2013年12月31日 星期二

Margaret Thatcher: The lady who changed the world

這篇是The Economist 2013年傳閱最多的

Margaret Thatcher

The lady who changed the world

ONLY a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one. She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an “ism”.
The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom—odd, since as a prim control freak, she was in some ways the embodiment of conservatism. She thought nations could become great only if individuals were set free. Her struggles had a theme: the right of individuals to run their own lives, as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state.
In Britain her battles with the left—especially the miners—gave her a reputation as a blue-rinse Boadicea. But she was just as willing to clobber her own side, sidelining old-fashioned Tory “wets” and unleashing her creed on conservative strongholds, notably the “big bang” in the City of London. Many of her pithiest putdowns were directed towards her own side: “U turn if you want to”, she told the Conservatives as unemployment passed 2m, “The lady’s not for turning.”
Paradoxes abound. Mrs Thatcher was a true Blue Tory who marginalised the Tory Party for a generation. The Tories ceased to be a national party, retreating to the south and the suburbs and all but dying off in Scotland, Wales and the northern cities. Tony Blair profited more from the Thatcher revolution than John Major, her successor: with the trade unions emasculated and the left discredited, he was able to remodel his party and sell it triumphantly to Middle England. His huge majority in 1997 ushered in 13 years of New Labour rule.
Yet her achievements cannot be gainsaid. She reversed what her mentor, Keith Joseph, liked to call “the ratchet effect”, whereby the state was rewarded for its failures with yet more power. With the brief exception of the emergency measures taken in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-08, there have been no moves to renationalise industries or to resume a policy of picking winners. Thanks to her, the centre of gravity of British politics moved dramatically to the right. The New Labourites of the 1990s concluded that they could rescue the Labour Party from ruin only by adopting the central tenets of Thatcherism. “The presumption should be that economic activity is best left to the private sector,” declared Mr Blair. Neither he nor his successors would dream of reverting to the days of nationalisation and unfettered union power.
On the world stage, too, Mrs Thatcher continues to cast a long shadow. Her combination of ideological certainty and global prominence ensured that Britain played a role in the collapse of the Soviet Union that was disproportionate to its weight in the world. Mrs Thatcher was the first British politician since Winston Churchill to be taken seriously by the leaders of all the major powers. She was a heroine to opposition politicians in eastern Europe. Her willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with “dear Ronnie” to block Soviet expansionism helped to promote new thinking in the Kremlin. But her insistence that Mikhail Gorbachev was a man with whom the West could do business also helped to end the cold war.
The post-communist countries embraced her revolution heartily: by 1996 Russia had privatised some 18,000 industrial enterprises. India dismantled the licence Raj—a legacy of British Fabianism—and unleashed a cavalcade of successful companies. Across Latin America governments embraced market liberalisation. Whether they managed well or badly, all of them looked to the British example.
But today, the pendulum is swinging dangerously away from the principles Mrs Thatcher espoused. In most of the rich world, the state’s share of the economy has grown sharply in recent years. Regulations—excessive, as well as necessary—are tying up the private sector. Businessmen are under scrutiny as they have not been for 30 years. Demonstrators protest against the very existence of the banking industry. And with the rise of China, state control, not economic liberalism, is being hailed as a model for emerging countries.
For a world in desperate need of growth, this is the wrong direction to head in. Europe will never thrive until it frees up its markets. America will throttle its recovery unless it avoids over-regulation. China will not sustain its success unless it starts to liberalise. This is a crucial time to hang on to Margaret Thatcher’s central perception—that for countries to flourish, people need to push back against the advance of the state. What the world needs now is more Thatcherism, not less.
  • Margaret Thatcher prepares for victory in the 1983 general election
  • As Margaret Roberts, a grocer's daughter, in 1950s Dartford.
1 / 12

2013年12月30日 星期一

SkyCycle, London


  1. Images for skycycle london








    Plans unveiled for £220m 'Skycycle' bicycle highway that lets riders ...

