I’ve been watching developments stirring around the question of bilingual signs being used in Scotland.
In fact, it’s been well over two years, and I found the story of the how the question had arisen back then. Sadly, instead of a sensible discussion and analysis, much of the debate seems to have centred around they usual ‘council wars’, with one or other infighting faction furthering either the political agendas of its side, or the personal ambitions of the councillors. I asked: Who pays for bilingual road signs?
Although it could be interpreted as a literal question, that original question wasn’t completely intended that way, but was more of a metaphor or figure of speech, hinting at truth and relevance. As a result, I had to delete a comment added to that post, as it attempted to promote politically motivated views – and that’s one thing that doesn’t happen in this blog (unless I word things badly, because I’m not perfect.) Such comments always just slide straight through into the trash can.
At least there’s an arbiter in this case, with some sense being injected into the matter by Transport for Scotland:
Transport Scotland commissioned consultants TRL to review what effect bilingual signs may have on drivers.
In 2009, a government minister said there was anecdotal evidence of motorists performing u-turns on the carriageway after misreading the signs.
TRL said the signs may demand more attention, but did not increase risks.
Bilingual signs were installed on selected trunk roads in Scotland following a feasibility study in 2002.
The TRL study commissioned in 2009 was the first examination of what impact the signs may have on driver behaviour and accident rates.
In the newly published document, the consultants said: “The report suggests that while there is reasonable evidence to infer bilingual signs increase the demand of the driving task, drivers appear able to absorb this extra demand, or negate it by slowing down, which ultimately results in no detectable change in accident rates.
The findings went on to say that “Analysis of accident data in Scotland concurred with this conclusion, finding no evidence that accidents increased or decreased as a result of bilingual sign installation.”
I still think it was all a waste of time and money, simply because I have been holidaying in North Wales for almost two decades, and such signs are the norm there, not only on the road, but almost everywhere. As far I know, this never proved to be a problem, either for drivers, or for the traveller on foot
so often, a story appears that catches my eye because it just has to be the tip of something else which we are not privy to.
I found my nose twitching when I recently read the story of a protest held over Burntisland’s silent clock.
We’re expected to believe that after only one single complaint was received about the disturbing noise from the bells chiming in time with the clock atop the town’s council chambers, not only were the bells silenced, but apparently Fife Council thought the matter so serious that it ordered the whole chiming mechanism to be whipped out, presumably to ensure there was no chance of the bells turning themselves on again at some future time.
Not only that, this one complaint which seems to have spurred the council into more action than many have seen during the recent cold spell, has seen thousands of townsfolk march on the council offices in protest, demanding the return of the chimes. 1,100 people signed a petition, and 200 turned up at the Burgh Chamber ringing bells just before Hogmanay.
Camps have formed, and reason has already been dispensed with, as suggestions that the clock, which could normally be heard throughout the town every 15 minutes, might be set to chime only during the day, are already said to have been rejected, with supporters seeing no reason to change – the bells have rung for 150 years, so they should continue to do so.
I hope there is a follow up, or someone might care to add a comment below, letting the rest of us know what particular power play is behind this.
On the basis that ‘Better Late Than Never’ applies, I’ve just come across the Save Otago Lane! campaign and story.
Sadly, like the examples of the Pollok Park fiasco and the closure of Paddy’s Market, to name but two, the Otago Lane story looks set to unfold as yet another case of Glasgow City Council riding roughshod over the wishes of the people affected, ignoring representations, and parachuting something ‘nice, shiny, and clean’ in order to wipe out the untidy and undesirable locals.
It’s a reputation I try to avoid associating with Glasgow City Council, as it is usually expressed to me by people with an axe to grind, or who have some sort of long history of problems with the council, and griping about it, and its members (and there we could start on the recent media coverage of certain former senior council members who, it seems, were not strangers to drink and drugs – it seems you don’t have to kick Glasgow Council, you have to force yourself not to) . But, as time goes on and the apparent zeal with which the council seems to ignore locals and try to force through these projects make it hard not to form a negative opinion, even if trying not to.
Otago Lane lies next to the River Kelvin, and is described as being unique in historical, economic and artistic terms, and developers are seeking to build more than 140 flats plus several commercial units there, but some 2,000 written objections have been sent to planning officials, according to the Save Otago Lane Campaign.
The proposed development is set in one of Glasgow’s only Bohemian quarters, and it is said, would have repercussions not only for the area, but for Glasgow and Scotland at large.
