Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Here is my poll question:

How much of the national economy should, in an ideal society, be spent by the state?

This means all the money spent by the state - defence, administration, quangos, police etc but also social security, NHS, education, rail & windmill subsidies, X-Prizes etc.

I would be really interested in knowing what people would like the answer to this to be so please take a few seconds to answer it. Call it research.

0 - 9%
10 - 19%
20 - 29%
30 - 39%
40 - 49%
50 - 59%
60 - 69%
70 - 79%
80 -89%
90 - 100% free polls

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Tavish Scott the new Scottish LibDem leader has broken one of the taboos in Scottish politics. He has said that it is desirable to use our right under the Scotland Act to cut income tax.

"We should use the Scottish Parliament's power to cut income tax by two pence in the pound."

He should be commended for this complete reversal of party policy. The Conservatives must, quite deservedly, be feeling sick as a flock of parrots for not saying this first. We can be certain that he has not done this without checking with some focus groups that the public want it.

As somebody expelled from the Lib Dems for supporting lower taxes on the grounds that this was "illiberal" & "too right wing" to even be discussed I am pleased to see that eternal liberal principles have changed in the intervening 2 years.

As leader of the 9% Growth Party, the only party to have campaigned in last year's election for cutting Scottish income tax I am pleased to see that Mr Scott is now a follower of ours. In the same way while we were the only party to campaign for new nuclear power, the Labour & Conservative parties have now followed us on that. To round it off, since we supported X-Prizes for space development, the SNP have offered one for a sea turbine & subsequently,& quite possibly consequently, John McCain offered one for an improved battery.

Nonetheless I cannot fully endorse Mr Scott's about face for 3 reasons.

1) He has made no specific proposal as to how it should be paid for. We said that a 3p cut should be paid for out of the £1 billion a year of pointless windmill subsidies.

2) 2p is a very silly figure to choose. There is a fixed cost in changing the rate which is about equivalent to 1p income tax. Therefore it makes financial sense to go for a 3p cut or nothing. 2p is falling between 2 stools.

3) We have been quite clear that the first priority is encouraging growth & that the way to do that is, as the Irish did, by cuts in corporation tax & rates which should be the priority. Desirable though income tax cuts are it is obvious that a one time only 2p in the £1 cut will provide only a fraction as much to ordinary people as Ireland's 7% growth (let alone the 9% we are committed to), year on year.

Mr Scott is to be commended for making a single belated, half hearted, cynical about turn somewhat in the direction of economic sanity. Let us hope that, though he has been the first to break ranks on this issue, He will not be the last..

"I am favour of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible." to quote Milton Friedman. It may be the wrong tax to cut & by a silly amount but it is to be welcomed.

Our party may be small in votes & members but almost everybody in Scottish politics is now among our followers, which is a good start.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Evidence given by Dr Patrick Collins, Director of Space Future to the Commons Science & Technology Committee 21st Feb 2007.

To give an example about how easy it can be to make getting into space cheaper, this is a picture of the SR53, a British supersonic rocket plane which flew in Britain 50 years ago this May. There is a British company, Bristol Spaceplanes, which has a design of a passenger space plane, drawing very much on that technology, which could make suborbital flights at a cost of £3,000 a head. There is simply no difficulty at all. The technology was already there 50 years ago, and materials and so on have advanced a great deal since then.

Q506 Chairman: Do you have any evidence to support that claim? That is the most astounding claim you have just made, that you could do it for that sort of cost.

Dr Collins: This vehicle is in the RAF Museum and it flew on 15 May 1957 and flew supersonic in 1958. It was a military plane.....

This was intended as an interceptor for Russian planes. In fact missiles were much better so they did not develop a higher altitude version, but suborbital space flight is that straight forward so it could have been started as a passenger business in the 1960s. There is no doubt about that. Going from suborbital to orbital is a big step; it is from 3 or 4 March up to 26 Mach so it is a big step and requires a much bigger investment. Based on a successful business like this, it would be quite a logical and low risk investment. I am a great fan of Virgin, they are doing terrific work, but if no governments were to make any effort and it was just left to Virgin it is still going to take a long time to get to orbit, but for a tiny investment and a modern version of this for £50 million, a one-off investment, in three years you would have a prototype which would be flying, within five years it could be certified for carrying passengers, and within 10 years it would be down to £3,000 a head. Suborbital flight is a very straight forward low cost investment.

One of my frustrations, as someone who has been aware of this for a long time, is the absolute refusal of the BNSC [British National Space centre] to even comment on the subject....What it means is low cost space travel which is the secret to allowing everything to happen in space but the BNSC and the then Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, have simply refused to say anything in eight years.

The 9% Growth Party has repeatedly said that we should be funding a British X-Prize Foundation from the money we currently give to ESA. If this is too forward looking for British politicians we should right now put up the £50 million to allow these regular sub-orbital flights. While it could not itself achieve orbit the original did carry 2 rockets & a modern version would be much lighter because of modern materials. That means it is likely that it would be able to launch rockets able to carry small satellites. Beyond that it would certainly be able to carry experiments to test manufacturing in zero-G. The potential number of materials that can be mixed, produced as chemical compounds or manufactured in zero-G considerably exceed the total which can be done in a gravity field & some of them are bound to be valuable, for example crystals created without being distorted by gravity can be larger & stronger than any we can now produce. Having the ability to launch small satellites & carry out microgravity experiments would be worth many times the £50 million investment even if it wasn't worth doing simply for Britain to have something to be proud of.

The 9% Growth Party laments the lack of vision of our representatives who have done nothing since getting this evidence. It would cost them the equivalent of 3 1/2 windmills or 2 years subsidy of opera at Covent Garden so they cannot claim it is not affordable.