…or rather, historic houses: between 2009 and 2014 we embarked on a complete eco-renovation of our house – a Regency-era listed steading in Highland Perthshire. We took it back to the stonework, insulated it throughout and installed a ground-source heat pump (GSHP), biomass stove and solar thermal panels. It wasn’t cheap (our initial budget rapidly became a rounding error) but we now have a 270m2 (floor area of heated spaces), 200-year-old farmhouse that is both warm and comfortable – winning UK Renovation of the Year in 2014 was just a nice piece of validation for our hard work.
So, with now nearly a decade’s hindsight, what difference did it make?
Continue reading Heat Pumps and History
With the bowing out of the second Elizabethan Age, It probably won’t take much hindsight to see Elizabeth II as possibly the last unifying factor in the life of the rather nebulous entity we call the United Kingdom. Despite her accident of birth, she managed to embody a clear commitment to public service, to duty, decency and integrity, all carried out with unfailing good humour.
Continue reading The Elizabethan Age – A View from the Glens
The UK government’s announcement that it will be funding heat pump installations is counterproductive and will likely prove toxic to our transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
If we take the government’s fund at face value, the promised £490M is sufficient to provide grants of £5,000 to 98,000 homes: a drop in the ocean compared to the 27.8M or so households in the UK (the actual number of discrete properties will of course be lower, as 14.8% of the population live in flats). But to offer to even partially fund heat pump installations without first tackling the issues of effective insulation and the cost of resizing of domestic heating systems needed to make effective use of heat pumps, is a recipe for disaster, huge ongoing costs and ineffective outcomes.
Continue reading Hot Air versus Heat Pumps
We’ve just seen a weekend where, rather than reducing travel and staying at home, large numbers of people have flocked to the Highlands, treating it more like a Bank Holiday than a Global Pandemic.
So please, Protect us, Protect yourselves, and go home.
Continue reading Hordes of the Things…
I’ve lived more than six decades cheerfully identifying as English (where I was born), Scottish (where I was brought up and where I now live), British (when I couldn’t make up my mind), European (where I’ve spent a deal of my working life and where my greatest cultural resonance lies) and Human, in all other circumstances. And, for the most part, that hasn’t mattered a damn. My passport says I’m a British citizen and – again, mostly – that’s been fine, despite significant differences of outlook with most governments of my lifetime. Continue reading The Sound of Crowing in the Dark
“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see. . . .”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
Continue reading The Wrong Lizard
Given the hubris of opposition parties of all colours in agreeing an election before Brexit was kicked into touch, we are now faced with The Great Nose-Holding of 2019, in which we can only set aside judgements based on past behaviour and focus on the immediate clear and present danger to our way of life. Continue reading The Tactics of Nose-Holding
So I did my democratic duty today and rocked up to the “Bollocks to Boris” demo in Glasgow’s George Square. There was a fairly decent turnout, with a diverse crowd pretty much filling the square, music at the east end and the speakers to the west. Lots of EU and Scottish flags at the musical end, whilst the speakers’ end was dominated by what I can only describe as the “Rent-a-Banner” contingent: The Communist and Socialist Workers’ Parties (bless their pointed little heads), assorted 1930s-style union showings and, in the midst, some white-bearded bloke mumbling away into a microphone. Now, I couldn’t actually hear what Corbyn was saying, but the cohort around was definitely pitching the same tired old mantras that we’re all familiar with, from any decade: Destroy the Tories; Resist Racism; Nationalise Everything; Soak The Rich (or whoever they consider “The Rich” to be at any given moment), not one of which is remotely germane to – and which in fact get in the way of – the issue facing us here and now. Didn’t they get the bloody memo?
Continue reading Read. The. Memo.
For all the publicity that the ‘sexy’ side of climate change mitigation gets – wind, wave and solar power or the shift to electric vehicles – all of which are necessary and laudable, the biggest difference that we can make is to reduce our demand for energy in the first place. Continue reading Easy Gains: Removing VAT on Retrofit Energy-Saving
TL;DR version [Updated with figures from the YouGov polling of 12-16 May]: If you’re looking for the best possible balance of pro-EU MEPs from the current Scottish List for the May 2019 EU Elections, the tactically smart thing to do is for the current voting intentions for the SNP, LibDems and Greens to hold up, and for any further defections from Labour or Tory to go to either the Scottish Greens or SNP (in that order of preference). Continue reading Tactical Scotland (Redux)