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Frankie S

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Everything posted by Frankie S

  1. A six figure loss is anything from 100k to 999.99k. Assuming it is a six figure loss as predicted, I would suspect it would be much closer to the former figure than the latter. Given the board’s reputation for relatively prudent financial management (a virtue in most businesses, the flipside is that in football it can be seen as penny-pinching), there’s absolutely no chance we’ve spent the majority of that £1 million by now. If there’s one thing our risk averse board could be expected to do reasonably well, it’s navigate the club steadily and carefully through a crisis, so I presume their stewardship of the club through the Covid crisis was fairly exemplary. Football clubs got bailed out to a degree that other businesses didn’t. The Covid windfalls bestowed upon Championship clubs makes most of us in the business sector green with envy. I wish my four businesses (whose combined turnover comfortably exceeds that of Queen of the South) had received a million quid in Covid grants - lucky if they received a quarter of that, and despite being at the cutting edge of the sectors worst affected by Covid, we’ve largely preserved our pre-Covid cash at bank holdings / current assets position due to a combination of furlough, Covid grants and careful stewardship through challenging times. As a shareholder, I suspect the next set of accounts will make rather less traumatic viewing than many anticipate - much less horrific than the x-rated rubbish we’ve had to endure on the park this season at any rate. Shareholder funds at Queens increased from just over 1.4 million to >2.1 million in the year to end of May 2021, a huge increase that relatively few businesses could conceivably have replicated in the Covid era. The amount owed to creditors was relatively negligible given the strength of the balance sheet / exceedingly healthy current assets position. And I’ve yet to be persuaded that the bunch of losers that masqueraded as a football team in Queen of the South colours this season were anything other than the bargain basement selection of cut price journeyman that they looked. In football you generally get what you pay for.
  2. It’s been clear for a while that Lynch has a new project brewing, and while we may or may not see any evidence of it at Cannes, I’d expect we’ll see something new from him in the not too distant future. I recently rewatched Lynch’s entire filmography (all 10 films in a week), and my ranking is as follows: 1-Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 10 I loved this when it first came out, despite the backlash from the Twin Peaks devotees who were expecting a continuation of the quirky coffee and cherry pie kitsch-fest that the TV series had become. It’s one of the best horror films of its era, and all the more terrifying for the horrors being rooted in the evil than men do, rather than confined to the supernatural realm. Sheryl Lee is simply magnificent as Laura Palmer, and she should have been nominated for an Oscar. The film crackles with a demonic intensity from start to finish, with Lynch confounding expectations at every turn, from the downbeat and disorienting Deer Meadow opening to the terrifying ending. This film grows in my estimation with each viewing. 2-Mulholland Dr. 10 This is such a rich and mysterious film. It discloses more of itself with each viewing, but never quite reveals all its secrets. Brings to mind Churchill’s famous quote - ‘It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key…’ 3-Blue Velvet 9 One of the best films of the ‘80s. Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth is (for my money) one of the most terrifying villains in cinema history, and Dean Stockwell’s suave creep Ben is almost as memorable. Great work also from Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan. At times the saccharine sentimentality that Lynch uses as a counterpoint to the evil that lurks behind Lumberton’s facade can be cloying, but this film is so darkly subversive that it would be shocking even if released today. 4-Eraserhead 9 I saw this back in the late ‘70s at a midnight showing at Calton Studios in Edinburgh, and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I knew then that I’d follow Lynch’s subsequent career closely. Nonetheless I didn’t rewatch it for over 40 years. It seemed forbiddingly inaccessible, and despite leaving a lingering impression, I wasn’t sure that I enjoyed it all that much. Having rewatched it twice in the last 12 months, I missed the humour first time round. It’s much funnier than I remember, but no less strange. 5-Lost Highway 8.5 I’ve often thought this dark, terrifying neo-noir was my favourite Lynch film, and Robert Blake’s Mystery Man gives Frank Booth a run for his money as the scariest villain in Lynch’s canon. Blake’s malevolent performance resonates even more resoundingly after the subsequent sordid events that unfolded in his personal life. Watching it again, my main gripe is the ‘off the peg’ rock cred that the film seems to aspire to, with cameos by Marilyn Manson and Henry Rollins, and music by David Bowie, NIN, Rammstein, Lou Reed etc. giving it the flavour a celebrity rock ‘n’ roll Lynch fan convention. The soundtrack selections are often far too ‘on the nose’ (uncharacteristically so for Lynch), but I love ex-Bad Seed Barry’s Adamson’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, which provides the background music to Fred Madison’s unforgettable initial meeting with The Mystery Man at the Hollywood party. I wish Adamson and Badalamenti had composed the entire soundtrack between them. 6-The Elephant Man 8.5 One of Lynch’s more accessible works, this is a wonderful film (which looks stunning in Studio Canal’s beautiful 4K edition) with an excellent performance by John Hurt in the title role. 7-The Straight Story 8 I didn’t really love this first time round, when I saw it in the cinema at the time of release, but I enjoyed it much more on a second viewing. It has a poignant central performance from Richard Farnsworth, who was dying from terminal cancer when it was filmed, and it’s a gentle, humane story, told with compassion and empathy, not qualities you’d always associate with Lynch (though they’re very much in evidence in The Elephant Man too) 8-Wild at Heart 7 This is a film with great moments, without being a great film. Nicolas Cage is the most Nicolas Cage he’s ever been, and that’s both a good thing and a very bad thing, and Laura Dern hams it up too, with the result that the protagonists (Sailor and Lula) are consistently annoying throughout. Willem Dafoe is superb as the sleazy Bobby Peru; Harry Dean Stanton is (as always) excellent as Johnnie Farragut; and there’s a fantastic supporting cast of memorably sinister minor characters, including W. Morgan Sheppard as Mr Reindeer, J.E. Freeman as Marcellus Santos, and Grace Zabriskie as Juana Durango. This is one of those films in which the cameos are way better than the leads (there are so many minor characters you wish had bigger parts - Crispin Glover’s Cousin Dell for instance). Wild at Heart Is definitely lesser Lynch, but the good bits are very good indeed. 9-Inland Empire 4 The first couple of times I saw this, I thought it was a dense, challenging and captivating work, even though it looked terrible. The lo-res digital video Lynch used to film this makes it looks amateurish, and ugly - hugely disappointing after its captivatingly stylish predecessor Mulholland Dr. Watching IE for a third time recently, I’ve changed my opinion: it’s a complete mess, and not just aesthetically. There are a few good scenes and ideas here and there, and a lot of self-indulgent meandering passages, and it all adds up to a fairly punishing three hours. Grace Zabriskie’s ‘neighbour from Hell’ turn at the beginning is great though. 10-Dune 2 I’ve tried several times, but I just can’t finish this. Lynch’s directorial low point. There are so many questionable artistic choices in this film that a lengthy post mortem is warranted, but the fact that Sting is in it, and isn’t even the worst thing about it, is all you need to know. I’m not a fan of the material by any means, but I much preferred Denis Villeneuve’s version.
