The Indus civilisation

The ancient Indus civilisation covered the landmass of what is now parts of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. It thrived without conflict, flourishing for 700 years without warfare, weapons, armies, fortifications, colonialism, inequality or royalty.


Utopia image  copyright Richard Wilkinson

Success is easier to achieve when you are unshackled from the absentee laird, as the buy-out community on Eigg have realised. When your nation is independent, techno-savvy or small, like Estonia or the  archipelago of the Faroe Islands serving up the world’s fastest Broadband. When you live as a happy, secure nation – Costa Ricans (Ticos) are the happiest folk on the planet, thriving in a demilitarised, sustainable country for 65 years now.

Per se, this isn’t  a call for Indyref 2 or the closure of Faslane, though it is tempting to look at Estonian and Faroese Telecom digital provision, the Isle of Eigg community, and the Ticos living so contentedly, then cry:- “Look what independent, small communities and nations can achieve.”

Showing my workings.. This article came about as 2016 marked the 500 year anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’. I found commentaries about the Indus civilisation in New Scientist and ‘Did the people of the Indus civilisation have all the answers?’ by Pat Kane in the National newspaper. Further research unearthed reviews of Rutger Bregman’s challenging ‘Utopia for Realists’. Then I Googled, created Alerts and cautiously consulted Wikipedia.

‘Picture a peace-loving Atlantic island ruled by reason. Its 54 cities are governed by educated officials and an elected-for-life prince. Although war hasn’t been abolished, it is used only as a last resort. People see no glory in fighting, and capture enemies rather than kill them. This is the original Utopia – the pagan, communist and pacifist world sketched out 500 years ago in Thomas More’s eponymous work of fiction.’ Andrew Robinson, writing in New Scientist.

Was More proposing a blueprint of an ideal society, or satirising the self-interest, greed and military exploits of the hereditary monarchies of his time? Has Utopia ever existed? Most historians and writers reject it, though some idealists, like Scotland’s Lewis Grassic Gibbon, accepted the existence of a past  ‘Golden Age’ as far from a misbegotten notion.  Environmentalist and Guardian writer George Monbiot (‘Feral’; ‘How did we get into this mess?’) is a modern exponent of the ‘innate goodness of humanity’ mantra. Yet perceived wisdom and common sense insist that large human societies must be governed by coercion. Certainly the instinct for warfare has been the hegemonic force in most ‘civilisations’ of the last five millennia, especially the British Empire.

The Indus Old World was the most enigmatic of the four great early civilisations. While Mesopotamia, Egypt and China gloried in warfare from 2600 to 1900BC, conflict seems to have been absent from the Indus valley for seven centuries. The Indus civilisation thrived during this era of the Bronze Age. For citizens then it was an epoch without warfare – no fortifications, armies, armour or weapons. Nor was there any colonialism or non-elected residual monarchy. Inequality was not entrenched.

At its peak, the civilisation had a population of over five million. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). Cities are noted for their granaries, baked brick houses, docks, wells and walls. The quality of town planning suggests a knowledge of efficient municipal governments, placing a high priority on hygiene. The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and drainage were more advanced than any excavated in contemporary Middle-Eastern urban sites.

The Indus valley civilisation is also known in this mature phase as the Harappan. The city of Harappa was located in the Punjab province of British India. In 1920 it was the first site to be excavated. After Partition in 1947, which involved the division of the Bengal and Punjab provinces, the site is now in Pakistan.

The Indus valley cities lived by fair and prosperous trading, facilitated by major advances in transport technology. Trade was helped by developing wheeled transport, with a canal network on dry land. Sea-worthy boats were built to secure maritime trade. Flood-supported farmers who tamed the Indus river brought food into the cities. Traders delivered the materials that workers needed, and took away finished goods to other cities. Such goods included terracotta pots, beads, gold and silver, coloured gem stones, cotton cloth, metals, flints for making stone tools, seashells and pearls. Minerals came from Iran and Afghanistan. Lead and copper came from India. Cedar tree wood was floated down the rivers from Kashmir and the Himalayas.

Between 1900 and 1700BC, this great civilisation began to fall apart. Trade, with Mesopotamia in particular, faltered. After a series of natural disasters, cities started to disintegrate. Rainfall reduced. Waterways changed course, causing flooding, droughts and crop failures. Monsoons became unreliable, and it grew cooler. There’s evidence of a major earthquake. People suffered famines. Diseases spread; many folk fled epidemics or died from malaria, bones unearthed have revealed.