    16 hours ago - SkyCycle is a 135-mile network of roads that would be constructed ... 'Skycycle' that lets riders commute far above the railways of London.
  3. SkyCycle: Artist's impression gives stunning vision of Boris' - Daily Mail

    Sep 4, 2012 - London Mayor Boris Johnson is considering architect Sam Martin's designs for SkyCycle, a bike network above the capital's streets. An artist's ...

造價百億 英擬建單車高速公路


英國「每日郵報」(Daily Mail)昨天報導,這條遍布倫敦的「天空單車」(SkyCycle)高速公路分10條路線,總長221公里、有209個交流道,將搭建在原有的1條郊區鐵道上方。

第一階段工程將從東倫敦一路延伸到利物浦街車站(Liverpool Street Station),造價估計高達2億2000萬英鎊(約新台幣109億元)。





2013年12月25日 星期三

Serious Fraud Office vs 信訪局

With a court system seen as unresponsive, several million people annually take their grievances to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, a much-maligned Communist Party-run institution that receives petitions and is rooted in imperial China. Petitioners rarely succeed in their claims and sometimes end up jailed, academics say.

In recent months, Beijing has said it is trying to modernize the petitioning system, including by allowing appeals online. A top bureau official was recently removed on allegations of corruption.


SFO launches formal bribery investigation at Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce says Serious Fraud Office is investigating allegations of bribery and corruption in overseas markets
SFO launches formal bribery investigation at Rolls-Royce.
There was no denial from Rolls in its statement that the departure of King was linked to the investigation. Photo: Getty Images
Rolls-Royce, the aero-engine manufacturer, said the Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal investigation into bribery and corruption allegations involving intermediaries in overseas markets.
The company said in a statement on Monday: "Further to our announcement of December 6th 2012 relating to concerns about bribery and corruption in overseas markets, we have been informed by the Serious Fraud Office that it has now commenced a formal investigation into these matters."
Shares in Rolls-Royce slipped 0.5pc in early trading as the SFO confirmed the "Director of the Serious Fraud Office has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery at Rolls Royce”.
The SFO approached Rolls-Royce in early 2012 and requested information from the company about allegations of malpractice in Indonesia and China.
Dick Taylor, a former Rolls-Royce employee, alleged the company handed a $20m (£12.9m) bribe and a blue Rolls-Royce car to Tommy Suharto, the son of Indonesia's former dictator, General Suharto, in return for persuading the country's flag-carrier, Garuda, to buy Rolls' Trent 700 engines for its Airbus A330 wide-bodied aircraft.
The SFO's announcement comes almost a month after Mr Suharto, made a surprise intervention in the investigation by denying he ever received bribes from the engine maker.
Lawyers acting for Mr Suharto wrote to David Green, director of the Serious Fraud Office, in an attempt to distance himself from the agency’s inquiry into the bribery claims.
The allegations were widely reported as it emerged that the SFO had alerted Rolls to emails relating to the bribery claims, which both the agency and the company are investigating.
In the letter to Mr Green, Elza Syarief, the lawyers for Mr Suharto, said: “Over the past year there have been a series of press reports which have repeated an erroneous allegation that, more than 20 years ago, Mr Hutomo Manda Putra – known as Tommy Suharto – had received $20m and a Rolls-Royce car.”
It went on to say: “For the record, an on behalf of Mr Suharto, we would like to state categorically that he did not, and has never, received monies or a car from Rolls-Royce and nor did he recommend their engines to Garuda.
“These allegations are false and have arisen, it appears, via internet comments posted by an ex-employee, not through any formal source.”
Mr Suharto stressed that neither he nor his representatives had ever “been contacted by the SFO in relation” to the Rolls bribery allegations but “would be happy to co-operate should you wish to discuss the matter further”.
The credibility of Mr Suharto’s denials was questioned in some quarters, however, given his conviction in 2002 for ordering the assassination of an Indonesian supreme court judge. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail but released after four.
Rolls-Royce also has been accused of making payments in return for a 2005 contract with Air China and a deal with China Eastern Airlines in 2010.
John Rishton, Rolls-Royce chief executive, said last December: “I want to make it crystal clear that neither I nor the board will tolerate improper business conduct of any sort and will take all necessary action to ensure compliance. This is a company with exceptional prospects and I will no

