Friday, 5 May 2017

BREXIT?


As I reflect on my years of experience, having had the fun and trials of a non-materialistic rich and rewarding career, which has included that of a global supply chain manager as well as having lectured to post-graduates on international trade theory, I observe with despair the insanity of leadership in USA and UK. Whatever is happening in USA, the ‘land of the free’, that is propagating a disease of division, my prime concern is UK. The vote in favour of Brexit was marginally in favour of exit from EU, which leaves a considerable number of people opposed, more-so in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Moreover, the vote was based upon rhetoric, misinformation and speculation – is that democracy?

Our current Prime Minister wants to unite the country, yet steadfastly ignores the requests of a Scottish Government and the many Europeans who support many UK businesses and institutions in terms of their skills and labour. She ignores the fact that both World Wars emerged from nationalism. She ignores the statistics from the World Trade Organisation revealing the dependency of the UK upon the EU for trade and far lesser so on the USA, which is instituting its own nationalist trade policies and thus makes trade with USA an issue. She ignores the views of Michael Heseltine and John Major, who are both well regarded Conservatives. This is an aside from the apparent public failure of our Prime Minister to defend GCHQ from the accusations of the President of the USA and sets aside the protocol for a State Visit of Donald Trump. 

Our Prime Minister clearly views herself as an expert in international trade etc., so with confidence takes us into a new era which, despite its unknowns (e.g. trade regulations, employment status, medical rights) proclaims a bright future. On what basis is this valid – WHERE is the evidence?

Is there anything positive about Brexit? Instead of uniting the UK, there is the potential of breakup, not only within the population due to increasing racism and distrust, but also of the move of Scotland to leave the UK. Further, division satisfies nationalistic and racist aspirations. Moreover, division creates barriers not only to trade, but the free movement of our young around the EU, to explore, understand and work. Travel and mixing with others from other cultures builds a tolerant society. We are all human beings with our own set of values. But, unless we mix, then the danger is that we view our values in such a way that dismisses the values of others. Mixing with others from other nationalities encourages communication, exchange and understanding, but more importantly, PEACE, not war

The reports from business, Government agencies and the EU, is that whilst the UK may get Sovereignty, it will be at a cost that preserves the continuity of austerity and the divide that now characterises the UK. And then what? The exchange rate, unemployment, disposable income and then - civil reaction  - on the streets?

The Conservative Party stated in their 2015 Manifesto:
With the Conservatives, Britain will be the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and expand a business. We aim to be number one in Europe and in the top five worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings by 2020 and to lead Europe in attracting foreign investment.
This raises the question of how one can trust a political party that does a 100% U-turn within two years.

I have no confidence in our Prime minister and her Government to act in the interests of the UK rather than interests that can be construed as preserving their ‘popular’ appeal… of what demographic profile?  This is counter to the wisdom of the eminent Sir Winston Churchill who stated that our elected voices have the responsibility of looking after the welfare of our nation first and before the views of the populous. To leave EU is the action of a child who spites itself to its detriment. Unless the pro-Brexit parties can provide sound evidence (not rhetoric) of the wisdom of leaving the EU then these parties (e.g. Conservatives, Labour) should be rejected in the oncoming General Election for the future well-being of the UK.

I conclude by stating that the acceptability of the argument for our Prime Minister’s intent for the UK to leave the EU, is to provide firm evidence of the strength of her negotiating stance and the benefits of a Brexit. I doubt that that this is possible and am convinced that our Prime Minister is not capable of delivering a positive Brexit. Do NOT vote Conservative.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

WELCOME TO EDINBURGH. It is the 7th June 2020

"the transformation of Edinburgh from a cosmopolitan urban community to a commodified real estate market with tourism feeding the insatiable day-to-day need for revenue"

Welcome to Edinburgh.

It is the 7th June 2020 and the tourism season has started. Special tourism trains and cheap packaged air flights feed the dense cluster of budget hotels, student accommodation and serviced apartments that have taken over the Old Town and extended deep into the New Town. Hoteliers are starting to see a shift from a predominantly weekend influx of tourists that feast on the night culture to an influx more evenly spread across the week. The Grassmarket is closed to traffic and, during the summer months, has nightly open air concerts. The first of the 34 festivals that occur over the 3 months June, July and August has just finished. It was the third year that the Gin Festival had been held and the week long event was well attended.