  3. Thought we were back in lockdown when I went to my local coffee and sandwich shop in Leith for my lunch today. Greeted by a long queue of socially-distanced customers fully masked up standing outside the shop, waiting their turn until the solitary individual inside bought up half the cake selection. Then one out/one in until (about 20 mins later) I eventually got served. I was the first person to have the temerity to make an incursion into the shop while another customer was inside, and given that even during the height of restrictions they were letting two people inside at a time it didn’t seem like an unreasonable thing to do, despite the disapproving looks of a few in the queue. The spare member of staff standing about with no-one to serve eventually gesticulated through the window to the queue outside that it was actually permissible to cross the threshold while other people were in the premises, to little avail, as fully-masked individuals continued to navigate tentatively around outside the shop, giving folk as much room as oil tankers negotiating a safe turning circle around each-other. I’m sure there will be those who will say that this is just indicative of a more caring and respectful post-pandemic society, but I’d guesstimate this particular business did about 50% of their normal pre-pandemic levels even in this apparently ‘restriction free’ / ‘light touch restrictions’ mode that passes for the new normal in Scotland, with lots of people just taking one look at the queue and going elsewhere. The shop-owner told me they were giving up the lease in the summer, so I guess the new normal is nothing like the old normal (though the perennial tram works in Leith that predated and will certainly outlast the pandemic won’t have helped either). Scot Gov’s relentless ‘safety first’ rhetoric seems to have reduced a substantial proportion of the population to a state of docile servility. Given the relentlessly negative messaging emanating from the government it’s no surprise that consumer confidence is still rock bottom in Scotland. The few folk I know who haven’t had Covid still seem to be living in a state of irrational fear about contracting it. Meanwhile the rest of my friends and colleagues, who mainly have kids of school or college age, and / or work in public service industries, have had it at least once, (or as in my household, twice - my son picked up both Delta and Omicron at school, as did my daughter at Uni) and are just getting back on with things wondering when or indeed if this ‘safety first’ pantomime and the ‘care more’ charade is ever going to stop.
  4. Ditto. Our daughter has moved out to go to Uni, so we have a spare room. My wife, son and I (and our daughter) were in full agreement that we should apply to join the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme. We’re happy to accommodate an adult plus child / children (it’s a decent-sized room). We went for the 6-9 months option initially, but will almost certainly be happy to extend. I’ve also applied to the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) business sponsorship scheme to enable my business to employ people from outside the U.K.
  5. I know your schtick here is to be the contrarian ‘voice of reason’ who sets the wrong-thinking dolts right, delivering your insights with your customary dose of condescension, but you’re just blatantly wrong here. I’ll bypass the relative differences in approach which saw me sitting with my son in an empty Hampden a full 3 hours before the opening Euro match against Czech Republic nursing a cup of lukewarm water (and my prescribed maximum A4-sized bag of snacks brought from home) with the cold beers and steak pie I enjoyed at Wembley for the England v Italy final, and confine myself to the restrictions that affected my businesses in 2021, and how these differed from those imposed on their English counterparts. In my sectors (hospitality, live music, nightclubs and events) the differences between Scotland and England, in terms of restrictions, were never as marginal as Scot Gov’s apologists would have us believe. We spent the early months of 2021 in lockdown, which eventually gave way to the purgatorial realm of the Scottish tier system. Thankfully Scot Gov’s absurd recorded music ban was lifted (the only such ban in the civilised world), which after the sector reopened in late July 2020 (implemented mid Aug 2020) had eliminated what little atmosphere it was possible to generate in socially-distanced bars, a characteristically joyless act of a puritanical government that has absolutely no affinity for music or for culture, and little tolerance for the demon drink. On 17th May 2021, indoor hospitality venues in England were permitted to reopen (with normal licensing hours) and Scotland (with the initial exception of Glasgow) was permitted to move to level 2 restrictions, in which pubs could reopen (those of us that hadn’t jumped at the irresistible opportunity of repurposing ourselves as cafes and serving soft drinks and coffees / teas with a 6.00pm curfew in Tier 3), serving alcohol only with a meal, and with a strict curfew of 10.30pm (which meant customers vacating the building at that time, so effectively last orders at 10.00pm, as if the virus only came out at night) and maximum group sizes of 6 from 3 households. England’s ‘rule of 6’ never stipulated a maximum number of households, so 6 from 6 was acceptable there. Most pubs (mine included) do the majority of their business between 10.00 and 1.00am, so arbitrarily closing bars at the back of 10.00pm effectively rendered hitherto viable businesses completely unprofitable, which in tandem with the vastly reduced capacities associated with social distancing was a terminal two-pronged threat for many outlets. By contrast with England, Scot Gov burdened Scottish businesses with this early curfew nonsense, which merely resulted in people being decanted en masse at the same time from socially-distanced managed environnements with Covid mitigations in place into non-socially-distanced environments with no such mitigations, such as house parties and similar gatherings, and Scot Gov also insisted on an advance bookings only policy, in strict two hour time slots, which merely encouraged people to book multiple outlets, only ever planning to go to one, resulting in hordes of no shows, with those customers that did show up having to leave after two hours to go somewhere else (presumably dispersing the virus rather more efficiently than having customers stay put) while outlets wondered if the next table booking was even going to show up. On 19th July 2021, nightclubs reopened in England - live music concerts could take place at 100% capacity and social distancing in hospitality and related sectors was abandoned. In Scotland, by contrast, nightclubs did not reopen. Nightclubs weren’t even allowed to open in Tier 0 of the tier system. Non socially distanced concerts could not take place, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which contributes massively to the Scottish economy, and which is predicated on the raison d’être of small events in small indoor venues, was effectively cancelled for the second year in a row, with a farcically emaciated facsimile of the event scheduled to take place almost exclusively in large socially-distanced outdoor gazebos, as socially distanced gigs are simply not viable in indoors settings, small clubs especially. Meanwhile English gigs, cabaret, comedy and other events were taking place in late July and early August at full capacity. As it happens, Scot Gov finally lifted Covid restrictions on August 9th, one week into the Fringe calendar and far too late for venues to schedule any meaningful programmes of events, non socially distanced gigs were allowed to take place again and nightclubs were finally allowed ro reopen, three weeks after England. Might not seem like a long time, but England had been signalling the end of restrictions leading up to 19th July for months, while Scotland characteristically prevaricated and effectively sabotaged one of its major cultural assets - the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. And of course in Scotland, we just had to make life that bit more difficult for our already beleaguered events, live music and nightclub sectors by introducing vaccine passports barely a couple of months after these long-shuttered businesses had finally reopened, with the shonkiest least fit-for-purpose app imaginable, which (initially at least) almost no-one could get to work, and which resulted in an immediate loss of footfall of circa 40% across these sectors. Needless to say, just when businesses were starting to recover from that massive blow, Omicron reared it’s head and the vaccine passport regime, implemented at great cost, and requiring the recruitment of additional dedicated staff to enforce, proved (like the extensive and expensive Covid mitigations implemented throughout hospitality) to be absolutely no protection to these businesses being shuttered or heavily restricted again at the first opportunity. In early December, Scot Gov decimated Scottish businesses’ lucrative Christmas trade with its entirely predictable overreaction to the Omicron variant, which the data from South Africa had already suggested was milder by far than Delta. The perennial bête noires nightclubs were closed again. Public Health Scotland, the FM and her Scot Gov minions told people to cancel their Christmas nights out and avoid busy hospitality settings, absolutely destroying (by far) the most profitable month of the year for these businesses, after almost two full punishing years of restrictions. As we know, England carried on more or less as normal, with little appreciable difference in case incidence or indeed in rates of hospitalisations or deaths. ‘Business in Scotland’ statistics suggest that 20,000 Scottish businesses failed during the first 12 months of the pandemic, to March 2021. I wonder what that figure is now? I imagine the Scottish government will be dreading the release of the updated figures. So, spare me your trite, Ill-informed nonsense about how Scotland’s regime of restrictions has varied little from England’s, because as someone who is very familiar with the minutiae of the restrictions and regulations to date, it’s patent nonsense. Scottish businesses have since virtually Day 1 one of the pandemic been subject to significantly tighter restrictions than their English counterparts (with these regulations often being arbitrary, counter-productive, inconsistent and self-contradictory), and with generally less government support to boot. I sat in on a Zoom meeting on Tuesday with representatives of live music venues from throughout the U.K. (as I have often done over the last couple of years) and the general reaction from our English counterparts when discussing the consistently more onerous Scottish (and Welsh and Northern Irish for that matter) restrictions is a mixture of sympathy and incredulity. We have rarely if ever been on the same page as our English counterparts.