2013年12月23日 星期一

Osborne and the Stooges

Op-Ed Columnist

Osborne and the Stooges



There was, I’m pretty sure, an episode of “The Three Stooges” in which Curly kept banging his head against a wall. When Moe asked him why, he replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
《活宝三人组》(The Three Stooges)里有一集,我记得相当清楚,科里(Curly)不停地用脑袋撞墙。莫(Moe)问他为什么那样,他回答:“这样一停下来感觉就特别好。”
Well, I thought it was funny. But I never imagined that Curly’s logic would one day become the main rationale that senior finance officials use to defend their disastrous policies.
Some background: In 2010, most of the nation’s wealthy nations, although still deeply depressed in the wake of the financial crisis, turned to fiscal austerity: slashing spending and, in some cases, raising taxes in an effort to reduce budget deficits that had surged as their economies collapsed. Basic economics said that austerity in an already depressed economy would deepen the depression. But the “austerians,” as many of us began calling them, insisted that spending cuts would lead to economic expansion, because they would improve business confidence.
说一点背景:2010年,尽管仍处在金融 危机制造的一派严重萧条景象中,多数的富国选择了财政紧缩:削减开支,在有些地方还要提高税收,以期把经济崩溃时暴涨的预算赤字降下来。经济学基本知识告 诉我们,在经济萧条时采取紧缩政策会加剧萧条。但这些人,我们开始称他们为“紧缩党人”,坚称削减开支能带来经济扩张,因为它们能提升商业信心。
The result came as close to a controlled experiment as one ever gets in macroeconomics. Three years went by, and the confidence fairy never made an appearance. In Europe, where the austerian ideology took hold most firmly, the nascent economic recovery soon turned into a double-dip recession. In fact, at this point key measures of economic performance in both the euro area and Britain are lagging behind where they were at this stage of the Great Depression.
It’s true that the human cost has been nothing like what happened in the 1930s. But that’s thanks to government policies like employment protection and a strong social safety net — the very policies austerians insisted must be dismantled in the name of “structural reform.”
Was it really austerity that did the damage? Well, the correlation is very clear: the harsher the austerity, the worse the growth performance. Consider the case of Ireland, one of the first nations to impose extreme austerity, and widely cited in early 2010 as a role model. Three years later, after repeated declarations that its economy had turned the corner, Ireland still has double-digit unemployment, even though hundreds of thousands of working-age Irish citizens have emigrated.
The depressing effect of austerity in a slump is, in short, as clear a story as anything in the annals of economic history. But the austerians were never going to admit their error. (In my experience, almost nobody ever does.) And now they’ve seized on the latest data to claim vindication, after all. You see, some austerity countries have started growing again. Britain appears to be experiencing a significant bounce; Ireland has finally had a decent quarter; even Spain’s economy is showing faint signs of life. And the austerians are holding victory parades.
简而言之,在经济史册中,经济低潮期实施 紧缩政策会产生的压制效应是再清楚不过的。但紧缩党人永远不会承认错误。(在我的经历中,几乎没见过有人这么做的。)结果,现在他们又要抓住最新的数据来 证明自己是对的。你看,有的紧缩国家已经开始恢复增长了啊。英国看起来正在出现有力的反弹;爱尔兰终于有了一个像样的季度;连西班牙的经济都开始有点微弱 的生命迹象了。紧缩党人开始举行胜利大游行。
Perhaps the most brazen example is George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer, and the prime mover behind his country’s austerity agenda. No sooner had positive growth numbers appeared than Mr. Osborne declared that “Those in favor of a Plan B” — that is, an alternative to austerity — “have lost the argument.”
这其中最厚颜无耻的大概是英国财政大臣乔治·奥斯本( George Osborne),该国紧缩大业的头号推动者。一等积极的增长数据出现,奥斯本先生立马宣布“那些支持B计划的人”——即紧缩党人的反对者——“输了这场辩论。”
O.K., let’s think about this claim, above and beyond the general observation that fluctuations over the course of a quarter or two generally don’t tell you much.
First of all, Britain’s recent growth doesn’t change the reality that almost six years have passed since the nation entered recession, and real G.D.P. is still below its previous peak. Taking the long view, that’s still a story of dismal failure — as I said, a track record worse than Britain’s performance in the Great Depression.
Second, it’s important to understand the history of austerity in Mr. Osborne’s Britain. His government spent its first two years doing big things: sharply reducing public investment, increasing the national sales tax, and more. After that it slowed the pace; it didn’t reverse austerity, but it didn’t make it much more severe than it already was.
And here’s the thing: Economies do tend to grow unless they keep being hit by adverse shocks. It’s not surprising, then, that the British economy eventually picked up once Mr. Osborne let up on the punishment.
But is this a vindication of his austerity policies? Only if you accept Three Stooges logic, in which it makes sense to keep banging your head against a wall because it feels good when you stop.
Now, I’m well aware that the austerians may win political points all the same. Political scientists tell us that voters are myopic, that they judge leaders based on economic growth in the year or so before an election, not on overall performance in office. So a government can preside over years of depression, yet win re-election if it can engineer an uptick late in the game.
But that’s politics. When it comes to economics, there’s only one possible answer to the absurd triumphalism of the austerians: Nyuk. Nyuk. Nyuk.