There have been many developments since planning permission was given to convert the Royal High School into a hotel. It opened as a quality hotel in 2018, but failed to achieve break-even occupancy and has since become a budget hotel, with its rooms split into two to increase its capacity. Other developments have seen Register House, the India Buildings and Kings Stables converted in six budget hotels with 2,850 rooms. The City Chambers has been converted into serviced apartments. The Palace has built a serviced accommodation wing to tap into Edinburgh's need for visitor overnight accommodation. The Scottish Parliament has moved to a new building in Glasgow, to escape tourism, with ongoing discussions about what to do with the existing, now vacant, building. Proposals include converting it into a tartan theme park. Other spaces in the Old and New Towns have been  created with the demolition of a number of fine listed buildings, into which more hotels, student accommodation and serviced apartments have been placed. The 28 storey hotel block in Ocean Terminal has been matched by the 29 storey, so called, 'Turd' Hotel, which was given permission to extend its height. It forms the centre-piece for the redeveloped St James Centre, which opened in 2019. However, many of its retail units have not been taken up. This pattern can be seen in other developments, e.g. Caltongate and Haymarket. Indeed, retailing has been transformed.

Many of the retailers in the High Street have folded, due to dwindling trade and Princes Street has become the main place to buy cheap tartan kilts and other souvenirs, catering for the thriving hen-stag night market.  A number of cheap large super pubs have opened, leading to closure of some of the more traditional pubs. The upper end of retailers have moved to Glasgow. To add, the disappearance of the community in the Old and New Towns has led to the closure of amenities to support them, in particular newsagents and corner shops. Several centrally located schools have also closed due to the absence of local community, with planning permission for them to be converted into student accommodation. Museums and Art Galleries  only open three days a week due to the poor footfall. Visitors seem more interested in the more pleasurable pursuits of drink and food, with the young coming for the festivals. Edinburgh is the Capital of Night Culture.

A spokesperson for the marketing organisation "Come to Party Edinburgh" states: "since Councillors decided to abandon planning restrictions in 2016, Edinburgh has become a 24/7 party destination, perhaps the first of its kind in the world. This has done wonders for local investment, attracting lots of international developers to provide accommodation and food-drink offerings. The return on the real estate investment in Edinburgh is one of the best in Europe and offsets any losses due to seasonal downturns. Irrespective, the festivals have really blossomed. Edinburgh has reached its zenith". However, Mriad Clumbra, a local business man comments about another side to this growth, that, since the demise of many local businesses, the local Chambers of Business has closed its doors, unable to enrol enough members.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Edinburgh: how good... or bad?

I had an interesting discussion this afternoon, where it was pointed out to me that Edinburgh City Council has a serious problem with its finances. As such that it needs to sell its assets (e.g. India Building, Royal High School) and make several thousand employees redundant to address its deficit. Not to dismiss the pain of those being made redundant, Edinburgh appears to have become a developer’s scramble to grab prime sites - but for what purpose? Hotels and offices?  But how much affordable housing? Commercial gain at the cost of that which sustains the city - its community. This appears to be a very short sighted strategy that perhaps does not bode well for Edinburgh long-term. 

Indeed, what is the long-term future of Edinburgh? There is a Humblebum song  "Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoonwww.youtube.com/watch?v=4ruwmeWFqyc. Perhaps it will be, in the not too distant future: "Why Don't They Come Back to Edinburgh”. There is, perhaps an arrogant view, that visitors will come to Edinburgh because it is Edinburgh. Why? Especially with the apparent current trend to rapidly commodify the city. Moreover, there appears to be an assumption that Edinburgh is doing well as a tourism destination.

It is reported in the Edinburgh Evening News that a chief executive  states "city leaders “shouldn’t underestimate how well regarded Edinburgh is worldwide”  www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/marketing-chief-hails-scheme-for-royal-high-hotel-1-3949120#ixzz3rmQcvMsb. But high regard does not bring visitors to Edinburgh. Indeed, does anyone know what has brought visitors to Edinburgh in 2015? Moreover, why do VisitScotland statistics suggest that people are staying fewer nights in Edinburgh compared to 2006? (see earlier blog). This CEO  is also reported as stating: “If Edinburgh wants to be premium city, it has to behave like one”.  www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/marketing-chief-hails-scheme-for-royal-high-hotel-1-3949120#ixzz3rmQcvMsb But, does a 'premier city’ have apparent popularity as a destination for hen and stag nights? How dependent is Edinburgh upon this market for out of season trade? It is further stated that  “A music school will not add to Edinburgh’s attraction from an international point of view.” www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/marketing-chief-hails-scheme-for-royal-high-hotel-1-3949120#ixzz3rmQcvMsb. Is a school going to attract any less visitors than a hotel? Yet he supports the transformation of the Royal High School into a hotel, that is arguably unsuited to be a five star hotel, irrespective of claims by developers. Visitors do not come to a destination for a hotel unless it has something special to offer. Where is the publicly available business case to support the case for a hotel on the Royal High School site? It is not the first time that 'quality' hotels have moved downmarket. How quickly will this proposed hotel become 'budget'? 