Unlike their fellow traders in neighbouring Kashmiri, who innovated with underground dwelling pits and wool, using their textile industry and weaving skills, the Indus communities were slow to adapt to life under changing climatic conditions. Though genetics and internecine conflicts cannot be ruled out, the Indus civilisation died away, not due to economic imperatives, immigration, warfare or coercion, nor was it down to Utopian societies being unsustainable. The primary reason for this gradual collapse was climate change.



Picasso’s Path to Guernica – La Guerra 80 years on

Picasso Guernica

Photograph: Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017

Pablo Picasso’s painting of the bombing of Guernica is one of the 20th century’s most famous images. A vast canvas in sombre tones of grey and blue, it shows in searing detail the suffering of people and animals as German and Italian fascist planes bombed their town. Picasso painted Guernica for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris, then toured it around the world to publicise the massacre.

bob cooney new


In August 1937 Aberdonian anti-fascist battler Bob Cooney began his journey to fight in La Guerra. Once in Spain he was appointed British Brigade Political Commissar. ‘Spain – a war of the people fighting for independence against fascism’.


Britain’s leaders were useless; plus ça change. Although UK Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigned over the Munich Agreement (Chamberlain’s attempt to appease Hitler), he declared that ‘it wasn’t clear who was responsible for the bombing of Guernica’. Post-war, Eden’s career hit a new nadir when he colluded with France and Israel to use military force against General Nasser after the Egyptian leader had nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956.


Of interest in My Blogs:

Felicia Mary Browne

Sculptor and political activist Felicia Browne was the first British volunteer, woman or man, to die in armed defence of the Popular Front Government and the fledgling Second Republic.





Christy Moore -‘Viva la Quinta Brigada’. Live at Barrowland, Glasgow.





Eigg is the emerald amid the jewels that comprise the Inner Hebrideans. One of the Small Isles, it lies 10 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland, south of Skye.  It has a population of around 100. Residents include basket producers, lace-ware makers, musicians, builders, farmers, bike/canoe renters, brewers, photographers, artists, museum staff, a taxi driver and a TV producer. The economy is driven by tourism, social services, public enterprises, agriculture, the creative industries and construction co-operatives.

In 1997 the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust – a partnership between the residents of Eigg, Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – purchased the island for £1.5 million from its absentee owner, Marling Eckhard-Maruma. The lottery-financed Heritage Memorial Fund had refused to help finance a community buy-out, yet managed to find £13million to retrieve the Churchill family papers.

Photograph: ‘Laig beach’ with An Sgùrr in the background: © John Little, Flickr.

‘Making the remote central’

The only peak on Eigg (393M) is on An Sgùrr, the largest pitchstone ridge in Europe. Pitchstone is a dull black glassy volcanic rock formed when lava or magma cools quickly.

Inhabited since at least the Neolithic period, Eigg is an Inner Hebridean island, 10 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland, south of the Isle of Skye. Five by three miles in size, Eigg is one of the Small Isles: the others are Canna, Muck and Rum. Eigg now has a population of around 100. Residents include basket producers, lace-ware makers, musicians, farmers, builders, brewers, artists, photographers, bike and canoe rentals, rangers, museum staff, a taxi driver, a TV producer and a graphic designer who doubles as a drone pilot. The main drivers of the economy are the creative industries, tourism, agriculture, construction, eco-management, public enterprises and social services. There are twenty young people on the island, some of pre-school age and others in primary and secondary education.

Eigg was sold nine times under private ownership. Its penultimate laird Keith Schellenberg threatened islanders with eviction, then sold Eigg to the German artist Marling Eckhard-Maruma for £1.6m in 1995. Maruma sold off the island’s cattle, before taking out loans against the island in Liechtenstein and Hong Kong. Eigg became a pawn in a game of international land speculation.  The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust – a partnership between the residents of Eigg, Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – purchased the island for £1.5 million from its absentee owner in 1997.  The lottery-financed Heritage Memorial Fund had refused to help finance a community buy-out, yet managed to contribute £13million to retrieve the Churchill family papers.

The island boasts its own microbrewery, record label, music festival, community broadband network, a building co-operative and two museums.  Laig Bay Brewing Company   Lost Map record label   Howling Wind music festival. This year’s festival was sold out.

