleasant for a drink on a nice day or evening. We asked to book a table for the same evening and returned for our meal later with time for pre-dinner drinks.

The staff are friendly and pleasant, although still obviously learning their jobs and getting comfortable with their work environment, drinks and menus, etc. We had a very nice meal indeed, broadly comparable with the two other what I consider decent eateries in Nairn (The Classroom and The Bandstand) and the cost was broadly similar too; the Sunny Brae is lovely too of course, but is rather more refined in many ways than those three (including the Sun Dancer), only being a bit more expensive.

There was a Sunday menu on offer, 2 courses for £15.95, with 3 courses being a few pounds more; there was a small but sufficient range of options for starters, mains and puddings/desserts, although we understand there may be a more extensive menu in due course, but that they are trialling a slighlty more restricted menu, at least at the beginning, not to over-complicate matters. The food as mentioned was pretty good, so this represents good value I think, specially for an evening meal, with drinks (campari/soda, guinness [2 pints in all], a large glass of white and a small glass of red, for the cheese we had for dessert), the total bill was about £66-, rounded up to £71- (for 2 persons) with tip, a bit less than we would normally have added, for the reasons mentioned later in this review.

The table settings are nice (white quality table cloths, decent cutlery and crockery, high quality cloth-like paper napkins) and the dining table seats are quite comfortable and smart. It is obvious considerable care has been taken with designing a very pleasant venue to take full advantage of the lovely views out over the Firth; we had a corner window table just inside the outdoor balcony so the views were excellent, but most tables (even those not directly adjacent to the large windows) will have good views of the Firth.

The only criticism I would have is that the service was very slow and somewhat disjointed, but always pleasant and friendly, although it did require us on several occasions to try and attract the staff's attention after we had been waiting for lengthy periods, both to place our orders and to receive each course, requiring us to query the delays throughout the evening. For example we had to wait 15 minutes after finishing our main course before managing to attract the attention of someone to take our dessert order (the cheese board for both of us, which was excellent when it came, but obviously required no "cooking"), then after 25 minutes of waiting for it to be delivered, we managed to attract the attention of a waitress returning to the kitchen with used crockery from another table, when it was delivered rapidly; probably it had been waiting for delivery to us in the kitchen for some time, I suspect.

Getting the bill took another while, a pattern throughout the whole evening. However, I think this will become a great place to eat in Nairn, assuming they maintain their initial food standards (which are quite high in local terms I'd say), once they become rather slicker in the service area. I put the delays down to the staff still becoming familiar with their roles, so expect and hope this is merely a "teething" problem. I think they have been quite busy during their first week of operation, from what the lady who appeared to be in charge indicated to us, and it was certainly pretty busy on Sunday evening when we were there, so everyone there was flung into the deep end whilst still learning their jobs. We shall certainly visit again in a month or so (rotating it in with the other places already mentioned, which we will undoubtedly visit again in the intervening period), and hope we will have an equally enjoyable meal, but experience somewhat slicker service, once the staff have become more comfortable in their jobs. However, first impressions are that it is a very welcome addition to Nairn's dining scene.

NB/ This review is a slightly more detailed version of one I have already placed in the restaurant's own recently-created Facebook page here.

My aim here, as with all reviews of restaurants and hotels which I add in various places (my own blog or 'social media' or specialised review sites), is to be honest and completely fair. I do not think the Sun Dancer yet has a listing in Tripadvisor, but perhaps that will come in due course.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Why it became necessary for the UK to vote to leave the EU

An article in this week's Spectator magazine has crystalised many of my reasons for voting as I did in our referendum on EU membership held on 23rd June last.

Dan Hannan (still an MEP), for a former committed "Europhile" such as me, brilliantly nails the lies and deceptions at the heart of the so-called "EU project". I voted Leave on 23rd June and have become more certain since then that it was the correct choice. For me this has got NOTHING to do with 'immigration', despite those who voted Remain presumptuously telling everyone who voted Leave that this was the reason we voted the way we did. Frankly I think this illustrates perfectly the sad beggar-thy-neighbour mindset of many (if I hope not most) Remain voters.

Sovereignty is not some esoteric concept, it is the basic choice as to how we make our laws and who is competent to adjudicate on them.