I suggest there is a desperate need for a national debate about the long term future of Edinburgh, which is the second most popular destination in the UK. VisitScotland numbers suggest that visitors (both domestic and international) are spending less nights in Scotland (see previous blog). Scottish tourism is in part dependent upon the success of Edinburgh. However, I suggest that Edinburgh is squandering its heritage (see earlier blog) for short term gain. What attractions has Edinburgh developed that reflects heritage - culture? How long does it take for a visitor to ‘do’ Edinburgh as a destination? Why would a visitor want to come back? And all the other questions….. If Edinburgh cannot get it right then what hope for the rest of Scotland?

Is Edinburgh following a strategy of short term gain for long term pain? Perhaps (and it is only 'perhaps' - other solutions invited) it would be better that the City of Edinburgh Council declares bankruptcy so that a long term strategy for social, economic and sustainable development is put in place - for the benefit of those who live in Edinburgh  - its community.  

Monday, 9 November 2015

Is there a problem?

There is a perplexing situation in Scotland and specifically Edinburgh. The first concerns visitor numbers to both Scotland and Edinburgh, which appear to be currently stagnating, though are apparently below levels seen in 2006. Second is the growth of hotel accommodation in Edinburgh, mainly by the larger hotel chains - is this sustainable?  Third, are the recommendations of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) / United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)  on sustainable tourism, which draws attention to the importance of the community, though it is unclear how important a factor the community is in the development proposals for Edinburgh's 12 development sites: www.investinedinburgh.com/the-edinburgh-12/

VISITOR NUMBERS - SCOTLAND AND EDINBURGH

The analysis of the statistics provided by VisitScotland suggests a problem both nationally and for Edinburgh, assuming, of course, that these statistics portray a reasonable picture of what is actually happening. There is a disclaimer attached to the reports providing these statistics. Sadly, the most recent reported statistics are deficient for Edinburgh's overseas figures. The statistics for Edinburgh from 2011 have been adjusted, based upon national figures, to include N. Ireland, due to a change in the manner of their reporting.

In sum, at the national level, whilst spend might be up, the number of nights spent in Scotland appears to be in decline if not static  and the duration of stay appears in decline, if not static. Edinburgh does not appear to be faring much better. Remember that 2014 was a year with events (e.g. Commonwealth Games, Homecoming, Ryder Cup), which should have attracted overseas visitors, but how successful was this?





Source for both tables: www.visitscotland.org/research_and_statistics/tourismstatistics.aspx Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the data is correct, it is advisable to cross-check with original source in the event there has been an error introduced (updated 22.Nov.2015). 


What are the statistics for 2015? They are not yet available. However, the VisitScotland Trend Report for October reveals that there was a 6.4% fall in nights spent by domestic visitors to Scotland for the month of June 2015 from the previous year! To add, a 1.2% fall in spend!

What is happening, or is anything happening?

THE TOURISM OFFERING IN EDINBURGH: accommodation

Whilst there appears to be no growth in the number of nights spent in Scotland, nor in Edinburgh, there does appear to be growth in serviced accommodation provision in Edinburgh. The 2014 Hotel Development Schedule
(www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20194/development_activity_reports/1032/development_activity_bulletin ) reveals targets of providing between 2,800 and 4,000 hotel bedrooms by 2015, a target which appears to be based on the defunct 2006 Tourism Framework for Change, which had ambitious growth targets.  This Schedule reveals that, since 2007, 3,128 rooms had been completed, with 2,979 inferred to be in progress, thus, in total, exceeding the upper target of 4,000 by 153%. Moreover, that hotel chains, particularly four, appear to be acquiring an increasingly large share (40%?) of serviced accommodation provision. However, it is unclear the uptake of Airbnb, though a visit to the website suggests that there are a large number of properties offering accommodation. To add, is the growing provision of student accommodation, available during the holiday season for tourists.

Is there really a need for more hotels in Edinburgh? Where is the justification? Moreover, how many of the 'Edinburgh 12' have hotel proposals embedded in their plans for site development? In view of arguments supporting the development of four-five star hotels, is there really demand?  What are the profiles of visitors to Edinburgh? Does anyone know?

In contrast, how much development is there orientated towards developing the local community, which introduces the next issue?


TOURISM SUSTAINABILITY

The Edinburgh Council Vision on sustainability is:
Edinburgh in 2020 will be a low carbon, resource efficient city, delivering a resilient local economy and vibrant flourishing communities in a rich natural setting.
Among its objectives, is to "have a new trademark – the “Sustainable City” – attracting visitors, industry and investors(Sustainable Edinburgh 2020 - The City of Edinburgh Council)

In 2005, the UNWTO/UNEP published an important document:  'Making Tourism More Sustainable, A guide for policy makers'(www.unep.fr/shared/publications/pdf/DTIx0592xPA-TourismPolicyEN.pdf). This draws attention to the Three Pillars of Sustainability: Economic,  Environmental and Social, the latter drawing attention to community. Moreover, it outlines twelve aims for sustainable tourism:
1) ECONOMIC VIABILITY
2) LOCAL PROSPERITY
3) EMPLOYMENT QUALITY
4) SOCIAL EQUITY
5) VISITOR FULFILMENT
6) LOCAL CONTROL
7) COMMUNITY WELLBEING
8) CULTURAL RICHNESS
9) PHYSICAL INTEGRITY
10) BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
11) RESOURCE EFFICIENCY
12) ENVIRONMENTAL PURITY

The community appears to be an important feature for any location to call itself sustainable.

