Sunday, September 7, 2014

A very interesting observation about the referendum. #indyref

Everyone on my social media feeds who is saying that they are fed up
with all the referendum talk or that it has all,got a bit too heated
is a No voter. In my "real" life, everyone who is saying there is far
too much talk about the referendum or that it's all "getting a bit too
heated/passionate" is also a No voter.

Perhaps a psychologist could explain this?
May be something to do with cognitive dissonance.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Escaping from o2 to 3 in Edinburgh

Since June the quality of service from o2 in central Edinburgh has declined dramatically. At times I have been unable to send texts or make calls. The data connection regularly drops to G or E even though the signal is strong. Outside Edinburgh there have been similar problems with data connectivity between Edinburgh and Livingston patchy and unpredictable. One direction it can be 4G all the way and in the other only G. Other users have been reporting this on Twitter for the past few months, with Tescomobile and Giff-Gaff customers visiting the Edinburgh Festivals complaining too (they both use the o2 Network).

The problem seemed to start when o2 introduced 4G. I understand that they did not gain any additional spectrum and have had to implement this on their old 900MHz band. It could be that this has been more technically challenging than they expected or there may be compatibility issues with some handsets. It is not very clear, but an inability to send texts at certain times has been another factor that caused me to go looking for another provider. On one occasion I was unable to make any outgoing calls so couldn't contact my kids, who were on their way to meet me.

My iPad has 3G capability and I have a PAYG SIM card in it from the the 3 network. Over the past year I have noticed that in some places the 3 network gives me 3G, but o2 does not. These places include Kirkwall in Orkney and Cowdenbeath in Fife. I have never been in a place where o2 had a signal but 3 did not, but I have been in places where neither had a signal but Vodafone did. The problem with Vodafone is that they charge a lot for data and their actual data speeds don;t seem to be as good as o2 or 3 in the tests I have read.

So after several months of difficulty with o2 I decided to switch to 3 simplay because it could not be any worse. I went into the shop and bought a SIM card on a 12 month contract for £15 a month. This gives me 200 minutes of calls with unlimited texts and unlimited data. It also includes calls to 0800 numbers and 20GB of data per month plus calls home free of charge from selected countries (although not many in Europe). They allow the use of the WiFi hotspot but with a limit of 4GB per month.

I got the PAC code for my number transfer and did it the same day in the shop. Two days later it had not worked so I phoned up and it turned out it hadn't been actioned. They did this on the Friday and on the Monday my phone went dead. I put in the new SIM card and was able to make calls (with my correct number showing in caller ID) but not receive incoming ones. By the end of the day this had fixed itself, although the phone identity in settings is still showing the temporary 3 number. The period of no service during the change over was about eight hours.

The results so far are promising. At home and in central Edinburgh I am getting 4G with download speeds of 31mbps and upload of 15mbps. However, this often reverts to HSDPA, which is giving me 15mbps download. In comparison I was getting 21-24mbps on o2 4G (when it worked). Driving to and from Livingston I have a strong signal all the way with data showing as H the whole way there and back.

Overall, it seems like good value and the coverage is better in the places I use it. Coverage in rural areas might be a challenge though.

Oh, and Hutchison 3G is a Scottish company registered in Glasgow.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why I am voting Yes in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

From the beginning of the Scottish independence referendum campaign I have been a reluctant Yes voter. I don't think that independence should be necessary to make Scotland a better place, but if we really are "better together" then we would have been better by now. 307 years is a long time to be getting it right, but that is how long it has been since the Union of the Parliaments. The reason it has never worked properly is simply the distance (geographical and cultural) between Scotland and London. Anyone who has worked in London will tell you that the people are great, but they have a very enclosed view of the world. Most have no concept of how far away Scotland is or how large it is. They tend to view Scotland as a county somewhere in the north. Lack of education on the whole of British history and the continued concentration on London as the centre of the country have cultivated this view over many years. Even the BBC weather map has an unfortunate perspective applied to it that makes Scotland seem small. Yet, those of us who live here seem to have greater optimism about making the world a better place.

When I announced on Facebook that I was voting Yes it was greeted with incredulity by some of my friends. Partly because of my long standing assertion that the final vote will be No (not long ago I predicted a 60%/40% No vote) and partly because I seem like such a sensible, level headed person.

In spite of this I am voting Yes and here is why.

Firstly, I just can't approve of sending any more young Scottish men to fight in foreign wars that we had no say in getting involved in. London decides these things and Scottish opinion is poorly represented in that decision making. Yet, Scotland provides a disproportionate percentage of front line troops. If these decisions were made closer to home they might be made better. They certainly couldn't be made any worse.

Secondly, the No campaign have shown no evidence of the additional powers they are offering the Scottish Parliament. They could have already drafted legislation but haven't. They have not been specific about what powers they would be offering. These promises made in the heat of the campaign could easily evaporate afterwards.

Thirdly, the retribution from back bench Tory MPs will be severe. Expect big public funding cuts here next year as Scots are accused of being "subsidy junkies", when we actually pay more tax per head of population than the English.

Fourthly, I think a parliament with full powers elected under proportional representation will mean that people are better represented. At the moment a Green voter gets good representation in Holyrood but not in Westminster. Scottish Conservative voters get poor Scottish representation at Westminster with only one MP. In an independent Scotland these minority views will get greater representation.

Fifthly, and leading on from my last point, I think we will get more radical policies to fight poverty and social injustice in an independent Scotland because there is a greater collective will here to make that happen.

There are some reasons I might have voted No and these are the things that make me a sceptical yes voter.

Firstly, Alex Salmond. I first met Alex when I was attending Scottish Constitutional Convention meetings in the 80's. I find him a fairly inoffensive man, but many in Scotland really dislike him, and his involvement post referendum could be divisive. I considered this and concluded that Alex will be dead in thirty years - Scotland won't. That may sound really callous, but I can't let feelings about one person cloud my decision on the wider issues. Following a Yes vote the Scottish political parties would need to realign, and my hope is that new credible leaders would emerge on the left and we would get a more radical government.

Secondly, Labour. As a Labour voter and former party member I find it hard to vote against the party. However, their main reason for supporting the No campaign seems to be to secure the Scottish Labour vote as a way of getting a parliamentary majority in Westminster. This would be fine if Westminster was likely to deliver. It seldom does. I also feel uncomfortable with London Labour's new found unionism. It used to be an internationalist party, now it seems to be veering towards a sort of jingoistic British Nationalism - no doubt due to pressure on the labour vote in some areas from the fringe right wing parties. I know that many within Scottish Labour are unhappy with this.

I have been looking at the polls and listening to what people are saying around me, and have been surprised. Over the past few weeks I have seen a number of people in my social circle move from voting No to voting Yes. What seems to be happening is that they are choosing to ignoring the detailed argument on economic questions, or the Salmond issue, and look at broader questions of values and making decisions closer to home, by the people who live here.

Last night when I was mowing my lawn I realised that the next time I am doing it the lawn could be in a separate nation.

On the evening of the referendum I will be in Edinburgh at a concert given by the English folk singer Kate Rusby. Because being an independent nation does not mean we can't be together.
Surely the best of both worlds?