What really changed my mind about the "virtues" of the EU (which are many) is the callous way it has treated Greece, in the name of "EU solidarity"; Greece is not entirely innocent of course, it is not as straightforward as that, but what its treatment does illustrate is that a supranational body, the EU, is prepared to ride roughshod over the democratically elected government of a small and relatively "unimportant" member state, not for any noble reason, but simply to protect the financial institutions of its most powerful member state, Germany. To be frank, it is a moral outrage. I am equally disgusted by the petty arguments of some of my former "friends" who think the GBP exchange rate is sufficient reason to sell the soul of our country, the UK. I loathe almost everything Gordon Brown ever did as Chancellor and Prime Minister, but the one good thing he ever did was to make it impossible for the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to take the UK into the cesspit of the poorly-designed Euro, a continuing shambles, which tries to align the economies of vastly different countries, without the real and necessary mechanisms which make a 'currency union' successful, for example those which allow the US to have a common currency across 50 diverse economies, or the UK to have a similar common currency across its four component parts (and the separate regions of those four component parts).

Those mechanisms involve not just "benefits", but "obligations", which means sticking to certain basic rules - which means that countries within the Eurozone which flout the laid-down budgetary deficit rules regularly, rather than exceptionally, need to understand they cannot continue along this path if the currency union is to have any meaning and achieve longevity. This is however merely a symptom of the malaise at the heart of the EU. It seems that certain larger member states think they can flout fiscal and other rules, simply because they are large and economically significant, or powerful politically, whereas smaller states must be punished severely if they step out of line. This is not "democracy". The UK is undoubtedly a "more significant" country economically and politically, along with 3-5 other EU member states, but above all we are a democracy, and have been for quite a long time, and we think we believe in that old-fashioned concept called "fair play", not just "might is right". If I believed that true "reform" of the EU was possible I would have been amongst the first to have argued that the UK should remain a member, but empirical evidence over many years has demonstrated that this is not possible. We can and must leave the EU, and that is what we voted for on 23rd June, to ensure our democratic future as a free and successful economy, not as a vassal member state of the increasingly undemocratic entity that the EU has developed into. Other EU member states, including some if not all of the more powerful ones, have stated repeatedly that they wanted the UK to remain a member of the EU, but have consistently shown that they are unwilling to, or incapable of, making the "reforms" necessary for a true democracy such as the UK to remain. 23rd June 2016 was "crunch time" and the bluffs with which the EU has endeavoured to fob us off for many years have lost their power that day. Personally I very much regret that this decision has been made necessary. I believe that a brighter future for the UK is possible outside what has become the straightjacket of the EU. I wish the EU a bright and successful future too, of course, but am much less sanguine about that.

Friday, 24 June 2016

EU Referendum results - the UK votes to leave the EU

Somewhat surprisingly, the EU Referendum in the UK yesterday, 23rd June 2016, has resulted in a narrow but decisive vote to 'Leave'. Although this is the result I favoured, so am pleased, it has still somewhat surprised me. In due course, quite possibly after a change in leadership of the Conservative Party, as the Prime Minister David Cameron announced this morning that he plans to step down as Leader and therefore as Prime Minister in the expectation that a new Conservative Party leader will be in place for the Autumn Conservative Party conference, to be held this year between 2-5 October in Birmingham, the country's departure from the EU will formally be triggered under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which generally provides for a 2-year period for negotiations by a country wishing to leave, although this period may be extended by mutual agreement.

Full details of the results are available via the BBC EU Referendum microsite here - as mentioned above, the overall result was quite narrow (Leave - 51.9%; Remain - 48.1%) on a turnout of 72.2%.

Within the UK as a whole, the following regional results were declared:

England and Wales both voted to 'Leave':
- England (Leave - 53.4%; Remain - 46.6%; Turnout - 73%)
- Wales (Leave - 52.5%; Remain - 47.5%; Turnout - 71.7%)

Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to 'Remain':
- Scotland (Leave - 38%; Remain - 62%; Turnout - 67.2%)
- Northern Ireland (Leave - 44.2%; Remain - 55.8%; Turnout - 62.9%)

The only other matter of particular interest is that within England, much of London voted to 'Remain', along with Scotland and Northern Ireland this was insufficient to outweigh the 'Leave' majorities in much of the rest of England and in Wales. In some parts of London, the results were fairly close, but in other boroughs 'Remain' had considerably more votes than 'Leave'

You can find more detailed infrmation about specific areas in the BBC microsite linked above.

