For the latest news from Scotland see our ScotNews feed at:

Electric Scotland News

I am continuing to work on the Commonwealth countries to provide historical background for those interested. This week I've spent time working on New Zealand and I note that today they are a very successful country and one that Britain could emulate.

The Government of the UK saw set backs on their Brexit legislation in the House or Lords and more bad news is expected next week. On the whole these defeats can of course be won back once the legislation goes back to the Commons.

There has also been a lot of discussion in Scotland on the poor economic figures and discussions about what is going wrong and how to perhaps fix the issues.

Here is the video introduction to this newsletter...

Scottish News from this weeks newspapers
Note that this is a selection and more can be read in our ScotNews feed on our index page where we list news from the past 1-2 weeks. I am partly doing this to build an archive of modern news from and about Scotland as all the newsletters are archived and also indexed on Google and other search engines. I might also add that in newspapers such as the Guardian, Scotsman, Courier, etc. you will find many comments which can be just as interesting as the news story itself and of course you can also add your own comments if you wish.

Why we need to start building a Lego Government
Platform-based Lego Government has huge potential benefits for both staff and citizens

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A Brief History of Now
Market surveying in the US and London found Scotland scored high on history, landscapes and culture. It scored pretty badly on innovation, being trendy and forward-looking

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Australian meeting clears way for UK trade deal after Brexit
Australia will host a new round of trade talks with Britain with an eye to boosting exports, worth $12.6 billion, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull heads to London next week to build momentum for a deal.

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Scotland missed an open goal with renewables
Failure of renewables to boost Scotland’s manufacturing industry is massive own goal, writes Brian Wilson

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You can’t argue against socialism’s 100 per cent record of failure
Supporters discount historical examples, so never examine why socialism has always failed

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Scotland is now horribly divided
The lukewarm reception for Scotland Is Now here at home reminds us, in other words, of the profound truth that if Scotland is Now, then one aspect of today’s politics it reflects with heartbreaking accuracy is the tendency towards profound and completely disabling political division, often on matters of culture and identity.

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America's founding was all about the money
The Making of America by England’s Merchant Adventurers.

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The mysterious stone rows of Scotland’s far north
They are perhaps the less fashionable little brothers of Scotland’s magnificent standing stones - but no less fascinating

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JD Wetherspoon shuts all 900 pubs’ social media accounts
The pub chain said the move also takes account of recent concerns over the misuse of personal data and the addictive nature of social media.

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Prince Harry promises to listen as he starts new Commonwealth job
Britain’s Prince Harry has been appointed a Commonwealth youth ambassador, his highest-profile public role to date and a job that will see him working with his future wife encouraging young people to use the network of mostly former British colonies.

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Canadian firm takes over BiFab yards
The troubled BiFab engineering firm has been taken over by a Canadian company in a move that could save hundreds of jobs in Fife and on Lewis.

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Scotland lags behind most other countries in international trade
Scotland lags behind most other countries in terms of international exports, a new report has stated, adding that raising overseas sales to the same level of the UK would bring a 12 billion boost.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi vows his country will be an even closer trading partner to Britain after Brexit
PM Narendra Modi assured Theresa May London’s world-leading role in global finance meant Britain would remain vital after Brexit and he struck 1 billion in commercial investments

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The Commonwealth advantage
Trading with the bloc offers buoyant economic prospects

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Story of ancient Dalriada kingdom to be told at Crinan Canal
The story of Britain’s most beautiful shortcut and the ancient coastal kingdom of Dalriada is set to be brought to life

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The Nasty Party is back
On 4 May 1979, Margaret Thatcher stood at the doorstep of 10 Downing Street and gave her acceptance speech as newly elected Tory Prime Minister.

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Queen asks Commonwealth to put Prince Charles in charge
The Queen has publicly called on Commonwealth governments to name Prince Charles as her successor

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Here’s how the world is leaving Scotland behind
Economic optimism about the global economy doesn’t extend to Scotland, writes Bill Jamieson.

