The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
Slow but steady devolution and the English question
Losing is never easy. Devoting years and years of your time to one endeavour and realising it didn’t pay off in the end can be soul crushing. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, learned this the hard way and appears to have done what all bad losers do: blame the game. After a well executed No campaign Salmond could’ve admitted the loss and even celebrated the gained result of a more autonomous future for Scotland, but instead he chose an alternative approach. Salmond decided the no-voters were ‘tricked’ and that Scotland could reach the inevitable, complete autonomy even without the silly referendum by simply unilaterally declaring independence after gaining enough powers. ‘Tricking’ the voters to tick the No box was apparently the result of a last-minute, dubious vow of more devolution by the Westminster leaders. According to Salmond, who is now stepping down as First Minister, the promises have already been dismissed.
Boris Johnson, the outspoken Mayor of London, responded to Salmond by saying “it would be bonkers to rewrite the constitution overnight”. Devolution will happen as promised, it just takes a little more time due to the obvious gravity of the matters at stake. The Mayor also reminded that as the devolution goes forward another, already earlier recognised issue of the so called West Lothian question finally needs addressing. This idea of “English votes for English laws” refers to the questionable right of Scottish (and also Welsh and Northern Irish) Members of Parliament to vote on matters that affect only England. According to many, as the English voice is less and less heard in issues concerning Scotland, it would be only fair to exclude Scottish MPs from the English debates.
In a grand scheme of things the West Lothian question is hardly as acute as putting the “devolution revolution” of Scotland into action. Taking into account that the British government effectively was the Scottish government from 1707 until 1999 it might be okay to let the Scots even the scores out for a little while longer and intervene in British business for now.
To end on a positive note: there has been some promising discussion on a broader, more participative way to start the new devolution and constitutional debate. The government and all of decision making processes should be more open, more transparent and, above all, more public engaging.
|Better together. Image: The Times|
Ukip planning to increase tuition fees for EU students
The UK Independence party (Ukip) is currently having its annual party conference to shape and announce their vision for Britain’s future. This eurosceptic, right-wing populist party would be happy to increase the tuition fees for EU students so that they would match the charges of students coming from outside the EU. By doing this, it would allow British students to obtain a degree in for example medicine, science or maths free of charge.
If Ukip gains enough power in the next election and the proposal goes through, that would mean bad news for Finnish students studying in the UK too. At present, for example in the University College London an entry level fee for UK and EU students (undergraduate programmes) is at £9,000 per year whereas for overseas students the charge is at £15,200.
Ukip has gained more and more support within the last few years and its once largely ignored annual conferences are now receiving an increasing amount of media attention. However, according to the latest polls, Ukip’s support rate is less than 15 percent, which is not yet enough to rewrite any education policies.
The less attractive tourist attraction
In London one becomes very familiar with queues, early bird deals and booking tickets far ahead to see the different shows and sights. It is guaranteed that whatever attraction you decide to go and see, you will not be alone: hundreds if not thousand have made the exact same plan to come and see that specific building, landmark, piece of art or even a bare road sign on that same day. Gets a bit too crowded, doesn’t it? This is not the case for all tourist attractions, however. While nearly seven million people visited The British Museum last year, guess how many visitors found their way to East Anglia’s Beacon Hill Fort? The correct – and rather depressing – answer is six. That works out at just one visitor every nine weeks, making Beacon Hill Fort the least popular attraction out of 1,279 listed by VisitEngland. So, it certainly doesn’t get chock-full in Beacon Hill Fort, which is somewhat surprising considering the importance of the site as one of Britain’s key defences against a possible Nazi invasion and that it wasn’t even decommissioned until the fifties. Oh, and it costs a moderate one pound to enter.
The lack of visitors might not be completely the sight’s fault though: currently it only opens its doors on one Sunday a month from 2pm till 4pm. But still, only six visitors per year is about 79,994 less than the Pencil Museum in Keswick gets. That is a museum devoted to bits of wood wrapped around some graphite.
After all, Beacon Hill Fort has some unquestionable historical value and is surely worth seeing. If historical fortresses are not your cup of tea, you can always pencil in a trip to Keswick.
|Beacon Hill Fort, yet to achieve the popularity it deserves. Image: Telegraph.|