Eiggers are also celebrating nine years of producing 100% of their electricity via the first stand-alone grid in the world powered by a mixture of renewable schemes. Eigg Electric is a blend of energy from a photovoltaic array of solar panels, micro-hydro and wind turbines. All cables run underground; no pylons spoil the island’s natural beauty.  Renewable energy – 2010 article in the Guardian.

Pronounced Ekie, Eigg is accessible by ferry from Mallaig and Arisaig.     Holidays on Britain’s most eco-friendly island

Eigg Box is a new space for artists to make and do creative work. The newly built eco-workspace on Eigg will bring together local island creative businesses with artists from around the world. Established as a self-sustaining social enterprise, Eigg Box will be a powerhouse of creative activity, entrepreneurship, inspiration and collaboration. Eigg Box turns on its head the notion that a centre of entrepreneurship and creativity needs to be at the centre of population.     ‘Resident buy-out a step closer with application for £4.25m purchase of Isle of Ulva validated’ – Craig Cairns






Dr Fox and the chicken


Fox amid hounds

Article courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Brussels has attacked Liam Fox’s ‘ignorant’ remarks on chlorine-washed poultry, which is banned in the EU. Dr Fox has accused the media of being obsessed with concerns about it being sold in the UK after Brexit.

The EU is withering about the UK trade secretary’s view on food standards being a minor matter in any potential trade deal with the US.

Chlorine-washed poultry is banned in the EU. Fox has accused the media of being obsessed with concerns about it being sold in the UK after Brexit.

Text by Daniel Boffey in Brussels, published in the Guardian 25th July.

Senior EU figures have hit back at UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox’s “ignorant and indigestible” claim that lowering UK food standards to allow the import of chlorinated chicken from the US is an insignificant detail. European officials warned that Dr Fox has failed to grasp the implications of continuing trade with the EU, should the UK lower its standards compared to the EU, where chlorine-washed chicken is banned. It highlights the complexity of the obstacles in post-Brexit trade negotiations. The UK cannot begin official trade talks with any country until it formally exits the EU in March 2019. On a visit to Washington, Fox suggested lowering UK food standards may be possible to allow imports of chlorinated chicken. Tweeting on Tuesday, the US president said that his administration was “working on a major trade deal” with the UK, adding: “Could be very big & exciting. Jobs!”

(Big! Exciting! Jobs! Living a blustery five miles north of Trump’s ghostly and gaudy golf resort, I’ve heard all this before. Ed.)

Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialist group in the European parliament, said: “I’m sure British citizens will not be enthusiastic to go from high standard control over food to chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef. It is just a further indigestible gift from the Tories and their Brexit.”

A EU senior official said Brussels had been surprised by the lack of knowledge shown by senior British politicians in their approach to negotiations. While the UK was likely to avoid tariffs on many goods under any free trade deal with the EU, the apparent openness of London to lower standards below those of the bloc would significantly hinder trade in the future.

“If we look at goods the most important thing about is not tariffs; it is all the rules around it,” the official said. “That is why we invented the single market which is about having one set of rules instead of 28 set of rules. Tariffs in a way are not that difficult. I think we will find a way of avoiding tariffs in the future. When the stated aim is to make your own laws, not have the same controls, then we need to have checks. Then any goods that travel from one market to another will have to undergo checks to see that they are legal to go on the market.”

The official echoed the comments of the British poultry industry, which is concerned about being undercut by cheap chicks which have been chlorine-washed prior to packing.

Inveterate tweeter Trump told US media he was in favour of Brexit before the UK voted to leave, and attacked the EU in a chirpy tweet, accusing it of a “protectionist” stance towards trade with the US. Trump has repeatedly promised that the UK and US would be able to thrash out a speedy trade deal, but agriculture is likely to be a sticking point. The US has long pushed a general dilution of health and environment regulation. Food industry lobbyists in the US have resisted products processed with chemicals from being clearly labelled.

‘Slapper Trump’s offensive’: an article about disturbing views from a July 23rd 2016 blog post.

Fox is in Washington launching a working group with Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthize, which is expected to lay the foundation for a future free trade deal. Fox has accused the media of being obsessed with concerns about chlorine-washed chicken being sold in Britain, adding that “Americans have been eating it perfectly safely for years”. The comments put Fox at odds with Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who was unequivocal that there should be no loosening of “any environmental standards whatsoever”. Instead Britain would compete on quality and not take part in a “race to the bottom” to win new trading relationships.