CONCLUSION?

So, to conclude, what is happening? Drawing upon my studies of the development of the Royal Mile (http://drsharwood.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page.html)  and assessment of documents relating to Edinburgh as a destination, I have to ask the question of whether Edinburgh is commodifying itself to the detriment of its culture and heritage. There is clearly an interest in developing hotels and other forms of temporary accommodation. What is being done to develop its cultural and heritage offering? How prevalent is the view that it is a good place to party [i.e. hen / stag nights] and see comedians in the festival? Can it be assumed that visitors will come to Edinburgh because it is EDINBURGH? Indeed, can it be assumed that visitors will continually come to Edinburgh for any reason? The UNWTO 2015 Tourism Highlights report (http://mkt.unwto.org/publication/unwto-tourism-highlights-2015-edition) forecasts 3.3% annual growth in arrivals, worldwide, between 2010 and 2030. 

What is Edinburgh's and Scotland's performance relative to this? What is going on? 

Moreover, what is being done to maintain a healthy community in the centre of Edinburgh, especially in the Old Town? Or is the museumification of the Old Town the inevitable price for an apparent commodification strategy for its economic development?  


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Strategy as a form of Problem Structuring

Chandler's (1964) strategy-structure debate has never been conceptually reconciled for the simple reason that research has failed to produce an adequate conceptualisation of the interplay between strategy and structure. An intrinsic feature of this distinction is the complementary distinction between strategy as content and as process. These issues are important as strategy is a concept which is much abused in the everyday use of the concept.  Moreover, as a practice, it is not effectual - despite intent, commitment and resources, strategies are not realised. The more recent shift from a 'resource based view' of strategy to a 'strategy as practice' might have drawn attention to the detail of specific mechanisms, but, nevertheless, still fails to reveal why strategy is still one of the most enigmatic topics of research into business practice. Indeed, despite over 50 years of academic research, strategy is still an enigma.

Recent research into the development of strategy is conceptually grounded in the work of Stafford Beer (Viable System Model), which permits the modelling of a distributed governance structure, allowing the interplay of policy and practice to be explained. It is processually conceptualised as problem structuring methodology, thereby providing a prescriptive approach to the development and implementation of the strategy. It draws empirically upon the Scottish tourism industry and the national tourism strategies.

This work has been published in a preliminary form in Harwood, 2011: Can a Cybernetics Lens Contribute to the Business Strategy Domain? Kybernetes, (special issue: Progress in Organisational Cybernetics) 40(3/4), 507-527. LINK

Monday, 10 August 2015

Institutional pride in one’s heritage?
Is there a growing disregard for values?
 
Musselburgh race course, 10th Aug. 2015: Lack of both adherence to convention and care for the Lion Rampant. 
The racecourse has promoted itself as being the first race course in the UK to hold a race meeting on Good Friday link. What values can be inferred from these observations? 

Musselburgh Tolbooth, 10th Aug. 2015: It had been hanging like that for well over a week. Have raised the matter with thee Councillors. Despite their statements that officials have been notified, and the first statement was received before 10:10am, 11th Aug, the flag was still in same state at 10:30pm - 12 hours later. Who cares? That East Lothian council officers apparently had already been asked to sort this out 'without success', invites the question whether those asked care? After all 'it is only a flag' - but then again people die for their flag - it is a symbol. 

a)

b)

c & d)

Edinburgh Memorial to the War Dead, City Chambers, , (a) 7th Aug. 2015 - the 'Festival' (b) 8th Aug. 2015: showing respect?  the unknowing innocent / the disrespectful other? (c & d) 11th August 2015: Barricaded in  'under siege'.  
Note the positioning of the official ‘brollies’ - who is the sponsor?  Moreover, the Evening News reports: Memorial plaques to urge buskers to move on link 11th Nov, 2014. Progress?



Who cares?

Thursday, 9 July 2015

BUSINESS RATES

This is a short post. I understand that a Government body is responsible for determining the rateable value of businesses in Scotland. How transparent is this process? I am aware of one inconsistency. But no explanation has so far been forthcoming. The affected business may be closing because of lack of transparency and an apparent refusal to engage in a valid complaint. I assume there are other cases. I wonder whether there is a case for a formal inquiry into the practices of this Government body. Comments welcome.