  6. When lockdown started in March 2020 I resolved to watch as many films as possible. I watched 149 films in 2021 (11 rewatches and 138 first timers), well down from a total of 171 films in 2020. Must do better in 2022. On the upside I saw twice as many films in the cinema in 2021 - 14 compared to just 7 in 2020 - though only four of those made my top 100 films of the year (‘Summer of Soul’, ‘Dune’, ‘The Sparks Brothers’ and ‘In the Heights’). These are my favourite 100 films that I saw for the first time in 2021. 1-The Fire Within (Louis Malle, 1963) 2-Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda, 1964) 3-Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947) 4-Le notti bianche (Luchino Visconti, 1957) 5-The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Lewis Milestone, 1946) 6-Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, 1961) 7-Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino, 2008) 8-The Man With the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955) 9-Marketa Lazarová (František Vláčil, 1967) 10-Summer of Soul (Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, 2021) 11-La Ronde (Max Ophüls, 1950) 12-Casque d’Or (Jacques Becker, 1952) 13-The Gambler (Karel Reisz, 1974) 14-Phoenix (Christian Petzold, 2014) 15-Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, 1952) 16-Vagabond (Agnès Varda, 1985) 17-Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967) 18-Saint Maud (Rose Glass, 2019) 19-The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950) 20-Azor (Andreas Fontana, 2021) 21-The Painted Bird (Václav Marhoul, 2019) 22-Les Cousins (Claude Chabrol, 1959) 23-The Great Beauty (Paulo Sorrentino, 2013) 24-Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948) 25-Le conseguenze dell'amore (Paolo Sorrentino, 2004) 26-High Sierra (Raoul Walsh, 1941) 27-Where the Sidewalk Ends (Otto Preminger, 1950) 28-Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky, 1943) 29-Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway, 1947) 30-Too Late for Tears (Byron Haskin, 1949) 31-You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2018) 32-A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (Martin Scorsese, 1995) 33-Key Largo (John Huston, 1948) 34-Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005) 35-Downtown 81 (Edo Bertoglio, 2000) 36-Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947) 37-Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2019) 38-Any Number Can Win (Henri Vernieul, 1963) 39-Patterns (Fielder Cook, 1956) 40-Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944) 41-The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932) 42-tick, tick ... BOOM! (Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2021) 43-Kansas City Confidential (Phil Karlson, 1952) 44-Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016) 45-The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944) 46-Mr. Klein (Joseph Losey, 1976) 47-Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowsk, 2018) 48-Trouble in Mind (Alan Rudolph, 1985) 49-La Chienne (Jean Renoir, 1931) 50-Dune (Denis Villeneuve, 2021) 51-Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018) 52-Limbo (Ben Sharrock, 2020) 53-The Lineup (Don Siegel, 1958) 54-Night Moves (Arthur Penn, 1975) 55-The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes, 2021) 56-Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray) 57-Friedkin Uncut (Francesco Zippel) 58-California Split (Robert Altman, 1974) 59-Sputnik (Egor Abramenko, 2020) 60-Hagazussa (Lukas Feigelfeld, 2018) 61-M (Joseph Losey, 1951) 62-The Mitchells vs The Machines (Mike Rianda, 2021) 63-Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer - 1932) 64-Somewhere in the Night (Joseph L. Mankiewicz - 1946) 65-Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997) 66-Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 1999) 67-Le Beau Serge (Claude Chabrol, 1958) 68-The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, 2017) 68-Pusher (Nicolas Winding Refn, 1996) 70-The Hit (Stephen Frears, 1984) 71-The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard, 2018) 72-Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013) 73-The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021) 74-La Pointe Courte (Agnès Varda - 1955) 75-The Tall Target (Anthony Mann, 1951) 76-The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright, 2021) 77-The Witch of Kings Cross (Sonia Bible, 2021) 78-Northern Soul (Elaine Constantine, 2014) 79-I Wake Up Screaming (Bruce Humberstone, 1941) 80-In the Heights (John M. Chu) 81-Ride in the Whirlwind (Monte Hellman, 1966) 82-Minding the Gap (Bing Liu, 2018) 83-You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang, 1937) 84-Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017) 85-The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976) 86-Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bomi (Sophie Fiennes, 2018) 87-Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944) 88-Ride the Pink Horse (Robert Montgomery, 1947) 89-The Amazing Johnathan (Benjamin Berman, 2019) 90-The Ruling Class (Peter Medak, 1972) 91-I Walk Alone (Byron Haskin, 1947) 92-History is Made at Night (Frank Borzage, 1937) 93-Joy Division (Grant Gee, 2007) 94-Walk on the Wild Side (Edward Dmytryk, 1962) 95-Uncle Yanko (Agnes Varda, 1967) 96-Hangover Square (John Brahm, 1949) 97-Panic in the Streets (Elia Kazan, 1950) 98-Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011) 99-The Last Warning (Paul Leni, 1928) 100-Dragonwyck (Joseph L. Manckiewicz, 1946)
  7. Absolutely disgraceful penalty decision. The standard of Scottish referees is dismal, but the ref is only a few yards away from that blatant dive with clear view. That compounded with the stupid sending off completely ruined the game. Accies have been impressive and should be 2 or 3 up by now. Hard to believe they’re only a few points above us in the table, as they’ve looked a level above us in all three games so far. They press well and look stronger, fitter and better than us in almost all departments, albeit without any great quality up front. Has Ally Roy found a man in a blue shirt with a pass in that first half? Dismal, but he’s not the only one playing poorly. I liked Debayo when I first saw him, but he seems to have regressed, looks too casual at times and gets caught in possession in dangerous areas far too often. Nditi (along with Connelly) is one of the few players that is reliably good. I’d have said the same about Gibson up until today - getting himself sent off effectively ended our chances - although I can understand his frustration at the decision. Can’t see us getting anything out of this now, and the options from the bench look very limited. Let’s hope we can get a few players in in the transfer window as the squad is looking threadbare.
  8. You’d like to think so, but this has almost never happened throughout the course of the pandemic. The detail always follows later. Scot Gov never misses an opportunity to gain political capital with some broad strokes policy making differentiating us from England, reinforcing Nicola’s ‘caring’ brand, then they scrabble around in panic mode for a few days, under pressure from the sectors they’ve restricted, adding the detail, negotiating the compensation, and even securing the funding. The fact that Westminster hasn’t played ball with Scot Gov’s latest tranche of restrictions has resulted in an even bigger clusterfuck than normal. I think Scot Gov was banking on the (wrongly) predicted ‘tsunami of Omicron hospitalisations and deaths’ forcing Westminster to reinstate furlough and issue some bigger cheques, but no luck there.