Campaigners have received support from a number of MSPs from different political parties, and thousands of people have signed an online petition against the plans, and further details can be found on their web site, where a number of MSPs’ statements have been presented.
Not surprisingly, the developers, Otago Street Developments Ltd, claim that their plans are in keeping with both the principles and the spirit of the local conservation area and local plan.
Glasgow City Council said the proposed development would be considered by its planning applications committee “in due course”.
More images can be found at: Save Otago Lane! – Images
The group can also be found on Facebook Save our Lane
And created an online petition Help save Otago Lane, Glasgow Petition
A large collection of related external links can also be found here Save Otago Lane! – External Links
I wish I’d spotted this months ago, when it first came into the public forum, but I always seem to ‘step back’ from searching around the various news feeds just at the wrong time, as it can be a time-consuming pastime, and often yields little reward. Looks as if I should may be start again, but try and find a better way to scan it more effectively. That said, it may be there is not easy way to do it. One site I used to really enjoy referring to disappeared a few years ago, and I later discovered the owner had given up for the very reason that he reckoned collecting more and more news items to review had eventually given him more work and stress than his job, and contributed to the heart attack that had knocked him offline, and I stopped doing the same shortly after that warning, when I realised how many hours I was spending doing just the same every week
On the other hand, I still hate discovering things like the above have been going on for months, and I didn’t have the slightest clue they were there.
Noticing an article in the Dunoon Observer about new bilingual road signs on the A83 (at a reported cost of £125,000) reminded me that we’d covered this just over a year ago (and a year prior to that too), noting that the subject was one which was associated with a degree of controversy.
It seems bilingual signs have been part of a rolling installation programme which began on Skye back in 2002, and a remarkable £680,000 has been spent (or allocated) on the task since 2008/9. Seems like a terrible waste of money in these days when councils are supposed to be tightening their belts, paying to tear up a perfectly good road sign which is already in place, and replace it with another one that defies the trend to simplify road signs and reduce visual clutter.
It would seem to be more important to address Nationalistic desires to increase the profile of Gaelic with these signs, rather than road safety, as there are concerns that bilingual sign take longer for drivers to read and understand, leading to more time with their eyes off the road, which could lead to an accident. Even the unions aren’t too keen on the signs, seeing the cost savings that could have been made by abandoning them as a way for councils to cut costs, without cutting jobs.
On a more positive note, now that the signs are all but rolled out, Transport Scotland will be able to monitor their effect in the coming years, and see if the there are any more, or any less, accidents and fatalities on the roads where bilingual signs have been installed to replace English only originals. Annual assessments will be carried out at these sites, in order to determine their effect, if any.
Other than the appalling waste of money – replacing serviceable and perfectly acceptable road signs – I don’t have an issue, and provided lives are not lost as a result of their introduction, suspect their presence might even be something of a tourist attraction, as some of them come to see the “Funny Scotch words on their odd little road signs”. After all, I do the same when I visit Wales.
Come to think of it, since Wales already has these signs, couldn’t someone in the council or Transport Scotland have looked at Welsh road safety records where bilingual signs are used, and made a decision based on that, years ago, rather than spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to install these signs, and then wait to see if they kill people?
I do wonder if we will ever see the result of the Transport Scotland assessment of the these signs in future, or if the issue will quietly be forgotten.
Clearly, by the time the assessment figures become available for review, if the news is bad, ripping out the bilingual signs and replacing them with English only versions will be a million pound exercise, and what council or authority would want to face that (further) bill? They’re already strapped for cash and being forced to economise – their ‘pot’ roads will not be any larger in five or ten years’ time, and with the way roads are now being demonised, will almost certainly be smaller.
I did say this subject was associated with a degree of controversy.
Since it’s everyone’s favourite subject, I thought I’d end the year on a weather related item.
I’ve been following the the same route for about ten years now, and have the walk to and from the shops reasonably well tamed. I had to head out there today, and found that after the semi-thaw we’d been treated to since I was last obliged to head out had transformed things from a fairly nice tramp through the snow into one of the worst wanders I’ve ever had to endure.