l Partying Until Drunk and Disorderly in Britain / The children drinking five pints a week


Northampton Journal

Partying Until Drunk and Disorderly in Britain


British officials are considering solutions as large numbers of British youths go out on the weekends to get thoroughly, blindingly and often violently drunk.

《衛報》報道, 政府最新統計數據表明,在過去5年中,年齡在10-13歲的青少年平均每周飲酒量增長了一倍,相當於每人每周要喝1瓶半白葡萄酒和5品脫啤酒。

The children drinking five pints a week

Cheap alcohol blamed as study finds pre-teen bingers have doubled intake

Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent
Saturday September 1, 2007
The Guardian

A persistent hardcore of pre-teen binge drinkers - almost one in 10 of all 11- to 13-year-olds - are consuming more alcohol than ever before, according to new government figures.
They have doubled their weekly intake over five years - to more than 10 units a week, the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine or five pints of beer, according to an NHS report which surveyed more than 8,000 secondary school pupils.
Health campaigners believe alcohol is "ridiculously cheap" and too easy for children to buy and warn that girls in particular are drinking to dangerous levels.
Although the report also found an increase in the number of children who had not consumed any alcohol, it will fuel concerns about drink-related antisocial behaviour. Last month Cheshire's chief constable, Peter Fahy, demanded the legal drinking age be raised from 18 to 21, after three boys were charged with murder.
The Home Office and the Department of Health are urgently reviewing how discounting and advertising drive the consumption of alcohol. In the report by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care, one in five secondary school pupils admits having been drunk in the week before the survey - ranging from "mild tipsiness to full-scaled incapacity". Nearly two-thirds said they drank mainly at home or someone else's home, or on the street (31%) or at parties (29%).
The government has already identified drinkers under 18 as a group at risk, partly due to the perception that alcohol is more socially acceptable than smoking or drugs. The report said young people were unlikely to die from the direct effects of alcohol, but they were risking "indirect effects" such as accidents and violence.
There is some good news in the report: the number of pupils aged 11 to 15 who said they had never drunk alcohol at all has risen from 39% in 2003 to 45% in 2006, and the number who had had alcohol the previous week was down from 26% in 2001 to 21%. Only a quarter said they had taken drugs - down from 29% in 2001. But the proportion who said they smoked at least once a week has remained at 9% for three years.
Among the pre-teens, 9% admitted drinking in the past week, and the level of their consumption caused concern: up to 10.1 units a week, from 5.6 units in 2001.
Deborah Cameron, of Addaction, Britain's biggest drug and alcohol treatment charity, said: "It is clear from these figures that young people who are drinking under-age are drinking more than ever before. The increase in girls' drinking is particularly worrying. Those who are drinking alcohol are drinking over the recommended safe limit for adult women.
"The problem is that alcohol is ridiculously cheap - in many places cheaper than bottled water - and too easy to get hold of. Yes, we need to keep up pressure on shops, but we also have to ask whether families are as aware as they should be."
Among 11 to 15s who had drunk in the last seven days, average consumption had risen to 11.4 units, from 10.4 in 2000.
Tim Straughan, acting chief executive of the Information Centre, said: "The report shows more schoolchildren are choosing a cleaner lifestyle and are abstaining from drink and drugs. However, the figures also reveal drinking, drugs and smoking continue to play an important role in the lives of a significant number of young people and there may be links between this behaviour and truancy rates."