A Downing Street source gave their backing to Gove over the weekend, saying it was not in the UK’s interests to water down food safety regulation. ‘Chlorine-washed chicken is the least offensive of meat regulations a trade deal might force us to adopt. It has been pushed to the fore because it is less politically toxic than the issues hiding behind it. The European Union rules, which prevail in the UK, take a precautionary approach to food regulation, permitting only products and processes proved to be safe. In contrast the US government uses a providential approach, permitting anything not yet proved to be dangerous. By limiting the budgets and powers of its regulators, it ensures that proof of danger is difficult to establish.’  George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian on 25th July.

‘On a previous trip to the USA, Fox said he wants to “liberalise every sector” and start a new “financial services revolution”, remarks which suggest he shares Trump’s ambition to deregulate, in particular to destroy banking regulations established after the 2008 financial crisis. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has twice refused to omit the NHS from any US – UK trade deal. The UK government is pursuing a host of other trade deals, including with countries that regularly abuse human rights, and with some of the very poorest countries in the global South.’ Edited from a War on Want press release.

Factcheck from Fullfact: Does the EU say it’s safe to eat chicken rinsed in chlorine?

The European Food Safety Authority has said that there are “no safety concerns” with the chlorination of chicken. But it has also said this practice might not be sufficient for maintaining good hygiene standards throughout the slaughter process up to washing at the packing stage.

November 2nd 2015 blog: ‘TTIP – a toxic trade treaty, also published on the CommonSpace rolling news website, as was ‘The Human Rights Act’, link below.

‘The Human Rights Act’: August 8th, 2015.

Chicken photograph: Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters


Techno digest – smart utility meters, hackers, cyber-attacks, missives and missiles amiss

Smart meters will transmit private data to energy companies, enabling supplies to be remotely disconnected. Smart meters will be used to increase what you pay to use energy at peak times, not to reduce overall energy consumption. Radiation hazards for people remain unclear. Smart meters are insecure and can be hacked by third parties. A single line of malicious code can cut power to a property or cause overloads, exploding meters and fires.

Smart meter fitment is often not possible if there’s patchy 4G Vodaphone, or no mobile/Wi-Fi coverage. This could be a blessing in disguise.

Purporting to save 2% of our energy costs, smart meters for water, gas and electricity utilities are being promoted for UK properties, although Germany has rejected proposed installations. Smart meters don’t always report properly. Dimmer switches and LED bulbs confuse them. They rely on proprietary software. Three-phase static meters can exaggerate consumption by up to 600%.  A small energy monitor is a much cheaper, less intrusive way to cut consumption.

British electricity meters belong to the retailer. There’s no incentive to help you use less of their product. Technologies are incompatible. Smart meters will be used to increase what you pay to use energy at peak times, not to reduce overall energy consumption. A one year study by Toronto Hydro showed that 84% of people’s bills went up after smart meters had been installed – often by more than 50%. The £12billion roll-out cost for installation in the UK will push up consumer bills which, thanks to the Big 6, have already taken on average a 12% hike this year. Long-term it’s estimated that smart meters will cost each consumer £400. Companies won’t have to employ so many call centre staff dealing with bill enquiries, meter readers will lose their jobs. Automation continues its relentless march. Will these ‘savings’ be passed on to consumers?

If you spread payments and pay by direct debit, you can’t be billed for exact usage. Upgrades malfunction. You can’t use the smart meter to measure the energy you create through solar panels. Switch supplier and your meter may lose its smartness, with consumers trapped in poor deals, unable to switch utility providers. The real purpose of smart meters is to transmit private data to energy companies and allow them to remotely disconnect supplies and perform ‘Active Demand Management’ – whereby appliances and supply are controlled. In a dream infrastructure for advertisers, marketeers and criminals stealing personal details, corporations and agencies will harvest data, analyse our habits, determine the age of appliances, profile our behaviour and further monetise our private lives.

Radiation hazards for humans, especially young children, babies and foetuses, remain unclear. There are major health concerns about electromagnetic interference – pulsed microwaves and damage caused to the natural ecology. There will be grid security threats from pulse attacks.