I can’t recall anything similar in the past ten years, and while the roads seemed to be treated, the pavements had been ignored. These usually have salt/grit thrown over by the shovel-load, but apart from a few brown splodges, there was virtually no evidence of treatment. As the snow had been quite deep, when we did have the slight thaw, all that happened was the surface melted, combined with the lying slow, and then refroze on the still cold ground, creating sheets of ice. With no grit to be walked into it, all that earlier walkers had done was consolidate and polish it.
Most of it could be circumvented by walking in the verge or in the road, traffic permitting, but my hour and a half walk was extended by 45 minutes, simply because I couldn’t keep my footing for much of it. The worst was at a big triangular area of block paving across the main road from the Tollcross sport centre. This could have served as a skating rink, with walkers shouting warnings to those approaching it to walk on the road instead – and that’s a busy junction.
There was only one question I would have liked an answer to (and it wasn’t about where the salt or grit that should have been spread there was). Despite the fact that most folk were slipping about all over the place, there were one or two that seemed to be able to walk on this surface with little or no difficulty, and no matter how closely I tried to see what was different about their footwear, they all seemed to be wearing pretty ordinary daytime shoes – not walking boots or the like, and not with anything strapped on the soles either. Most odd.
Hope we don’t see the same next year, or if we do, the council maybe finds some guys with shovels and a few lorryloads of grit they can spare the time to send out on the road. I would have taken a pic of the icy pavements, but it’s not something that shows up well in a pic, you have to be putting your foot on it to realize what it is, and then again, you can’t really take a pic of no grit on the ground either.
On similar theme, when I did the same walk to the shops last week, the gritters were out gritting the road on the evening before the frost actually hit, so that load was effectively wasted, but they were out the next night, and as it turned out, they spot on as they were really needed that time.
Sometimes you have to put some effort into making a point, or consciously orchestrate a crusade, but it seems I wouldn’t have to do either if I wanted to actively campaign against the abuse of Health & Safety guidelines, or those who like to employ it while wearing their Jobsworth caps.
This time it’s the tale of self-employed dressmaker Lorna Watts, who was refused the loan of a pair of scissor while in the Holburn Library in central London – the reason for the refusal being that she “might stab a member of staff”. It may be worth noting that Ms Watts is 26 years of age, so not likely to be a drunken or drug-crazed teenager in hiding.
Ms Watts, from Islington, north London, said: “I asked why I couldn’t borrow a pair of scissors and she said, ‘they are sharp, you might stab me’. I then asked to borrow a guillotine to cut up my leaflets but she refused again – because she said I could hit her over the head with it!” She continued with the observation that if that had been her wish, then there were plenty of big, heavy books lying around the library that could easily have been used to achieve the same aim.
The businesswoman then visited another three libraries in north London but her request was rejected in each of them.
A spokeswoman for the (real) Health and Safety Executive said there was no policy in place on lending sharp implements, and that while it is true that those in the workplace would be expected to adopt a common sense approach, this could be a case of someone misinterpreting the rules.
A spokeswoman for Camden Council, which runs the library, has apologised and said it would investigate the incident. However, the reality is that having reached this stage, the council has already shown that it is incompetent, and wonder how long it will be before the library staff are safely installed behind metal bars, bulletproof glass and powered steel shields which rise from the counter, with screens and intercoms separating them from the dangers of dealing directly with the public, and the council bankrupt from paying liability insurances premiums, lest the library staff receive a paper cut from a dangerous printed book. At least an eBook doesn’t carry that hazard – just the danger of RSI.
As I have observed before, if you made up these stories, no-one would believe you.
Given the references to common sense in this sad tale, I’m reminded of one of grandfather’s observations of dealing with customers in his shop, and which was that common sense was a worryingly uncommon thing – and he was born before 1900.
I don’t mind admitting I have little time for unions – and one of their own TV adverts shows why. Presumably intended to show the evil boss ignoring the single downtrodden worker, it went on to show the good worker and union members clearing their throat to gain attention, but that throat clearing was depicted as an earthquake, as it was echoed by all the the other good union members.
If unions merely provided representation, I wouldn’t have a problem, but strikes, political affiliations, and involvement in things that are none of their business cause me concern.
A little over year ago, I noted that eight Caithness councillors had tried to stop bilingual road signs being installed in their area, and while they failed in their attempt, the issue highlighted a potential hazard as there was evidence from research which suggested that bilingual signs may cause accidents and that a report from a review of existing trunk road signage was due in 2011, and transport minister Stewart Stevenson noted that it would include the effect of current signs on roads controlled by local authorities.