2013年12月21日 星期六

Apollo in the West End collapsed: 倫敦劇院樓頂坍塌:當局下調受傷人數

Seventy-six injured including seven people seriously hurt after the ceiling of the Apollo in the West End collapsed mid-way through a packed ...

News for west end apollo theatre

  1. The Guardian ‎- 17 hours ago
    London mayor tries to reassure public after theatre ceiling falls in, injuring more than 80 during performance.


    更新時間 2013年12月20日, 格林尼治標準時間03:52
    倫敦警方修訂西區(West End)阿波羅劇院樓頂坍塌事故的受傷人數至76人,其中七人傷勢較重。



2013年12月17日 星期二


2013年 12月 18日 07:21


國首相卡梅倫(David Cameron)週二表示,在進行有效性審查後,英國政府認為應加強對華為技術(Huawei Technologies Co.)英國數字安全中心的監管。

英 國國家安全顧問Kim Darroch負責對華為的審核工作。英國情報和安全委員會(Intelligence and Security Committee, ISC) 6月份警告稱,不進行充分安全檢查就允許華為進駐英國電信市場,此舉使英國面臨網絡攻擊和國家主導的間諜活動的風險。

ISC早就提出了對華為數字安全評估中心(Cyber Security Evaluation Center)的擔憂,該中心2010年在英國成立,是用來監測華為造成安全威脅的測試系統。ISC尤其擔心的是,該中心由華為自己出資建設並運營。




英國情報和安全委員會稱,對華為的大部分擔憂主要圍繞該公司與中國政府的關係。以收入計,華為是僅次於愛立信(Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson)的全球第二大電信設備供應商。








Nicholas Winning

2013年12月16日 星期一

Government asks energy firms to hold prices


Government asks energy firms to hold prices

Light bulb and calculator Both government and opposition parties are trying to find ways to curb fuel bills
The government is asking the big six energy firms to hold prices until the middle of 2015, barring any major increase in wholesale fuel costs.
Industry sources have told the BBC the government wants to avoid another round of price rises that could be blamed on government green levies.
It wants the commitment as part of a wider deal with firms that could cut annual bills by around £50.
Labour has promised to freeze energy prices for 20 months if it is elected.
The government has described that as a "con", saying that governments in general cannot control the international price of fuel.
But this move, if agreed, could keep tariffs on hold for at least 18 months, assuming there was no major rise in wholesale prices.
That could ensure there was no increase in energy bills ahead of the next election.
Labour's shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, said: "The truth is that only by legislating for a freeze can we guarantee that it will happen.
"David Cameron won't do that because he's not prepared to stand up to the big energy companies."
Angela Knight, chief executive of industry body Energy UK, told the BBC: "Only about 18-to-20% of the bill is in the control of the energy companies."
She defended the industry's profit margin, currently about 5%, saying: "A business has to be profitable if it's going to stay in business."