Smart meters are insecure and will be hacked by third parties to callously attack customers. Utility bills could be changed. In the US, for example, 10% of transmitted electricity already disappears because of commercial losses; it’s called theft. Electricity will be stolen just as easily after smart meter installation. Puerto Rico hackers have re-programmed smart meters for a fee to cut up to 75%t of the user’s electricity cost. Burglars will be able to detect vacant properties and expensive equipment in advance. A single line of malicious code can cut power to a property, turn off lights and alarms, even cause overloads leading to exploding meters and fires. This is not mindless scaremongering – hacker collectives, CCHQ even, have undertaken tests to highlight and report these dangers. Cyber security implications for NASA, the Pentagon, banks and air traffic control should not be underestimated. WikiLeaks has released a wad of documents it calls “Vault 7”, which contains details of hacking tools used by the CIA. Political activists’ phones are hacked to maintain details on a ‘domestic extremism’ database.

Think Weeping Angel, Tesco Bank and TalkTalk’s 157,000 directly affected customers; Wonga’s woes, Debenhams Flowers and the phishing attack on Google Docs in the spring of 2017. The nuclear programme in Iran was sabotaged by custom malware. The ‘Stuxnet’ malware took months to develop and specifically targeted machinery used to process uranium.

The latest and biggest hack came in May 2017, when in Britain the NHS became a high-profile victim of a global ransomware attack as malware stolen from the US National Security Agency affected communications in over 150 countries. The security breach disrupted GP surgeries, dental practices and other primary care centres. Telefónica, FedEx and Deutsche Bahn were also hit. The malware is dubbed WannaCry. It was spread by the Shadow Brokers hacking group, but it didn’t take long for reports to circulate pinning the blame on North Korea and Wikileaks.

The massive distributed denial of service attack that closed half the Internet on October 21st 2016 was down partly to botnets; hackers used a known default password, a log-in common to all kettles. I’ll rewrite that: yes, kettles, smart kettles.

It gets worse. In the Netherlands pavement LEDs mean you don’t have to avert from perusing your phone to check traffic lights when crossing the road. Good luck with that.

In the distant past, when I was a teenager, when there were lollipop men and women, a hack was a journalist, not someone who illegally accessed mobile phones. There were no remote controls; I had to suffer the inconvenience of rising to walk across the room to change the TV channel.

Returning to the meters .. Water utilities are lagging behind when it come to smart meter installation, mainly because of cost implications. With a third of Scottish consumers living in fuel poverty conditions, dwellers in bedsit land, for example, will remain dependent on their landlords overcharging through the existing meters in their rooms. Though protected by caps, customers are saddled with a meter whereby they pay upfront, because they fell behind with utility bill payments. Rest assured, those already disadvantaged, the poor and vulnerable, will suffer the most.

Businesses, mountaineers, farmers, fishermen .. Rural isolation of course means remote communities – the 5% who reside in areas that are not covered for mobile, Broadband and fibre optic services, a problem exacerbated by the BT/Open Reach monopoly on supply lines/exchanges/access and a toothless watchdog, Ofcom. Some customers still suffer dial-up, a blatant denial of ‘superfast’ Broadband (at present classed at 30Mbps+), considered these days to be a vital utility for people who most require such a lifeline.

Folk might not even need a landline if they were not in a signal reception blackspot. No mast signal? Can’t get Vodaphone 4G? Then often no smart meter installation is possible, a blessing in disguise, by all accounts.

The Tory party 2017 manifesto has made the introduction of smart meters an optional choice for consumers.

‘We do not consent to the roll-out of smart meters in the UK’ – 38 Degrees petition

The UK government has contracted a private company, Capita, to provide the behind-the-scenes infrastructure for part of the smart meter roll-out programme. Capita featured in a National Audit Office report recently. The report said that the Department of Work and Pensions has failed to achieve value for money from the health and disability assessments it had contracted out to Capita, and two other contractors, Atos and Maximus. Giving evidence to MPs, the three companies were forced to admit regret at the poor quality of their work.

Capita is also ‘dealing’ with Personal Independence Payments, which are to replace Disability Living Allowances.

The good news is … ‘The Scottish Government revealed they will not be using private firms to assessing disabled people for benefits under the new Scottish Social Security agency. Minister for social security Jeane Freeman confirmed private contractors such as Atos, Concentrix and Maximus would not be involved in administrating the 11 benefits devolved to the Scottish Parliament. She told MSPs that profit-making should not form a part of decisions about people’s medical capability or whether they qualify for help and that Scotland’s system would be more humane and efficient.’ Andrew Learmonth, writing in the National newspaper on April 28th.