  9. Yes, nightclubs can still operate as socially-distanced bars offering table service only. The downside is that if they choose to do so they make themselves ineligible for the government grants that will be awarded to nightclubs that don’t repurpose themselves as socially-distanced bars. So, in effect the government is strongly disincentivising nightclubs from operating at all, even in a repurposed regulation-compliant fashion. The details of the grants that will be awarded to nightclubs, in predictably inept fashion, were only confirmed yesterday, 31st December (I only found out by notification email from NTIA entitled ‘Important update on nightclub closure grants’) received at 15.39, 31.12.21, rather than any direct contact from the government) - 20k and 30k grants depending on size of the business (small / large nightclubs - which may or may not be calculated on the basis of rateable value - hospitality outlets are being awarded grants of differing amounts 4.5k / 5.8k depending on a 51k rateable value threshold). Annoyingly the guidance released yesterday stated that nightclubs had to stop trading by midnight on 31st December to qualify for this funding, but the vast majority of nightclubs had already shut down on 27th December, which was the date decided for the reintroduction of physical distancing in hospitality and the closure of nightclubs. So nightclubs could have traded as socially-distanced bars up to the stroke of midnight on 31st December and remained eligible for funding, as long as they ceased these operations at midnight on the 31st, when the messaging previously emanating from Scot Gov was that the cut off point was to be 27th Dec. It would have been considerate of the Scottish government to let us know that with more than about 8 and a half hours fucking notice. Presumably the intention was not to penalise those businesses that continued to operate (socially distanced from 27th Dec) before the detail was provided as to the level of funding to be expected, due to Scot Gov’s characteristic failure to make a timely decision, but the net effect is that the vast majority of businesses in the sector have been retrospectively told they could have operated for another 5 days (27-31 inclusive) without penalty after they’d already shut. Armando Ianucci will have to come up with a new term to describe the Scottish government’s handling of the hospitality / nightclubs sectors during the pandemic as ‘omnishambles’ doesn’t quite cover it. I took the decision to close my nightclub on 27th December and elect for Nicola’s lucky dip, a complete punt as the amount of expected funding was unconfirmed at that stage and the Scottish government’s derisory offer to hospitality suggested it would be on the low side. As it happens 20k/30k is slightly more than I expected, but it depends how long this farago drags on for as a condition for the award of the grant is that recipient nightclubs remain closed until the nightclub closure order is lifted and don’t repurpose themselves as socially-distanced bars if the nightclub ban isn’t lifted on 17th January as hoped. The natural inclination of business is to maximise income and minimise losses, but due to Scot Gov’s consistent meddling, business owners are now having to run their businesses in a counter-intuitive fashion, trying to predict what funding might be coming down the pipeline as the government belatedly fill in the minutiae of their capricious ad hoc policies, seemingly formulated reactively and without due consideration to the detail that businesses need to make informed decisions that impact the livelihoods of their staff. Given that (in our case) we are continuing to pay all full-time staff at 100% and are paying our part-timers a proportion of their average wage in our own simulated furlough scheme (in the absence of a actual government furlough scheme), 20k (we are on the lower end of the rateable value spectrum) might just about cover a reasonable proportion of our overheads during the period of closure, provided this doesn’t drag on for much longer than the initial 3 weeks, though it certainly won’t compensate for the loss of the most lucrative night of the year - Hogmanay. I operate a bar / restaurant / music venue in addition to the nightclub. The bar / restaurant has traded throughout December at greatly reduced levels since Public Health Scotland and Scot Gov advised everyone to avoid Christmas parties and stay at home as much as possible - we’ve lost a six figure sum in December alone in cancelled bookings / reduced takings, so 5.8k won’t touch the sides of that, but there is talk of another round of GMV (grass roots music venues) funding, so we should be eligible for that, if and when it transpires. We had to cancel our Hogmanay event, but fortunately we had two Hogmanay dinner sittings fully subscribed (we are a large premises so that’s a significant number of covers, even with distanced tables) and late cancellations were balanced by late bookings. I was DJing in the bar, and it was a good atmosphere (albeit not a patch on what it would be normally), with all groups socially-distanced and all current Covid protocols and mitigations observed, though at the stroke of midnight the vast majority threw caution to the wind, embracing and congratulating each-other and even (God forbid) briefly dancing between the tables. For a few moments it was as if the world was back to normal. I’m not sure Sturgeon would have approved, but I’d imagine these scenes were replicated in almost every busy bar in the country, a brief window of spontaneity and joy before a return to the stiflingly puritanical reality that is the ‘new normal’ in Scotland.
  10. In jumping to Granny Danger’s defence, you applied a very broad brush in stating ‘much of the anti-restriction sentiment expressed on here (not particularly that relating to football) reflects an individualist, essentially right-wing standpoint.’ I disagree. That’s a very reductive way of portraying things. False dichotomies have been perpetuated by the media, and on public discussion fora / social networks, since the start of pandemic, feeding into an artificially adversarial and polarised discussion which trivialises and coarsens the debate, and dissuades people from sticking their heads above the parapet to criticise the government for fear of being characterised as right-wing Tory apologists, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists or uncaring monsters who don’t care about old sick people dying. There is disquiet from people across the political spectrum at the recent batch of restrictions, and not just emanating from the right-wing (or anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists etc.) I don’t think it’s accurate, helpful or instructive to characterise those who are increasingly expressing concern about restrictions as (largely) Tory apologists.