Start Quote

This is deferring costs, not getting rid of them”
Industry source
'Deferring costs'
A senior figure at one of the big six suppliers, who did not want to be named, has told the BBC that he wanted to make the commitment.
"We want to make it happen, but we need predictability on costs," he said.
He said the key was to change the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, which requires the firms to deliver energy efficiency measures to homes.
"If they can resolve the issues around ECO, that takes the gun away from our head," he added.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce a relaxation of the ECO commitment in his Autumn Statement next week.
But another industry source warned that making such a commitment would be impossible: "We can't make that commitment while our costs are still increasing."
He cited several factors linked to government policy, including the Carbon Price Floor and the Renewables Obligation, which he said would drive costs higher in the years ahead.
The government is seeking to spread the cost of the ECO scheme from the current 27 months to four years.
The source said: "This is deferring costs, not getting rid of them."
"The bus has already left the station," he added.
The government is also looking at the cost of transmitting energy to our homes. This makes up 23% of an annual dual fuel bill.
According to the industry regulator Ofgem, electricity distribution costs will add £15 to an average bill over the next year, but flatten out thereafter.
Industry sources say the government wants that cost spread over a longer period.
Such a move could potentially knock £5 annually off bills.

Eating or heating: the stark choice for many Brits as energy prices soar

In the UK thousands are struggling with rising energy costs. After last winter’s record number of deaths from cold weather, pressure is mounting on the government to force energy companies to help the most vulnerable.

UK economy: Is all that glitters really gold?
Immigration beneficial for UK, says study
'Doing nothing costs more than doing something'