It seems that “the union” knows better, and there is no need for this report.
A union has urged Highland Council to end “politically correct” initiatives such as bilingual Gaelic signage rather than cutting jobs. Unison spokesman Shane Manning said bilingual signage was one area where cuts could be made without job losses: “Unison Highland branch have a mandate from our membership to oppose bilingual signing. It may not be a vast amount of money but it’s one example of where money could be saved just now when there are more important things to be spending the money on.”
Since when does a union of office workers have a say in how the country’s road signs are deployed?
Is there really any significant cost saving in reducing the content of a road sign that s going to be produced anyway? the English only sign would presumably still be being manufactured and installed anyway, and I’ve nothing that indicates the existence of a scheme to remove and replace English only signs with bi-lingual version – which clearly would add to costs (and create jobs).
There’s another consideration – unlikely as it may be, that the report finds bilingual road signs actually have a positive effect, so the union would be calling for something that created a road hazard.
In reality, the 2011 report will most likely confirm that bilingual signs are a hazard, and the union could have won more Brownie Points if it had waited for the outcome of the report, and supported it with mandate to end the use of such signs, and the potential danger they present.
Guess we’re headed for the union blacklist now, and the pickets will be flying in.
I had been looking at some past stories the other day, and wondered if the story of Glasgow City Council apparently doing its own thing in order to parachute a Go-Ape treetop adventure playground into Pollok Park had gone away, regardless of strong objections and a large campaign against the facility by those living nearby, and concerned for abuse of the park, with respect to the terms laid out by the family which gifted it to the city (not the councillors).
It seems not, and the plan is now history.
The Go-Ape facility was given the go-ahead by councillors in March of last year, despite the active campaign against it, after the made a visit to the site and held a special meeting. It would have seen platforms and zip slides installed into the trees near the Burrell Collection, but the company behind the scheme is now reported to have pulled out.
Go-Ape is reported to have said that the the venture is too expensive to pursue further.
One significant point worthy of note was the the Scottish Government’s decision not to call in the plan or issue any restrictions after it was referred to Scottish ministers because the council had a financial interest in it. Despite the objections of the protesters, it simply handed the complete decision to the local council.
Robert Booth, Glasgow City Council’s executive director of land services, said: “Obviously we regret Go Ape’s decision not to proceed with their facility at Pollok Park. Our main objective was to secure an additional attraction for park users at no cost or financial risk to the council.”
Save Pollok Park said it was “delighted” with the decision of Go Ape to abandon its plans. A spokesman added: “However, the council’s failure to consult and respond to the real legal and operational issues resulted in over two years of unnecessary work and a waste of taxpayers’ money which could have been avoided. We call for a detailed inquiry into the council’s futile posturing and mishandling of the Go Ape affair.”
Although the plan may have been sunk, there may yet be an aftermath.
Image from Save Pollok Park web site.
If 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.
Creating what will probably be the longest column-inch post (column-centimetre post?) we’re likely to have, the list of banned words and phrases which The Local Government Association says must be avoided for staff to “communicate effectively”.
A Plain English Campaign spokeswoman (should that not be spokesperson? – Admin) said: “This gobbledegook (sic) has to go. Jargon has its place within professions but it should not be allowed to leak out to the public, as it causes confusion. It could even be used to cover up something more sinister. Churchill and Einstein were both plain speakers and they did OK. Councils should follow their lead.”
I’m not going to pick on all the items in the list, but I will say that there seems to be quite a few in there that don’t really qualify, and if these items really are banned then writers will have a hard time coming up with something better.
I’m thinking of words in there such as “priority” – I suspect the LGA has taken the opportunity to exclude words that councils may use in their propaganda, and which are likely to come back and bite them in the backside. If a council no longer has to refer to any of its duties as being a “priority”, and has to replace that with some more innocent or long-winded description, then it will be much harder for critics to come back and make simple statements that refer to a council as having “got its priorities all wrong”.
Yes… I know…I’m just an old cynic at heart – but you’ll find more examples of similar words buried in the banned list, and much the same could be said of them.
I have to say though, that I consider the list to be a dismal failure in that it has failed to include the one word which I consider to be the most useless, offensive, and insulting to the intelligence of anyone it is addressed towards, and for which any user should immediately be marched outside, stood up against the nearest wall and summarily executed…
Really, other than to make the user sound important and highly qualified (or really just a plonker), what right does that word to exist? Its modern misuse has rendered its original philosophical meaning to little more than a parody.