  11. I’m sorry but this is just over-simplistic rubbish. I run four businesses in the nightclubs, live music, events and hospitality sector and I’ve never voted Tory in my life and never will, and I’ve never espoused conservative beliefs (either with a large or small c). My vote traditionally went to Labour, but I’ve mainly voted SNP in the last decade or so, and I voted for Independence, precisely because I envision Scotland’s future as a moderately left-leaning state with a social conscience, ideally reintegrated within the European Union, which I thought (and despite my dissatisfaction with Sturgeon and disillusionment with the quality of those around her, still think) would be hugely preferable to decades of Tory hegemony, Brexit and continuing to be ruled from Westminster. It’s incredible how quickly heavy-handed governmental measures that would’ve been formerly regarded as authoritarian and illiberal have been normalised and embraced by the centre left, and there is doubtless an element of schadenfreude involved in some quarters at seeing businesses and entrepreneurs struggle, even if the pandemic has disproportionally crippled small Scottish businesses and disproportionately rewarded the multinationals and the super rich. The death of the high street and the decline of the Scottish arts and entertainment scene has only further lined the tax-avoiding pockets of the likes of Jeff Bezos, Rupert Murdoch and Reed Hastings (Netflix). A welfare state needs to harness the economic power of the young to service the welfare needs of the elderly, and it simply cannot be predicated upon a moribund economy and a demoralised business community. I don’t run my businesses because I’m a rampant Tory capitalist, and I don’t come from a privileged background (I inherited nothing and built my businesses from scratch). I do it because I’m passionate about music in particular and culture in general. During the first lockdown, I paid all my full-time staff 100% despite furlough being 80% (and lower), and now during this (minimum) three week shutdown for nightclubs with no furlough, I’m still paying my full-time staff 100%, with absolutely no government support, other than the vague promise of Sturgeon’s ‘lucky dip’, an as yet unspecified (and almost certainly insufficient) amount of support to be given to those nightclubs that elect to close rather than repurpose themselves as socially-distanced bars. So far am I from being a right wing fat cat, that for the majority of our working lives, my wife (a hairdresser) has earned more than I have, and indeed our mortgage was secured primarily on the basis of her secure income, as my businesses were regarded as ‘too high risk.’ Only in the four or five years before Covid did my investment of 30+ years in my respective businesses result in my earnings finally exceeding those of my wife. I was never in it for the money tbh, so it never mattered to me that I never made any more than a relatively modest living, even from working 80+ hours a week, 7 days a week. One thing’s for sure though, I know how much tax revenue my businesses have contributed to the economy over the last three decades, and it’s certainly not negligible. I’ve already said that I think Corporation Tax should be raised in Scotland and the increased tax revenue ring-fenced for investment in our massively under-funded and long-neglected NHS, which was in crisis long before Covid hit. I’m not sure that aligns very well with an ‘individualistic, essentially right wing standpoint’. My contention since the start of the pandemic is that younger generations are being disproportionately penalised and stigmatised (the nadir of which was the ‘don’t kill grandpa / granny’ TV ads run by Scot Gov back at the height of the first wave). Ultimately this virus has never really represented a significant threat to the health of the young, yet they’re not only expected to make huge sacrifices to protect the sick and elderly, which the vast majority are happy to do without complaint, their jobs are now regarded as disposable, and their passions and interests (football, live music, clubbing, culture) are the first activities to be restricted by the government, irrespective of the data, vaccination levels or the vaccine passport scheme, that were until recently the key to returning to normality, or the massive amounts these sectors have invested in Covid mitigations. Not only do hospitality, live music, events and related cultural (theatre, cinema, arts etc.) sectors primarily service the interests and passions of younger generations, they overwhelmingly employ younger people. And in the events, arts and live music sectors particularly there are huge numbers of young freelancers (and self-employed) who barely received any government support during the first lockdown and haven’t even been part of the conversation during this new Scottish mini-lockdown (which effectively extends from nightclubs to live music and arts - almost all concerts, and many theatrical productions, pantomimes etc. have been cancelled due to the pingdemic, or the new social distancing regulations rendering events unviable). I know countless self-employed freelancers who have worked for decades in the music and arts sectors who have had to abandon their careers, often taking menial jobs in less vulnerable sectors due to the lack of government support. Similarly a huge proportion of young people who formerly worked in hospitality (one of the largest employers in the country, particularly of young people) have had to bail out due to the ongoing uncertainly affecting hospitality and the utterly demoralised state of the sector. These sectors are now in existential crisis. They have been consistently marginalised, stigmatised and now vandalised by the government, who at no point have acknowledged their importance to the economy, to mental health or to young people’s social development. It’s all too easy for the entitled older generation with their comfortable nest eggs, property and pension schemes (built up during the halcyon days before Covid), to demand of the young that they keep them safe, but to erode their job opportunities, and the social and cultural opportunities (that they themselves doubtless enjoyed to the full as young people) by consistently stigmatising and scapegoating these sectors strikes me as fundamentally selfish and indefensible Protective safety-first measures that prioritised public health over the economy that were perfectly understandable during the pandemic phase of Covid are no longer fit for purpose during the endemic stage, with successively weaker variants encountering a considerably more immune (both by vaccination and natural infection) population. The mountain of accumulated debt already incurred by putting everything on hold for the best part of two years will need to be paid off, and most of us in business acknowledge that a more onerous tax regime is an inevitable part of that, and the only way to achieve this is by re-energising the economy, not by continuing to panic and close it down every time a new variant rears its head and the media slips back into scaremongering mode.
  12. Although not involved with NTIA, I was fully supportive of the their earlier (April / May 2021) legal challenge, and disappointed that they lost. I don’t know what the current situation is with regard to possible future legal challenges, and what the impact of losing the last challenge has had on morale / expectation of future success. If I had deep enough pockets I might be tempted to undertake an action myself, and I hope that there will be collective action soon, as SG are clearly now acting prejudicially. It strikes me that these sectors are very broad churches indeed, with little co-ordination in evidence, and the prevailing feeling amongst some of us on the periphery is that a few of the funds set up by Scot Gov and administered by Creative Scotland were a bit of a carve up, with meaningful funding going primarily to the usual suspects (though MVT in Scotland have done a great job coordinating campaigns on behalf of grass roots music venues). It’s not easy bringing sectors, or even businesses within a single sector, together that have traditionally been competitors, even if their commonality of interest now far outweighs their differences. I’ve consistently said for the last two years that Sturgeon and her administration are a clear and present danger to the Scottish hospitality, nightclub, events and live music industries and related sectors.
  13. So, Scottish nightclubs have been instructed to close for 3 weeks from December 27th, unless they implement all-seating arrangements with table service and 1m social distancing between groups and no dancing i.e. repurposing themselves as socially-distanced bars, despite having diligently enforced the vaccine passport scheme for months and spent millions on improved ventilation and other mitigations. According to John Swinney yesterday (though he is admittedly less reliable than a bust wristwatch, I doubt he’s ever been right about anything once let alone twice in 24hrs) those nightclubs that elect to close will receive as yet undisclosed amounts in grant support for closing, while those that repurpose themselves as socially-distanced live music bars won’t, although presumably they might still attract the 4.5k and 6.8k (depending on rateable value) support grants already pledged to hospitality, although that’s just guesswork. However those of us that operate nightclubs have absolutely no idea how much compensation those nightclubs that elect to close stand to be awarded, and how much nightclubs that choose to repurpose themselves stand to lose, as the government presumably haven’t decided yet. We also have no idea when we can expect the promised grants to materialise. So, Scottish businesses are faced with the choice of either turning off the cash flow taps completely in the hope of receiving vaguely adequate funding at some yet to be specified later date, or attempting to trade their way through the (at minimum) three week period (with greatly diminished returns), as at least that gives staff a few hours at a time when there is no furlough safety net, and enables a little income to filter into cash-starved businesses after the normally lucrative Christmas period was completely torpedoed by Scot Gov and Public Health Scotland telling everyone to stay home and avoid hospitality venues / nightclubs etc. An impossible calculation then, to elect between the Scylla of closing, or the Charybdis of continued trading at greatly reduced levels. And going on the basis of the derisory amounts promised so far, we can safely assume that such funding as will be offered will be nowhere near enough to cover the sector’s losses. Leaving aside the fact that it’s becoming increasingly clear that the torching of the Scottish hospitality, live music, event and nightclub sectors was a knee-jerk over-reaction, as well as a thinly-veiled attempt to extract political capital by implementing a more restrictive regime than Westminster, with the associated squabbling over funding (and lamentations that an independent Scotland could and would have gone further if only it had control of the purse strings), as numerous U.K. studies (including one by Edinburgh Uni, which presumably will exert more influence on the SNP than the English and South African equivalents) now confirm the South African data (which was available in the public domain weeks ago) that Omicron is considerably milder than Delta (with the Scottish population already amongst the most highly vaccinated in the world), and leaving aside the fact that shutting nightclubs will surely drive people from highly regulated vaccine passport controlled venues into unregulated, uncontrolled private house parties, there is simply no defence for the utter contempt with which the Scottish government continues to treat the Scottish hospitality, nightclub, live music and and events sectors. Scottish nightclubs have a right to know what compensation they stand to gain by closing their doors, and what compensation they stand to lose by attempting to trade through the next few weeks, and they must have this information at their disposal to make an informed choice between the distinctly unappetising options open to them. At the moment we don’t have a clue which option is likely to be the lesser of the two evils, and the Scottish government seems to be in no hurry to clarify matters. On the upside, it’s becoming crystal clear that Sturgeon has overplayed her hand on Omicron, and the tide of popular opinion is now turning.
