Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Why nothing gets done

Fuel hoseIf you ever detect the merest hint of satire when I blog about councils, you might just possibly be right. While I really don’t have any particular agenda with regard to them or their members, I despair at the way common sense (remember common sense? – we used to use it before Political Correctness was invented) is thrown out of the window when individuals can hide behind collective responsibility, and what might otherwise be a good idea gets strangled by due process.

One such example surfaced recently. A simple suggestion made in Dumfries and Galloway proposed that council vehicles be run on biofuel made from recycled cooking oil collected from school kitchens. The council is said to have a current annual fuel bill of almost £2 million.

As individuals, you or I might just go out and do this without much further thought. Motoring programmes have dispelled most of the myths around used chip fat when as a fuel for diesel vehicles, and in summer all that’s needed is filtering to make sure none of the bits get into the vehicle’s fuel system. In winter, the old oil tends to become too thick thanks to the cold weather, but additives can cure this.

Job done, and…

If you want to go one better, for a few thousand pounds, you can buy your own biodiesel converter to store in your garage, and this will purify and convert the old cooking oil into genuine biodiesel.

There are a few pitfalls, and one or two cars have seals that don’t like biodiesel, but these are generally well documented, so there should be no difficulty in avoiding such vehicles. Warranty may be an issue, but as individuals, we’re likely to be running cars where this is not relevant (they’ll be too old). Again, these problem manufacturers have all been documented, so the smart thing would simply be to avoid them when buying a new vehicle, and avoid their restrictive warranty conditions too.

However, things are not so simple when you’re the council, and have a committee to play with.

First, someone will be concerned with small size of the saving.

Then someone will want a study into further alternatives to be conducted.

Someone else will be concerned about the cost of vehicle conversion.

Someone else will worry about those manufacturers that don’t support the use of such fuel.

Someone else will shake their heads and ask about the cost of collection, processing and storage.

Someone else will demand a consultation, probably costing around £5,000 for a feasibility study.

(By then, someone else will want to know if the tea and sandwiches have got lost, but that happens at every meeting, so doesn’t count here.)

And that takes us back to the first point, as the size of the saving,  estimated to be abbout £5,000 per annum.

It makes you wonder how much it cost in council wages to discuss the issue in the first place, and if all the hot air produced made up for the waste of gas/electricity used to keep the council chamber lit and warm at the time, while the proposal to re-use some waste was stillborn, before it even had a chance to prove itself…

And wonder why anyone bothers having any ideas in the first place.

03/04/2009 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

And now… Ultra Secret England

Nuns with gunsYou will no doubt have noticed all the wailing and moaning about Google’s Street View from the various skivers that might have been caught sneaking the odd unauthorised smoking break outside the work, or others who might perchance have caught in the right car but in the wrong place and with wrong partner.

Given the amount of hysteria the media seems keen to whip up over this feature, or rather just keeps on repeating the same story time after time, you might be forgiven for wondering what’s happened to all the people who like to say of CCTV and surveillance systems: “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear”. You’d think they would be the firsdt out in the streets cheering at everything being visible online.

With all the supposed anti-Street View stories circulating, you might be forgiven for thinking there are a lot of people out there with a lot to hide and a lot to fear.

None more so it seems than the Buckinghamshire village of Broughton, which has made the news with its opinion of being seen on Street View.

So fearful are the residents – they say of being burgled if their village appears on Street View (they must all read that fine publication, The Daily Mail, which promotes this idea, daft as it is) – that they ran out of their houses, banged on one another’s doors, and formed a mob to intimidate the driver of the Google camera car, force it to turn around and leave the village.

The ringleader, one Paul Jacobs, formed a posse to surround the car driver.

Jacobs said there had been three burglaries in the last six weeks (and without the help of Street View too!), “If our houses are plastered all over Google, it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike”.

I’m trying to follow the logic, but there’s clearly something wrong with my brain, as it can’t quote work out how having an old, out of date photograph of a publicly visible place that anyone (if not spotted and surrounded by a posse) can take a current, new photograph of at any time, translates into an invitation for criminals.

The only criminal thing I see here is a mob attacking, or at least intimidating or threatening a driver in a car, to the extent they felt the need to leave a public place.

I hope this link lead to some nice, detailed pics of the correct Broughton, I don’t know the place, and I won’t be daring to visit. There seems to be quite a few places with the same name, but this one lies near Buckingham.

There seems to be something marked as HM Young Offenders Institution on the map, a little way to the northwest.

Bet they don’t like that in Broughton.


Apparently the thugs at Broughton were interviewed by BBC TV the day after the news item was published, but I was out and missed it.

Like most bullies, they haven’t really thought things through, and while they seem to be most upset by the possibility of Google Street View showing an old and out of date image taken from the street, which they think invites criminal to strike, they are perfectly happy – and said so on camera – for estate agents to publish current photographs and details of properties for sale there.

Now forgive me for not being a professional criminal (maybe), but if I was researching a village with the intention of cherry-picking the best properties to make a withdrawal from, what would I prefer to use?

Google Street View – offering relatively poor quality, old pictures of streets I could walk down and study freely, and take detailed photographs of for myself, zooming in on any security features I was interested in.

Estate agents details – offering current photographs of properties for sale, detailing their interior, number of rooms, layout, outbuildings, gardens and access. Most modern estate agents also provide detailed photographs of the interior to show off the rooms, and these show all the owner’s possessions, collections, audio and visual equipment, and presence of any alarm sensors in the rooms. The fact that the property is for sale also signifies that it may be lying empty, and just opened for viewing.

Not only that, the property list is constantly being updated, sold properties are removed, and new ones added.

Yes, I know what I’d worry about if given the choice of Google Street View, or an estate agent advertising properties for sale.

03/04/2009 Posted by | Civilian | , | 1 Comment


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