The original LGA banned word list
Blue sky thinking
Can do culture
Direction of travel
Distorts spending priorities
Flexibilities and Freedoms
Level playing field
Menu of Options
Predictors of Beaconicity
Single point of contact
Tested for Soundness
Thinking outside of the box
In a spooky coincidence, the BBC has published a feature entitled “Where the wind farm war is waged” less than 24 hours after I blogged about the apparent relationship between the recent increase in popularity of hydro power systems and the number of disputes, campaigns and public enquiries being raised against wind farm proposals (and whispered the word “conspiracy”).
Over the past five years, the Scottish Government reports 35 such encounters as those subject to an impending wind farm development in their area have taken the application to the public enquiry process, which can be lengthy, as it stumbles from the local council – where the first rejection or opposition is lodged, then to a later public discussion held near the proposed site, and yet later the Scottish Government will deliver a decision on the proposal, based on advice from its own reporter.
Some believe the process is flawed, and have suggested that even after being refused permission, about 50% of wind farm appeals are successful. They say this makes the approval process little more than a farce, and that central government is overriding local government in order to further policies such as The Scottish Climate Change Bill, which give the Scottish Government powers to ensure that no local authority can undermine action on climate change.
Those affected have said that just because they are not in an overpopulated area, it does not mean that it is acceptable for them (Scottish Government) to rain down an endless supply of wind turbines.
Public Inquiries held between 01/01/04 and 26/01/09
|Aberdeenshire||St John’s Hill, Stonehaven||Approved|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar||Muaitheabhal, Isle of Lewis||Decision pending|
|Dumfries and Galloway||Harestanes, Dumfries||Approved|
|East Ayrshire||Stonyhill, Muirkirk||Refused|
|East Ayrshire||Kyle, Dalmellington||Refused|
|Highland||Beinn Rosail, Sutherland||Refused|
|Highland||Achany Estate, Sutherland||Approved|
|Highland||Borrowstoun Mains, Thurso||Refused|
|Inverclyde||Corlic Hill/Devol Moor, Greenock||Refused|
|Moray||Hills of Towie, Banffshire||Approved|
|North Ayrshire||Clydeport, Largs||Refused|
|North Ayrshire||Green Hill, Kelburn, Largs||Decision pending|
|Orkney Islands||Gruff Hill, Orkney||Refused|
|Perth and Kinross||Abercairney, Perthshire||Refused|
|Perth and Kinross||Drumderg, Perthshire||Approved|
|Perth and Kinross||Greenknowes, Glendevon||Approved|
|Perth and Kinross||Tillyrie Farm, Kinross||Refused|
|Perth and Kinross||Snowgoat Glen, Perthshire||Refused|
|Perth and Kinross||Lochelbank, Perthshire||Approved|
|Perth and Kinross||Corn & Coulshill Farms, Perthsire||Refused|
|Perth and Kinross||Mellock Hill, Kinross||Refused|
|Perth and Kinross||Griffin Forest, Nr Aberfeldy||Approved|
|Perth and Kinross||Calliacher Nr Aberfeldy||Refused|
|Scottish Borders||Fallago Rig, Scottish Borders||Decision pending|
|Scottish Borders||Halkburn & Bow Farm, Galashiels||Approved|
|Scottish Borders||Toddleburn, Oxton, Lauder||Approved|
|Scottish Borders||Langhope Rig, Scottish Borders||Approved|
|Scottish Borders||Drone Hill, Scottish Borders||Approved|
|South Lanarkshire||Upper Clyde, South Lanarkshire||Approved|
|South Lanarkshire||Penbreck & Carmacoup Forest||Refused|
|Argyll and Bute||Black Craig||Public inquiry to be held|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar||Pentland Road, Isle of Lewis||Public inquiry to be held|
|Highland||Baillie Windfarm, Caithness||Public inquiry to be held|
|Highland||Hill of Stroupsters, Caithness||Public inquiry to be held|
|Midlothian||Auchencorth Moss, Midlothian||Public inquiry to be held|
|Perth and Kinross||Calliacher, Strathtay||Public inquiry to be held|
|Perth and Kinross||Findownie Hill, Dunkeld||Public inquiry to be held|
|South Lanarkshire||Nutberry Hill||Public inquiry to be held|
|Source: Scottish Government|