It will take a little while to see how this development is going to play out in various ways over the next couple of years. I am cautiously optimistic, overall.


Saturday, 18 June 2016

The EU Referendum in the context of Scotland's place in the UK

In my most recent article on the EU Referendum, just over a week ago ("Thoughts on the Pound and the Stockmarkets ahead of the EU Referendum" - link here), I mentioned at the end that I would write about it in the context of Scotland within the UK "hopefully in the next day or so". This is that article.

The reason this article has been delayed for longer than I had originally planned is largely because of personal circumstances (my own travel arrangements and having my partner here for several days after a month apart whilst I was in Spain at my home there), but an additional couple of days were added to the delay because of the shocking incident in which an MP was murdered on the street close by her constituency office. I am not going to comment on what may have motivated the perpetrator - there has been enough of that, much of it hysterical and intemperate, in the media and so-called "social media". The only comment I would make is that the rush to judgement by some has, curiously, overlooked the bile directed at this lady prior to her killing by supposed supporters of the Labour Party, or at least the part of it that is now in charge of its destiny - here is a link to a Tweet in which is embedded some of this bile: https://twitter.com/EnemyWithinn/status/743818860663549952. There are unpleasant people in all political parties of course, and some with no connection to any political party, but a bit of calmness and, above all, objectivity is badly needed.

Anyway, onto the main subject of this article. As I indicated in my last article, referenced above, it was my intention to vote 'Leave', but that article was written whilst I was still in Spain. Since then I have returned back to the UK and waiting for me was my postal vote ballot paper and associated documents (explanatory notes, return envelope, etc) and I mailed off my ballot paper last Monday, having put my 'X' in the 'Leave' box as I earlier suggested I would. I'm not going to rehash all the points I made in my earlier article - I have formed a view, for good or ill, with which some will agree and some will disagree. I believe in a democratic system and will be happy (more or less) to accept the result in due course, whatever it is. Obviously I shall be happier if 'Leave' prevails, preferably by a comfortable margin, but will accept with good grace the decision if it goes the other way to 'Remain', hopefully also with a comfortable margin.

In the context of Scotland, it is the announced intention of the Scottish Government, currently led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), to press for another 'Independence Referendum', should Scotland vote to 'Remain' next week, but the rest of the UK vote to 'Leave'. The last referendum was held in September 2014 and the result was that a comfortable majority of Scots wished to remain within the UK, a decision that pleased me greatly. I wish Scotland to remain in the UK - I am quite comfortable describing myself as British and Scottish, or Scottish and British if you prefer it that way. Many of my friends from other parts of the UK are happy to consider themselves British too, but in addition English, Welsh or Northern Irish as is appropriate - this all seems very normal to me. I have never felt anything other than 'at home' when living in or visiting all parts of the UK and the banter about 'Jocks' and kilts has almost always been completely good-natured. Most from other parts of the UK who live in or visit Scotland feel the same way, in my experience, although it is undeniable that there have been lapses from this good-neigbourliness by a few of my fellow Scots on occasion, generally supporters of the aims of the SNP sadly. Although I would in general have been in favour of voting 'Leave' in the upcoming EU Referendum in any case (but I am not a fanatic about it - I was until a few years ago a strong supporter of UK membership of the EEC/EU, but have gradually changed my views to some extent), it is certainly in my view wise to do my little bit to try and ensure that the margin between how the rest of the UK decides to vote next week and how people here in Scotland decide to vote is not significant, as the opinion polls might lead one to believe may be the case. Opinion polls have seemed to show that there is stronger support for 'Remain' here in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. We won't know how accurate these polls were and are until the 'morning after the night before' (so to say) of the vote on 23rd June.