And the bad news is …  According to the Ferret’s investigative journalism platform, ‘the Scottish government awarded a £290,000 contract to PA Consulting to work on the development of a new trial Scottish social security system. PA Consulting is a subsidiary of a US private equity company, Carlyle Group. The London-based company has been accused of a lack of transparency by the UK’s Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, both of which monitor how taxpayers’ money is spent.’

Between 2011 and 2016 NHS Shared Business Services, an internal postal company partly owned by the Department of Health and private French contractor Sopra Steriato, stored half a million letters in a warehouse instead of sending this crucial information between GPs and hospitals, as they were contracted and paid to do. Missives amiss! Privatisation can be bad for your health. It is only a matter of time before some nation’s medical records are released online for all to view.

NHS patient records were decidedly unavailable after WannaCry in May. Brad Smith, Microsoft president, used an unfortunate analogy when he said that the cyber-attack was ‘ like the US military having a Tomahawk missile stolen’.

Does getting a missile merely mis-delivered beggar belief?  A U.S.-bound, laser-guided, air-to-surface Hellfire dummy missile was delivered to Cuba in 2014. Lockheed Martin was authorised to export it to Florida after a NATO training exercise in Spain. Couriers and freight forwarders shipped the 45Kg weapon from Europe to Cuba by mistake. The words ‘lax’ and ‘lost’ come to mind. I do wish I was making this up. “Can we have our dummy back, please?” Fidel Castro died laughing.

For two years the U.S. worked with Lockheed to get Cuba to return the missile. Worth $65000 in monetary terms, Cuba gave the Hellfire back – in pieces, I hope – in February 2016.

Cuban crisis! A missile amiss!

A newly declassified Pentagon audit shows the US Army failed to keep track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment sent to Iraq and Kuwait, including tens of thousands of assault rifles and hundreds of armoured vehicles.

Finally I offer two reports on

an advanced digital society from My Blogs, and

its vulnerability. Russian-based hacking collectives have taken down Estonia, the most wired country in Europe.




The world’s most advanced digital society – Estonia

Estonia is the fastest growing and most advanced digital economy in Europe. Six years after gaining independence from Russia in 1991, Estonia had put 97% of its schools online. By 2000, Cabinet meetings were paperless. In 2002 the Government had established eResidency, and a free Wi-Fi network covering most of the populated areas. The country has pioneered digital signatures, border queue management, international student admissions, e-business registration, mobile banking apps, new forms of crowd-funding, brands without logos, and easy access to healthcare facilities to empower and benefit its citizens.

e-Estonia means a land without queues or lines, voting in elections from your own living room, filing your income tax return in just five minutes, signing a legally-binding contract over the Internet from anywhere in the world via your mobile phone, and checking vital company, property and legal records online. These are just a few of the services that Estonians take advantage of on a regular basis. Interaction among government agencies, and between the government and citizens, has been completely transformed in e-Estonia, making bureaucracy virtually a thing of the past, the running of all levels of government more efficient, and communities better, it is claimed.

This transformation has resulted in:-

  • Unprecedented levels of transparency and accessibility in government
  • Safe, convenient and flexible exchanges of private, government and corporate data
  • A healthier, better educated population with good access to social services
  • A prosperous environment for business and entrepreneurship

The e-Estonia digital society is made possible largely due to its infrastructure. Instead of developing a single, all-encompassing central system, Estonia created an open, decentralized system that links together various services and databases. The flexibility provided by this open set-up has allowed new components of the digital society to be developed and added through the years. It is that power to expand that has allowed Estonia to grow into one of Europe’s success stories of the last decade.


“The disruptive innovation from Estonians is thus not technology itself, the innovation lies elsewhere – in the process of bringing businesses and government together to help all people, young and old, to benefit from digital services options available. Already for 17 years, Estonians have a digital ID and can use this to sign and time stamp documents, including private contracts, apply for different public services, pay fines and taxes, query the registries, change their services packages and simply send encrypted e-mails. Digital ID is an integral part of all ID cards, since 2001. Digital identity is created at birth, by the way, automatically and in the background when a doctor enters the details of a birth into medical records, without the doctor hitting one additional button to undertake this task. They are a civil registry manager, but they do not even notice. The parents can then later on, using their own IDs, add a name to the baby with an already created e-identity. They can then start applications for social services and kindergarten places if they wish, from their maternity hospital room. A new digital citizen is born. We save 2% of our GDP by never visiting any public office and we have very few bank offices left in the country. Postal ones have been replaced by automatic delivery lockers, too. A delivery announcement is routinely an sms. You may notice – I am here not talking anymore of public service. The laziness of people to go and queue allows businesses to save huge costs by offering digital, automated solutions without facing the risk of losing their client base.” Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Estonia will be holding the Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of this year.