2013年12月13日 星期五



英 國自1997年工黨上台後提倡地方分權,在蘇格蘭和威爾斯舉行公投,過半數的居民贊成地方應該擁有更大的自主權。蘇格蘭議會則從1997年以來一直爭取舉 行獨立公投的機會,11月26日,蘇格蘭政府由大臣薩孟德(Alex Salmond)發表獨立公投白皮書《蘇格蘭的未來:獨立蘇格蘭指南》,並在記者會上表示,蘇格蘭的前途是掌握在蘇格蘭人自己手裡,這裡擁有「最好的公 民」可以為自己的將來做出最好的決定,透過獨立,蘇格蘭才能充分發揮其做為一個「國家」的潛力,並讓蘇格蘭人掌握自己的命運,將蘇格蘭打造成一個更民主、 更繁榮、更公平的社會。
蘇格蘭政府計畫在明年9月18號進行公投,題目是「蘇格蘭是否應該成為一個獨立國家?」選民以「是」或「否」作答。 如果蘇格蘭人民同意,獨立紀念日將訂在2016年3月24號。薩孟德表示,蘇格蘭的稅收將不會用在核子用途,英國的核子飛彈將永遠移出蘇格蘭。蘇格蘭將持 續以英鎊為貨幣,繼續留在歐盟,仍尊英國女王伊麗莎白二世為君主,但將建立起自己的防衛部隊,並不再把英國廣播公司(BBC)當成國家廣播公司。
根 據白皮書,獨立後的蘇格蘭會有獨立稅制和軍隊,可從外海的北海石油蘊藏獲得90%收益,也將不再部署英國作為核威懾力量的彈道飛彈,將於第一個獨立議會期 間移除備受爭議的格萊德灣(Firth Clyde)海軍基地的「三叉戟」(Trident)核潛艦。在過去,這兩項都是在歐洲具備高度爭議性的議題,蘇格蘭的獨立不單單影響到英國,若獨立成 功,則在往後歐洲政治秩序的斡旋裡便會又多了一個新的國家行為者,需要再一段時間的磨合,以平衡政治經濟利益的分配與權力結構的改變。
蘇格蘭政府承諾提供三到四歲幼兒每週三十小時免費的托兒服務、安全退休金制度、獨立第一年取消臥房稅(Bedroom tax)、維持基本稅率、調高免稅額、調漲基本工資等,並強調蘇格蘭獨立後的經濟前景會更好,以爭取蘇格蘭人民對於獨立公投的支持。
然 而,英國前財政大臣達林(Alistair Darling)認為在債務、國防、社會福利、退休金等各方面,蘇格蘭政府並沒有提出具體的因應政策。英國政府宣稱,以英國經濟的規模,英國有能力解決全 英的銀行危機,並且維持金融穩定,例如蘇格蘭皇家銀行(The Royal Bank of Scotland)在2008年遭到金融海嘯肆虐後,被迫向英國政府求援,英國政府最後投注700億美元為該銀行紓困,如果蘇格蘭單單憑藉自己的經濟體規 模、離開了英國體系,則難以應對這樣的金融危機。蘇格蘭當局則回應,蘇格蘭具有諸多經濟優點如「強勁的內需經濟、龐大的海外潛能、教育程度高的勞動力與世 界級的科技與研發」,所以獨立將有助於釋放蘇格蘭的潛能,並可自行決定投資的分配與份額。
英國三大政黨保守黨、自民黨、工黨均罕見站在同一 陣線上反對蘇格蘭的獨立。他們認為這份白皮書對於蘇格蘭獨立後的未來過於理想,蘇格蘭獨立後經濟狀況不可能如同白皮書預期的樂觀,若獨立,蘇格蘭便不能在 軍事上和英格蘭站在同一陣線,英國的國際影響力也會受到影響。許多英格蘭與蘇格蘭在經濟利益和社會各層面上的衝突將會加劇:全英國既存債務、蘇格蘭人口老 化問題、北海石油收益日漸下降、雙方邊界區分等問題都將變得更難分難解。
根據英國線上調查機構Panelbase為「星期泰晤士報」 (Sunday Times)所作的調查,肯定獨立的選民比例處於落後,但呈現緩慢成長趨勢,支持與反對者比例差距逐漸縮小。根據最新民調,在五百萬蘇格蘭人口中,有約 38%的民眾目前打算投票支持獨立,47%反對,15%尚未決定。
英格蘭人與蘇格蘭人雖然是同文卻不同種。基本上,蘇格蘭人 (Scots)、北愛爾蘭人(Northern Irish)與威爾斯人(Welsh)屬於凱爾特族(Celtic peoples)的後裔,而英格蘭人(English)主要是盎格魯撒克遜族(Anglo-Saxon)。蘇格蘭人並不認為自己是「English」,對 他們而言,那指涉的是英格蘭人,蘇格蘭人有著更強的地域性歸屬感及自我認同,每當不小心說「你們英國人(English)」時便會被糾正,說我們不是 「English」,而是「Scottish」。
事實上,蘇格蘭的獨立要求,從1707年蘇格蘭與英格蘭簽署聯合條約(Act of Union)那天起就開始了。1603年,女王伊麗莎白一世將王位傳給年幼的詹姆斯,而詹姆斯的母親瑪麗是名義上的蘇格蘭女王,於是詹姆斯就同時成為蘇格 蘭和英格蘭兩個國家共同的國王,直到1707年詹姆斯的曾孫女安妮女王把兩個王國正式合併為「大不列顛王國」,蘇格蘭至此才被合併進英格蘭。蘇格蘭一直是 個擁有獨立司法、行政的主權國家,從14世紀起就擁有民族認同感,即使在因聯姻而被納入聯合王國體系後,仍保留自己的宗教信仰與民族法,一直以來,在英國 內部立法與行政管理上,仍然擁有一定程度的自治空間。也因如此,蘇格蘭至今的司法體系(較接近大陸法)、教育系統、宗教信仰等皆獨樹一格。蘇格蘭國教是長 老會,英格蘭的卻是英國國教,從其文學與藝術作品中也可以看出蘇格蘭人對其自身民族獨特性的強烈自覺。