In the two urban settlements here that I have most recently visited (Nairn, where I live, and Inverness, which is only about 15 miles distant) I have no clear feel for current local sentiment, although those I have spoken to seem to favour 'Leave' and it is the case, which to be honest I find quite bizarre and perplexing, that the only posters I have seen on public display (on lamp-posts and the like) are those favouring 'Vote Leave'; I have not observed any at all which advocate 'Remain' or 'In', in either Inverness or Nairn. As this part of Scotland is now largely represented at both Westminster and Holyrood by SNP MPs and MSPs, who presumably favour 'Remain' in accordance with that Party's policy position, there seems to be a disconnect of some kind. Either the opinion polls are badly wrong or SNP supporters have developed a reticence in displaying their views that certainly never existed in the run-up to the Scottish Referendum in September 2014. Who knows what the truth is, but we will all know overnight next Thursday/Friday how the country (the UK) has voted overall and how the various component parts of it have voted too. It promises to be an interesting week, but I hope it will be reasonably calm and that there will be no more violence of the appalling kind that happened in Birstall, West Yorkshire a few days ago.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Thoughts on the Pound and the Stockmarkets ahead of the EU Referendum

Firstly, the Pound FEX rates simply aren't "collapsing" either against the USD or the EUR in the way ‪the "Remain" side‬ said they would & according them "are"; the stockmarket is reasonably OK too with normal ups/downs. There are lots of economic problems in the world, of course, but my view is that the UK is performing tolerably well and certainly pretty favorably compared to our friends in the Eurozone. Check for yourself. Discount the "propaganda" which purports to tell you a Leave vote will result in disaster, being spewed out incessantly by "Remain".

The markets do not lie - the markets are ultimately interested in only one thing, ensuring that the "bets" made by market players result in net positive results for them (i.e. "profits").

The USD is being bolstered by the recent positive effects of fracking in the US for that country's domestic energy availability, the EUR is being maintained at a reasonably stable level only by the "magic"/skill of the current President of the ECB, Mario Draghi; it certainly isn't happening because of the underlying strength of most of the Eurozone economies, as even some of its major economies (Italy, Spain and France for example) are perilously close to disaster, even if a couple are perhaps headed more or less in the right direction.

However you plan to vote in the EU referendum being held in the UK on 23rd June, don't be scared into a choice to Remain based on this highly prejudiced (aka 'false') economic data. If Remain is your choice, fine, but don't pretend that whether we remain or ‪Leave‬ will result in "economic disaster" either way. As someone who broadly favours ‪Leave‬, I make no claims of "disaster" flowing from a decision to remain, if that's what happens. My view is that after a relatively brief negative "glitch" should we ‪decide to Leave‬, that in the longer term the UK, and the rest of the EU if it learns the correct lessons, will benefit.

My focus in the EU referendum has got little or nothing to do with "immigration", what it does have to do with is the democratic deficit which increasingly exists as a result of our EU membership, where few if any know the names of any of their local regional MEPs, who in any case have little real power - that resides in the European Commission, who aren't elected by anyone. People will refute that by saying it is the European Council (heads of government and ministers in different functions from all the EU member states - all "elected") which ultimately decides, which is partially true, but the reality is that it is the European Commission which sets the agenda for future changes, And anyone who understands anything about organisational dymanics knows it is those who control the agenda that controls the organisation, just as it is those who write the minutes of meetings in any organisation, if not properly monitored and corrected when they make a "mistake", who control what goes into the agenda for future meetings - that is the European Commission in the case of the EU. The European Parliament, where MEPs sit, is not able to introduce any new legislation, only debate what is put forward to it by the European Commission. Don't believe me? Well, in that case I suggest you find out how the protectionist cartel that is the EU really operates. It talks about being a free trade area, which it is internally, but it erects barriers against the outside world to protect inefficient EU domestc producers against more efficient external producers - this affects not only food prices paid by EU consumers, but most other aspects of the EU economy. It is unfortunately no accident that the EU is the poorest performing part of the world in economic terms (I really don't count Antarctica - it survives only as a result of massive state subsidies from those countries which maintain research bases there). For these and some other reasons I shall be voting Leave on 23rd June.

One of these additional reasons has to do with how the result could potentially affect the position of Scotland within the UK, to which I am very strongly committed. As a subsequent article will show, hopefully in the next day or so, this is yet another reason why I shall be voting Leave.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

For Europe, Against the EU

The first and most important thing to bear in mind is that Europe is not the EU and the EU is not Europe - Europe is a lot wider than the restrictive 'corset'/'straitjacket' of the EU.