Related/of interest

‘A trip to the Faroe Islands, located between the Shetlands and Iceland, revealed something more ambitious and successful. There, 98% 4G LTE coverage is backed up by an islands-wide fibre network. Coverage extends out to the 200 mile fishing limit – to include the Faroese fishing fleet and passing cruise ships – and also a mile up in the air to cover helicopter routes.

Faroese Telecom provides the world’s best mobile broadband. According to Chief Executive Jan Ziskasen, “In South Korea, allegedly the world’s number one spot for 4G connectivity, the average speed is about 60Mbps. We are in the process of overtaking that as the average speed here is approaching 100Mbps. Once we launch the 800MHz – a long-range frequency – the islands will have a theoretical speed just below 1Gbps and that truly is speed in your pocket.” The population of the Faroes is 49,000 people.’

Lesley Riddoch: The UK Government has failed on Broadband – here’s how to fix it.


The battle of Grangemouth, Ineos, the Forties pipeline and Apache Corporation

Lawrence & Wishart

Read about a catalogue of assaults on the trade union Unite at the Grangemouth refinery in 2013.  Workers were forced to accept cuts in their pay and conditions as the Swiss firm’s owner Ineos threatened closure of the complex. To maximise profit, workers’ pensions were attacked, as well as their terms and conditions of employment.

BP sold the Forties oilfield to Apache in 2003, then divested the Grangemouth refinery to Ineos in 2005. Now Ineos plan to purchase the Forties pipeline system. Originating at Apache’s Charlie platform, the pipeline carries 30% of the UK’s total oil production. It reaches land, buried in Cruden Bay, to run 105 miles south to Grangemouth.

‘This is a story of a fight for working people told from the workers’ point of view.  I commend this enthralling book to everyone’ – Jeremy Corbyn

Written by the Grangemouth convenor, Mark Lyon, and published in association with Unite the Union, ‘The Battle of Grangemouth’ is a vital story in challenging times. It demonstrates why – now more than ever – being organised is vital for the defence of basic rights at work.

Pat Rafferty, regional secretary of Unite thinks we need a national debate as Grangemouth oil and chemical complex owner Ineos confirms that it is in discussion with BP about buying the Forties pipeline system. If the deal goes through, Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe will control two pieces of vital national infrastructure.  “There are serious concerns about the welfare of employees who would be transferred as part of any deal. We need a national debate now,” says Pat Rafferty. “Do our politicians believe in an economy where power is widely held and used for the benefit of us all or are they happy with power in the hands of a tiny minority whose biggest concern is their own personal benefit? Is it right or sensible to give the power to turn off the taps- and bring the entire country to a standstill – to one private company, with no democratic involvement or oversight?”

Union fears over pipeline talks: Greg Russell.    Ineos buys North Sea oil fields in £1bn deal.

Forties riser mist


Grangemouth is still suffering from poor management. The site’s future is unclear.

The BP pipeline originates at Apache’s Forties Charlie platform.

Forties Charlie

Do not forget the eight Chinese dragon ships transporting ethane into Grangemouth from the North American shale fields.  Ineos Grangemouth plant rated poor for pollution two years running

Fracking company Ineos Upstream has submitted a scoping requests for fracking sites on Barmleymoor Lane at Marsh Lane near Eckington in Derbyshire, and Common Road near Harthill, Rotherham. These are the first sites in Ineos’s exploration plans for its million acres of fracking licences. A recent Ineos exhibition in Marsh Lane attrached a large counter demonstration of local residents outside the venue. Ineos is also planning to carry out seismic surveys across its licence areas and is targeting 500 square miles of South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire first. Ineos has contracted Fisher German Priestner as their land agent to gain access for the surveys.  Ineos plans for fracked gas at Grangemouth under fire. Underused crackers and fast-tracked frackers – Ineos at Grangemouth. Forviemedia WordPress blog from 2015