英格蘭傳統的大學教育通常是3年,蘇 格蘭則是4年。英格蘭大學通常需要繳交昂貴的學費,只比國際學生便宜一些,高等教育體制相對而言也非常的貴族與菁英,並不是所有的人都負擔的起一年七八千 到一兩萬英鎊不等的學費;而在蘇格蘭,只要你是蘇格蘭人,在蘇格蘭接受教育,則從小學到大學通通免費。因此比較富裕的家庭會把小孩送進學齡前的學校接受啟 蒙教育,在那之後除非執意要念私立學校,否則一個家庭,無論任何階級,都完全不需要在教育上有額外的花費。而公立學校的品質也相當有水準,例如位於蘇格蘭 首府的愛丁堡大學,在許多專業領域的世界排名皆名列前茅。
在日常生活中也可以看到許多兩者殊異的例子,如蘇格蘭和英格蘭的足球聯盟互不隸屬 (英超與蘇超)、全國統一的大型連鎖超市裡會有一些貨架上插著蘇格蘭國旗,上面寫著「I am Scottish」,說明這項產品唯有在蘇格蘭才買的到。此外,蘇格蘭地區發行自己特有蘇格蘭英鎊,英格蘭英鎊可以在蘇格蘭使用,但是蘇格蘭英鎊卻不一定 能使用於英格蘭。火車或大型購物商場尚可使用,而一些小商店則會拒收蘇格蘭英鎊。
支持獨立派(可參閱Yes Scotland網站)認為蘇格蘭的經濟優勢足以支持其成為一個獨立國家,歷經300年的合併,蘇格蘭人抱怨英國經濟每下愈況,只會拖累蘇格蘭跟著向下沉 淪。英國的經濟政策重南輕北,讓蘇格蘭經濟無法獲得提振。蘇格蘭副首席大臣史特金(Nicola Sturgeon)表示:「英國政府政策已經讓蘇格蘭經濟停滯好幾個世代。」蘇格蘭1,900億美元的經濟產值,相當於紐西蘭,約占英國經濟產值的8%。 支持者認為,如果脫離英國,則毋須再受到英國政府將投資與稅收聚焦於東南部與大倫敦地區(The Great London)的偏廢所害。許多支持派主打民族自決的立場,當英國政府無法照顧蘇格蘭人的利益時,蘇格蘭人應該要站出來為自己發聲,決定自己的未來。
而 反對獨立的團體訴求「Better Together」,表示大部分的蘇格蘭人雖以蘇格蘭為傲,但並不全然地否認英國,非黑即白的二擇一其實並不必要。他們也指出,除了居住在蘇格蘭的蘇格蘭 人外,仍然有八十萬蘇格蘭人在英國其他區域工作,蘇格蘭和英格蘭間千絲萬縷的經濟、社會聯繫並不是能說斷就斷的。現階段反對獨立的蘇格蘭人比例略多過支持 獨立者,並非他們沒有蘇格蘭民族的自我認同和文化上的自覺意識,而是他們對於蘇格蘭獨立的未來感到擔憂──畢竟獨立不是請客吃飯,一切或許並不會像一直以 來追求獨立的蘇格蘭民族黨、蘇格蘭政府所提出的藍圖如此美好順遂,縱使蘇格蘭人擁有自己引以為傲的歷史與文化,但至少在現實層面,目前他們仍然傾向維持現 狀以確保既有的穩定能夠先維持下去。
蘇格蘭地區的獨立訴求也許並不完全是在尋求真正對外獨立的國際人格,可能更多的是希望獲得經濟上的獨立 自主。金融危機後,蘇格蘭從英國政府獲得的利益相對減少,蘇格蘭境內的北海石油和天然氣每年需向英國政府繳稅近90億英鎊,若獨立,則能獲得可觀的能源收 入。以現有漁業作業線為國界,蘇格蘭將獲得95%油田和60%氣田。
無 論明年結果為何,可以肯定的是,蘇格蘭公開爭取獨立的不流血過程,將會持續性的受到國際社會關注,尤其在高達八成人口希望透過公投脫離西班牙獨立的加泰隆 尼亞(Catalonia)自治區,更渴望他們也能藉由這類民主程序決定自己的前途。過去與現在,認同與獨立,政治、經濟、社會的或分或合,從來都不是一 件簡單的事情,優雅拘謹的英格蘭人和直爽豪邁的蘇格蘭人的角力背後,已存在更多值得探究的深刻問題。

2013年12月1日 星期日

plain packaging law

A few days ago the tobacco companies were telling themselves that Australia's plain packaging law wasn't all that worrying because not too many countries were planning to follow it. But David Cameron, the British prime minister, spoilt the mood this week by reversing an earlier decision to scrap plans for a plain packaging law http://econ.st/IkxJQ5

    plain packaging law