  14. 200 seat venues will have to enforce 1m social distancing between groups, so will likely be nearer 25% than 100%. Or in our case, as a busy city centre bar / restaurant / function suites / live music venue, 6.8k won’t even cover our average Saturday take. We’ve lost a six figure sum in expected revenue to date, and we were down to <30% of expected business levels last week. Scot Gov have since committed an additional 275 million to business support, supplementing the original 100m, but we’ve yet to see the detail of what that means for hospitality specifically (which was allocated 66m of the 100m), as it’s assumed it will be spread across multiple sectors including tourism / hotels etc. so we’ll see in due course what that amounts to. Not nearly enough almost certainly.
  15. Wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who first said the only certainties in life were death and taxes? ‘Normalisation’ of death? It’s as normal and inevitable as it gets. But apparently no-one is allowed to die from Covid? In a belated answer to the recent question about how many people close to us have died of Covid - it’s none from me (and having school age children, and working in the hospitality / nightclubs / live music sector, with my wife working in the close contact profession of hairdressing, most people I know have already had it, mildly in the vast majority of cases) but since the start of the pandemic I’ve lost two close friends to cancer, had one case recently diagnosed in the family, and one former colleague and friend (who ran a business in the same sector) lost to suicide, the latter being directly attributable to Covid, and the cancer cases being subject to late diagnoses / delayed treatment due to Covid. So, we’re still dying from other stuff and all those other causes of death are not accompanied by a daily media update on the rolling total of fatalities and daily proselytisation about how senseless, avoidable and tragic it all was. ‘Normalisation of death’ - get real Deepti, you’re not ****ing immortal. We’re all going to succumb to something, eventually. And before that day comes, I’d rather be living life to the full thank you - travelling, socialising, going to gigs, theatre, cinema, restaurants, pubs, clubs, football, supporting local businesses, eating, drinking and shooting the breeze with friends and like-minded people rather than kettled into my house for the rest of my days lining Jeff Bezos’ and Reed Hastings’ tax-avoiding pockets, Deliverooing myself into a diabetic stupor / terminal obesity.
  16. Yeah, we’re 20k a week down on our normal figures for December, and we’re just one outlet. And that’s just going to get worse as all private functions, gigs and parties are cancelled for the next few weeks. Having absolutely torched the sector, Scot Gov are now scrabbling around trying to get funds from Westminster to repair the damage. If this variant does turn out to be as mild as the data from South Africa suggests, and peaks quickly, then this will all have been a monumental over-reaction, but I get the feeling this is going to keep happening for some time, every time a new variant rears its head. Operating a business in the hospitality sector really isn’t worth the stress any more - you know you’ll be singled out, scapegoated and restricted with every successive new variant scare. It’s impossible to plan for the future - we‘d just assembled a new team after months of severe staffing shortages, only for business to be decimated by the government and their agencies telling people to avoid hospitality. I don’t know anyone in the industry that isn’t completely demoralised now.
  17. Scot Gov’s mandatory measures for business published yesterday were completely vague - ‘mandatory reasonable measures to reduce the risk of transmission’, ‘table service where possible’ etc. Clearly Sturgeon doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to follow through with her threats to close or heavily restrict the hospitality, nightclubs and live music sectors, so all her pontificating is just empty rhetoric and political grandstanding, for now. For those of us working and operating businesses in these sectors, it’s the perfect storm though - customer confidence has been shattered and trade has collapsed after Public Health Scotland and Sturgeon’s repeated calls to avoid busy hospitality settings, and the lack of substantive restrictions seemingly means a lack of governmental financial responsibility for the devastating effects of their (highly effective) strategy of dissuading people from frequenting Scottish businesses. The latest (very strong) rumour is that businesses in hospitality, culture and tourism (and their supply chains) stand to be granted in the order of 4k to 7k each (depending on rateable value) from Scot Gov’s 100 million fund in January, as expected a derisory drop in the ocean, with the Scottish hospitality sector alone citing 1 billion in lost revenue already. The hope is that more funding will flow from Westminster to avert the existential threat to these sectors, but the worry is that if Sunak obliges, the restrictions will inevitably tighten. Though being forcibly closed and adequately compensated might be preferable to this half-way house.
  18. So, where we are at the moment in Scotland? For customers in hospitality, limiting themselves to groups made up of no more than 3 households is now advisory - guidance - i.e. optional, but for businesses, as from midnight on Friday 17th Dec, it will be mandatory to enforce the new restrictions (physical distancing, maximum group sizes, maximum households per group) and yet, as of this moment, we don’t have a clue what we have to enforce - physical distancing between groups - is it 2m or 1m+ - it’s been both in the past, so what is it now? No-one knows. Maximum group size is yet to be specified. Is it groups of 8 or 6? It’s been both in the past, so what is is now? No-one knows. Has the Scottish government thought this through? If physical distancing and maximum group sizes / household limits per group returns, then nightclubs won’t be able to operate, unless they repurpose themselves (again) as socially distanced bars. That’s that sector shuttered again. Live gigs can’t take place, (other than socially distanced gigs, and everyone knows that’s a non-starter), and upcoming gigs currently booked in Scotland will have to be cancelled / rescheduled, while the English dates of U.K. tours carry on as normal. Is this what the Scottish government wants? And assuming it is, how is it going to underwrite the losses, not just of the hospitality industry (with huge stock and food orders already purchased for a Christmas season that now won’t happen) but how on earth will it cover the losses of nightclubs, the live music, events and tourism sectors too? Countless events across numerous sectors cancelled that have already been advertised, with the majority of costs already incurred, with tickets and deposits to be fully refunded. 100 million pounds? SERIOUSLY? Do the Scottish government think that will even touch the sides of the problem? Scottish hospitality, live music, events, nightclubs, hotels, and tourism businesses, already pushed to the brink of extinction due to prolonged closure, acute staffing shortages (due to the ‘pingdemic’, hugely exacerbated by Brexit, and the labour-intensive vaccine passport scheme that now seems to have been rendered near useless for allowing us to trade normally again), and ongoing supply issues (and bear in mind, 20,000 Scottish businesses and counting didn’t make it through the first year of the pandemic) now have to absorb cataclysmic losses at the one time of the year they might have expected to recoup some of the losses accumulated over the last 21 months) That won’t even cover what’s been lost to date, ever since Public Health Scotland advised everyone to cancel their Christmas nights out, let alone what is to come, as we go back into another long dark tunnel of heavily restricted trading, without the safety net of furlough or meaningful government support, and no end date in sight (I’m assuming we go back to the 4-weekly review system, but as with everything at the moment, no-one knows anything, let alone the government). How much does the Scottish government think hospitality and the other associated sectors can take? All the while, the threat from Sturgeon of tighter restrictions and looming complete closure (‘if only the Scottish government had the funds to do it‘) constantly dangled over our heads like the Sword of Damocles? The staggering incompetence of the Scottish government is something I’ve become accustomed to over the last couple of years, and that didn’t come as a surprise given the ‘talent’ pool at Holyrood, but the absolute contempt with which the Scottish government treats the Scottish hospitality industry (and associated sectors) has been a real eye-opener. I can’t believe for one second that my views are unique in the Scottish business sector, and perhaps more people will stick their head above the parapet and attack Sturgeon and her minions over the coming weeks and months as Scottish businesses continue to pick up the tab for Sturgeon’s constant parochial politicking, obsessively differentiating ourselves from England and the ‘reckless Tories’ at every opportunity, by doubling down, restricting Scottish businesses at every turn, without the financial wherewithal to compensate them adequately. Independence might eventually be won, but at what cost? An eviscerated economy and an utterly alienated, demoralised and diminished business community - those few of us that are left standing, and actually want to stay in this country to help rebuild it.