For Europe, Against the EU. It’s not a contradiction in terms. The EU is a deadweight around the neck of this exciting continent, limiting the power of its peoples and submitting its parliaments to petty bureaucracy and diktat. Just ask Italy and Greece! The video embedded below argues that the referendum is an opportunity for the British public to strike out against the risk-averse, technocratic elites of Brussels and Whitehall, and an opportunity to inspire publics across Europe to do the same.

Watch, share and vote Leave on 23 June. Unless you prefer to remain in the gilded cage that is the EU, of course - gilded it may be (for some, at least), but it is still a cage.

Brexit the Movie - essential viewing before you vote in the Referendum on 23rd June

Watch this in full and then decide if you want the ‪#‎UK‬ to remain in the ‪#‎EU‬ - or not:


If you decide, after watching this film (1 hour 11 minutes in length), then at least you won't be walking into the decision completely blind - and will have no excuse for complaint afterwards if we do vote to 'remain' in the EU and things go belly-up, as I fear greatly they will. It'll be too late then to whine "but I didn't realise".

PS/ Just to be clear, I am a supporter of neither UKIP nor its leader Nigel Farage, although he appears in this film, but then so do many others of great reputation and stature.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Nairn - Highland Council refuse collection schedules - 2016 to 2018

You can download a calendar of the refuse collection schedule for your street/area within Highland Council by visiting its website here. Enter your area/town by clicking on the drop-down menu in the "category" box and your town and/or street name (leave out 'street', 'avenue', 'terrace' etc, insert only the actual name) in the "keywords” box. Once you find your area, you can download the collection schedule, which will be in .pdf format. Currently available are refuse collection schedules for the period April 2016 to March 2018.

NB/ For information, my earlier articles in July 2011 and November 2014 (respective links links here and here), in particular the first linked article, has somewhat more detail about what may be put in the various bins/'wheelie bins', although of course the refuse collection schedules embedded there are now out of date. Since then, Highland Council has reorganised its website considerably and the way this information may be found has changed, as described above.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Scottish Parliament election 2016; results (constituency and regional) in Highland Region

Well, all 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament have now declared their results and as expected the Scottish National Party [SNP] have 'won', but crucially have lost their overall majority, with the principal gainers being the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party [SCUP], who succeeded even above their own expectations by pushing the Scottish Labour Party [SLP] decisively into third place.

In the 3 constituencies in the area, where the vote is 'first past the post', the results were as follows; the first shown below is the constituency in which I can vote and the other two are shown here for information:

Inverness and Nairn
- CADDICK, Carolyn Ann (SLD) - 4th (5,445 votes, 14.2%, +2.7%)
- EWING, Fergus Stewart (SNP) - 1st (18,505 votes, 48.3%, −3.2%)
- MOUNTAIN, Edward (SCUP) - 2nd (7,648 votes, 20.0%, +8.4%)
- STEWART, David (SLP) - 3rd (6,719 votes, 17.5%, −4.2%)

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
- FRANCHETTI, Leah Esther (SLP) - 4th (3,334 votes, 10.4%, −8.7%)
- MACKIE, Struan (SCUP) - 3rd (4,912 votes, 15.3%, +5.0%)
- ROSS, Gail Elizabeth (SNP) - 1st (13,937 votes, 43.3%, −5.1%)
- STONE, Jamie (SLD) - 2nd (10,024 votes, 31.1%, +8.8%)

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch
- CAMPBELL, Ronnie (IND) - 5th (1,116 votes, 3.1%, +1.5%)
- FORBES, Kate (SNP) - 1st (17,362 votes, 47.6%, +1.4%)
- MACLEAN, Angela Margaret (SLD) - 2nd (8,319 votes, 22.8%, −7.7%)
- MUNRO, Robbie (SCUP) - 3rd (5,887 votes, 16.1%, +7.2%)
- STEWART, Linda (SLP) - 4th (3,821 votes, 10.5%, −2.4%)

Voting also took place in a regional 'List' system under a form of proportional representation, with the regional results where I live being:

Highlands and Islands Region (showing names only of those elected as 'List' MSPs - using the d'Hondt method of voting, the Additional Member System)
listed in alphabetic order by political party or individual name
Details of registered parties and party list candidates
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
"Ruth Davidson for a Strong Opposition"
(Douglas Ross, Edward Mountain, Donald Cameron)
- 3 seats, 44,693 votes, 21.8%, +10.1%
Scottish Green Party
"Re-elect John Finnie"
(John Finnie)
- 1 seat, 14,781 votes, 7.2%, +2.1%
Scottish Labour Party
"Choose kids, not cuts"
(Rhoda Grant, David Stewart)
- 2 seats, 22,894 votes, 11.2%, -3.3%
Scottish National Party (SNP)
"Nicola Sturgeon for First Minister"
(Maree Todd)
- 1 seat, 81,600 votes, 39.7%, −7.8%
RISE – Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism
"Scotland’s Left Alliance"

- 0 seats, 889 votes, 0.4%, +0.4%

Scottish Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
"Christians Together"

- 0 seats, 3,407 votes, 1.7%, −0.3%

Scottish Liberal Democrats
- 0 seats, 27,223 votes, 13.3%, +1.1

Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement
"Tommy Sheridan - IndyRef2"
- 0 seats, 793 votes, 0.4%, +0.3%

UK Independence Party (UKIP)
"UKIP"
- 0 seats, 5,344 votes, 2.6%, +0.7%

Details of individual regional candidates
STOCKAN, James Wilson
Independent
- 0 seats, 3,689 votes, 1.8%, +1.8%


Turnout was 55.6%.
- full results for the Scottish Parliament election 2016 are in the BBC website here.

At a personal level, I am pleased that there are now 3 'List' MSPs representing the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in the Highlands and Islands Region, out of 7, namely Douglas Ross, Edward Mountain and Donald Cameron - congratulations! This is an increase of 1. Other changes are that the Scottish National Party have reduced their 'List' representation from 3 to 1, with the Scottish Green Party gaining 1 seat (nb/ John Finnie was a 'List' MSP in the last parliament 2011-2016, but sat for the Scottish National Party for the period 2011-2012, then as an Indpendent for the period 2012-2016).

The only other comment I wish to make here is that whilst I am not a 'vindictive' person (I do not think), I am personally pleased and relieved that one particular person standing for the SNP as fourth on their 'List' for this area, namely Nairn councillor Liz MacDonald, was not elected; my blog article written during August 2014 (see here) explains why. In my view she has no place in public life; harsh I know, but there are certain kinds of behaviour which are completely unacceptable in a civilised society for an elected official.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

UK and EU; should we stay or should we go (*)

(* - with a hat-tip to 'The Clash')

Tomorrow 5th May we will be having elections of one kind or another in every part of the UK - regional parliamentary or assembly elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and local elections in England, plus of course the mayoral election in London, not forgetting also a bumper crop of elections to select 41 Police & Crime Commissioners across England and Wales - and by Friday we will know what the immediate fallout is. The BBC has a dedicated 'homepage' for all of these elections here. I've written several blog articles recently about the Scottish parliamentary elections in my immediate area; please scroll down if you wish to refresh your memory.

However, not much more than a month from now, the UK will hold a referendum which is arguably at least as important if not more; whether to remain a member of the European Union, or not. There are two 'official' campaign groups, supporting the 'remain' and 'leave' sides respectively and you can visit their website here (for 'remain') and here (for 'leave').

Over coming weeks in the run-up to the referendum, I shall undoubtedly be writing more on this topic in this blog, but meantime I have started the ball rolling by writing brief news updates in my own personal website here in the 'homepage', with a slightly more detailed (but also completely neutral) brief section in its dedicated EU page here (nb/ this page has existed in my personal website more or less since I began the website in its current form in 2002). In that latter page I have included a couple of relevant links which I repeat here, because they will undoubtedly be mentioned regularly in passing in media reporting as the referendum date of 23rd June 2016 draws closer:
- Lisbon Treaty Article 50;
- HM Government official EU Referendum website.

The referendum question will be:
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

The only other remark I wish to make at this stage is that whilst HM Government's official position is to recommend that the UK remains a member of the EU and its website linked to above reflects this, the level of 'objectivity' of the arguments advanced for this position is hotly disputed by some and I myself tend to share some of that scepticism, although I have not yet made up my mind finally how I will vote.