  19. It will be interesting to see what Sturgeon’s strategy for dealing with the Omicron variant will be at her Covid briefing later today. I suspect, as a number of leading epidemiologists have been predicting since the early stages of the pandemic, that Omicron is simply the latest variant in the inevitable evolution of the virus as it transitions from pandemic to endemic - more transmissible and likely less lethal than Delta, in much the same way that Delta was more transmissible and less lethal than Alpha. The likelihood is that by this time next year another more transmissible variant will have supplanted the then dominant strain, and we’ll probably be long past Zeta and onto some convoluted alpha-numeric system as we run out of letters for the emerging variants. Now vaccination levels are near universal, we simply can’t continue with apocalyptic doom-mongering and knee-jerk reimposition of economically disastrous restrictions every time a new variant emerges. We’ll be living with this virus for the foreseeable future, and most of us will contract it more than once over the course of our remaining lifetimes (and despite media hype to the contrary, the vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths) so we need to adapt to that pragmatic reality rather than pursue disastrous and economically ruinous scorched earth policies compelled by idealistic and entirely fanciful notions of elimination. The pandemic was only ever going to end with endemicity rather than elimination, as COVID transitions towards its inevitably reduced status as just another background coronavirus, with annual boosters tweaked to the latest variants available to the vulnerable in the interim. The question then is, when do governments transition from the crude, authoritarian and illiberal strategies required to fight a pandemic to the more sophisticated and less restrictive (both in terms of curtailment of civil liberties and restriction on businesses) approach required to restore the personal freedoms essential to a functioning democratic society, revitalise the economy AND protect the most vulnerable members of that society? It seems self evident to me that a welfare society cannot be supported by a moribund economy, and at some point the oft-stated goal of ‘protecting the NHS’ must transition towards investing in the NHS. As restrictions on business are lifted, as the authoritarian residue of pandemic management is dismantled, I would be in favour of raising corporation tax, with the additional tax revenue ring-fenced to support Scotland’s beleaguered health service, which was dismally under-funded and over-stretched before Covid, and is shockingly unfit for purpose now. In order to achieve the target of raising additional tax revenue for the NHS in Scotland, Scottish businesses must be allowed to trade without governmental interference or onerous restrictions. Put simply the Scottish government needs to stop micro-managing the Scottish business sector, and stop squeezing the life out of it and scapegoating at every opportunity formerly vibrant industries that overwhelmingly employ and cater towards young people, such as hospitality, live music and the events sector. 20,000 Scottish businesses failed during the first 12 months of the pandemic until end of March 2021, and we don’t yet have the figures for the following 9 months, but a greatly reduced pool of Scottish businesses will only be able to generate a correspondingly reduced level of tax revenue, and our existing social services (let alone an upgraded, improved version) simply cannot be subsidised by an emaciated and demoralised business sector. The economy and welfare are not oppositional forces, and this poisonous false dichotomy like so many others in this reductively polarised age must be cast aside, and a holistic approach adopted as we emerge from the pandemic. The Scottish government MUST outline their strategy for transitioning from the pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus, a strategy for revitalising business and investing in, not merely protecting the NHS. The absence of a positive vision for the future and the continuance of ineffective, inconsistent (and often counter-productive) authoritarian governmental policies, crudely fashioned to manage a pandemic, as we transition towards endemicity, would ensure a dismally dystopian and impoverished future for us all, failing to harness the economic power of the young in service of the greater good AND failing to protect the elderly and vulnerable. If that’s our future, then as Sam Goldwyn once said, include me out.
  20. Now that Public Health Scotland has unilaterally advised everyone to cancel their Christmas parties, I look forward to Sturgeon announcing a comprehensive financial support package for the Scottish hospitality and events sectors tomorrow……
  21. Yep, the Rangers vote and Rangers season ticket holder Mark Robertson’s (oh so ironic) comments that those of us critical of the board’s disgraceful decision were ‘not true Queens supporters’ alienated this lifelong (been going to games home and away since 1971) fan from the club for years, as the realisation dawned that the supporters had been, and it seems always will be, treated with utter contempt by the custodians of the club. I’ve softened my view a bit over the years after not going to a single match for several seasons, and started taking my son to games, ensuring he became a Queens fan (almost all his pals are Hibs fans), but the connection will never be quite the same for me again. The club does seem to be dying a slow death, and needs a injection of fresh blood, enthusiasm and money to stave off falling into lower League irrelevance (or worse) as a host of ambitious clubs (not just Cove and Kelly, but many others over the next couple of decades as the likes of Darvel, Clydebank, Auchinleck Talbot etc.) start to filter into the leagues. I pay my money to stream the games this season, and get to the matches when I can, but the standard of football on display is utterly lamentable. I know some fans seem to rate the current squad and think we’re underachieving, but even my 13-year-old son tears his hair out with frustration at the prehistoric long ball rubbish that we almost always revert to playing (the recent cup match against Morton aside, where the passing was uncharacteristically short and crisp, though the now sadly injured Cochrane was instrumental in that) - is this a managerial strategy, or just the default setting of a group of very limited players? Watching this Queens team is painful, it’s hard to believe that they know the objective of the game is to put the ball in the net between the sticks, so utterly incompetent are they of achieving that basic objective. I’ve seen worse Queens teams defensively, but going forward we’re bloody awful (the always industrious Connelly apart), almost as bad was I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. I don’t like to single people out, but there are a few players that you think how on Earth did they secure a contract at a Championship club? Poor players badly coached playing shit football on a bloody awful plastic pitch in a decaying stadium in front of empty terraces. That’s the reality of it, and it’s hard to see how that changes without changes at board level.
  22. I’ve more or less given up posting about Covid as it’s become increasingly clear that despite near universal vaccination levels in Scotland, this shit is simply never going to end, so anger has subsided into resignation. There are just too many vested interests (including the lowest common denominator clickbait-peddling c*nts that masquerade as the media in our country) in prolonging and perpetuating the fear, and the jumped-up nobodys that constitute the government in Scotland have gotten a taste for authoritarianism, with governmental restrictions on businesses and civil liberties that would have been considered inconceivable before the pandemic now taking up permanent residence in our society, like a slowly-metastasising tumour. Even if we were to charitably characterise them as reluctant authoritarians, Scot Gov have boxed themselves into a corner with their myopic Covid-centric worldview and their ‘safety first’ rhetoric masking their collective incompetence and inability to implement (or even formulate) a coherent strategy for extricating the country and its moribund economy from the catatonic stupor that now envelops it. But, if we were to put aside the soul-destroying reality of the last couple of years and pretend for a moment that the Scottish government actually gave a shit about Scottish businesses, casting aside delusory notions that our irresponsible media would ever forego the opportunity to hype the absolute crap out of the latest variant (irrespective of the growing scientific orthodoxy that Covid seems to be mutating into ever more transmissible and ever less lethal variants, as it transitions from the pandemic to endemic phase, as most people who know anything about epidemiology - i.e. not Jason Leitch or Devi Sridhar - predicted long ago), running moronic ‘think pieces’ cobbled together by dullards about how ‘ethically responsible’ it is to attend Christmas parties in the ‘Omicron-infested hellholes’ of hospitality, the practical effect in the real world of all the omicron variant hype is that customers are cancelling Christmas bookings in their droves. Last week, my business lost Christmas bookings for 60 and 30 respectively (amongst many other smaller groups), resulting in refunds running into five figures. Normally, in the pre-pandemic world, a deposit for a Christmas party would be non-refundable, but in the post-Covid landscape you simply can’t retain deposits, or you get stigmatised for ‘not taking Covid seriously’, so you suck up the losses and hope that walk-ins or late bookings from less risk-averse punters can make up the shortfall. Some hope. One of the by-products of Covid is that customers now feel entitled to make multiple bookings at multiple outlets, only ever intending to go to one of them, then cancel the bookings at the last minute, leaving hospitality venues with gaping empty spaces when they should be fully booked over the Christmas season. The hope was that groups leaving deposits for Christmas parties would be less likely to cancel than casual non festive season bookings (which tend not to be asked for deposits), but given that the industry is typically issuing full refunds on deposits (to avoid stigmatisation), and there is the now unimpeachable pretext of someone in the party coming down with Covid, or the increased risk of contracting new ‘vaccine-resistant’ Covid variants (as someone ‘on the news’ said the other day), customers are taking up the option to cancel in large numbers, and that’s now proving to be a forlorn hope. It’s been clear since the start of the pandemic that the Scottish government is happy to preside over the complete destruction of the hospitality sector, as its consistent scapegoating of the industry (and punitive restrictions inflicted on it) since the start of the pandemic has attested, so pleas from the industry that it’s losing millions due to Omicron scaremongering won’t result in either a) more (or rather any) financial support for the industry or b) stop Sturgeon and her idiotic minions (Swinney, Leitch et al) constantly threatening the return of draconian restrictions for the sector, irrespective of the continuing encouraging data on hospitalisations and deaths. Given the brutal staff shortages in our beleaguered sector, exacerbated by Brexit and the 'pingdemic', and made worse by the imposition of the labour-intensive vaccine passport scheme, and continuing supply issues, the last thing the sector needed was the lucrative festive period being decimated by the now customary ‘Save Christmas’ new variant bed-wetting, but here we are again. Some people in hospitality (amongst the few of us that haven't already given up the ghost) are consoling themselves with the thought that things will pick up again in the spring, if they can stave off bankruptcy that long, but with no indication yet that the Scottish government will follow Westminster in extending the rates amnesty for another 12 months, and landlords looking for payback on temporary rent reductions granted to tenants in the sector over the last couple of years, and doubtless the Zeta variant lurking ominously around the corner (before we finally run out of letters and have to start on some convoluted alpha-numeric system for naming all the initially ‘scary’ variants that eventually turn out to be milder than the media predicted), I would expect this winter to see an enormous increase in the 20,000 small Scottish businesses that went to the wall during the first twelve months of the pandemic according to Scot Gov's own data (and we’ve yet to see the figures from March 2021 to date).
  23. Not remotely surprised that Hickey has pulled out tbh. He was almost certainly put under pressure by his club to do so. I’m sure they’d have released him for the full squad but understandably question the benefit of Hickey appearing for a Scottish Under 21 side that have been utterly lamentable for years, at a standard that would represent a significant drop down from his club football, coached by someone as clueless as Scot Gemmill. Not sure what the net benefit is here for Bologna, or even for Hickey. Presumably Hickey is meant to show some supplication to the national team set-up (and fans) at a level patently below his capabilities to put himself in contention for a call-up to a senior squad that he’s already demonstrably worthy of inclusion in. Not surprised if Bologna are of the opinion that no such kow-towing is necessary for one of their established first team players. As an aside, reading John Carver’s comments about how Johnny Russell and Ryan Gauld are in the manager’s thoughts and need to keep scoring (not sure Russell can do much more than his recent record-breaking 12 in 12, somehow I don’t think that run of form is replicable let alone surpassable) to keep themselves in contention, and one day it might even lead to Carver being able to take a North American holiday to watch them in action, the thought occurs to me that this Scotland set-up is exuding a particularly parochial attitude, which is possibly the flip-side of the much-lauded Steve Clarke ‘loyalty’ factor. I seem to recall, not so many years ago, Scottish football was collectively bemoaning the fact that so few of our promising young players took the difficult career route to go abroad, learn the language, expand their horizons, and play in a more technical footballing environment, and that so many took the easy route of a relatively lucrative transfer to a mid-table English Championship team, with associated ease of cultural assimilation and a familiar brand of fast and physical football. It seems that such narrowed horizons and limited ambitions are actually more likely to be productive in terms of selection for the national team at the moment, while players that have gone abroad and carved out reasonably successful careers (Hickey, Gauld, Henderson et al.) have never even got a sniff of a full team call up (and only now a few belated and patronising words from a member of Steve Clarke’s backroom staff). I can remember the time when we used to bemoan not having any Scots playing in Serie A. Now we finally have a couple (perhaps a few if we include Binks), it’s out of sight, out of mind, or the threat of being coached by Scot Gemmill at best.
  24. The proposed extension of the inherently flawed vaccine passport scheme throughout the hospitality industry, if it comes to pass, will be the final straw for many small businesses. The entire industry is currently suffering from huge issues relating to staffing, Including recruitment and retention, greatly exacerbated by Brexit and the continuing Pingdemic. Asking every pub and hospitality outlet to check for vaccine passports on entry adds yet another layer in terms of staffing, when the vast majority of outlets can’t fill their existing staff rotas. Speaking from the perspective of my Edinburgh city centre business, we’re working on a day to day basis, hoping that we can patch together a staffing rota from amongst the remaining (non-pinged, or those recording a subsequent negative LFT or PCR result amongst the pinged contingent) regular staff, temporary staff, freelancers, friends, family and former employees before deciding whether we can actually open the doors on any given afternoon. In terms of enforcing the vaccine passport scheme, nightclubs generally employ door staff, most pubs don’t, other than the busier city centre pubs at weekends. There is already an industry-wide shortage of properly accredited door staff, with training courses having been adversely affected by the pandemic, so increasing the numbers of stewards required exponentially by extending the vaccine passport system to all hospitality outlets, seven days a week, seems to me to be a logistical impossibility. The staff simply aren’t there, and they can’t be summoned into existence by wishful thinking and good intentions. The Scottish government clearly has no idea how stretched and utterly demoralised the hospitality industry in Scotland is right now, or worse, if it does know, then it simply doesn’t care. Given Scot Gov’s consistent scapegoating of the industry since the start of the pandemic, the latter wouldn’t remotely surprise me, but ascribing to them sufficient competence and/or engagement with the industry to assume that they do know what the f**k is going on inside Scottish businesses ATM seems laughable, given their track record to date. So, on balance, I’ll charge them with reckless ineptitude rather than wilful vandalism. FWIW, both my wife and I tested positive for Covid-19 this week, both double vaccinated, both with vaccine passports. The first person to test positive in the family was our 12-year-old son. Wonder where he got the virus from? More vaccine passports though, that’s clearly what’s needed.
  25. Better performance from Scotland today, but Davey was a big miss. Evans and Wheal in particular leaked far too many runs, and Leask turning his arm over isn’t really a great option against the better sides. Just don’t get it with Ali Evans - he’s never international standard. Bowls far too short and far too many wides. You’ve no chance in T20 when one of your bowlers is bowling 8 balls an over. Also Calum MacLeod is really starting to annoy me with all his fancy flicks and reverse sweeps. Just hit the bloody ball properly.
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