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How much is enough?
Scotland puts the cart before the horse

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Electric Canadian

Transactions of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers
I discovered a lot of volumes of these transaction which are very detailed and note that they are very popular downloads so assume civil engineers are enjoying the details given in these transactions.

I've added the 1934 volume and will add others each week. You can view these at

Some of the topics discussed include Alaska-United States Highway Project, Architects, Bridges, Canadian Industrial Development, Civil Engineering, Columbia River in Canada, Fraser River and Vancouver Harbours, Great Bear Lake District, National Parks of Canada, Northern Ontario Iron Ores, Obituaries, Oxy-Acetylene Welding and Cutting, Passenger Trains, Radio, Reflecting Telescope, Soil Heating, Stiffened Circular Tubes, Television and the Sending of Pictures by Wire, Welding and Cutting, Water Purification, etc.

My Canadian Journal (1872-8)
Extracts from my Letters home written while Lord Dufferin was Governor-General by the Marchioness of Dufferin & Ava (1891) (pdf)

You can read this at:

My Self Reliance
A series of videos about building a log cabin in Ontario which you can view at:

Ontario's Farewell to Lord Dufferin
Lord Dufferin's Farewell Address to the Canadian Citizens (pdf) which you can read at:

Conrad Black

Trump Rises in the Polls

Electric Scotland

Commonwealth of Australia
Historical Records of Australia published in 1914 in 19 volumes. Intending to put up 1 volume a week until complete.

Added volume 4 to this collection at:

Trails of the Pathfinders
By George Bird Grinnell (1911)

You can read this at:

History, Ancestors and Children of James and Agnes Archibald (1789-1875)
Got in an update to this history which you can get to at:

Beth's Newfangled Family Tree
Got in section 2 of the May 2018 issue which you can read at:

Crofting Agriculture
Updated the videos on this page which you can view at:

Glimpses of Old New Zealand
Compiled and Edited by John Rawson Elder (1924) (pdf)

You can read this at:

Historical Records of New Zealand
Edited by Robert McNab in 2 volumes (1908)

You can read this at:

The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland
Edited By William Adamson, D.D. (1893) (pdf)

Added this to our Scottish Anecdotes page at:

A Sportsman and Naturalist's Tour in Sutherlandshire
By Charles St. John (1891) (pdf)

I note that this book talks about shooting Ospreys and getting their eggs. Of course today this would be illegal but just goes to show how things change over time. You can read this book at:

Robert Burns Lives!
Edited by Frank Shaw

Robert Burns and the Philosopher By Walter McGinty

Sometime back I published on this site a review of Walter McGinty’s book entitled Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns, and today I am happy to report that he has now published a volume on Burns and philosophers. Yes, I am taking the unusual approach of using an email from McGinty about his new book rather than a review from yours truly. After I first read the email, I found myself being drawn back to it several times and came to the conclusion he had reviewed the book for me and I did not see where I could improve on the explanation! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This book is worthy of adding to your own Burns collection. (FRS: April 19, 2018)

You can read this article at:

Story of New Zealand
A History of New Zealand from the Earliest Times to the Present with special reference to the Polical, Industrial and Social development of the Island Comonwealth; includinf the Evolution Dating from 1870, the Political Revolution of 1890, the Causes and Consequences.and the General Movement of Events throughout the Four Periods of New Zealand History. By Prof. Frank Parsons, Ph.D. (1904) (pdf)

You can read this book at:

The Story

The Commonwealth advantage: trading with the bloc offers buoyant economic prospects

One of Brexit’s potential advantages is the UK’s freedom to negotiate its own trade deals instead of being dependent on the EU. Of course, trade will continue with the EU after Brexit, probably little changed, and there is little doubt that the EU will continue to be a major trading partner after Brexit. But it is widely expected that the share of UK exports going to the EU will continue to decline, reflecting the maturity of the EU markets and the continuing decline of the EU’s share of global output. New deals are likely to be with countries as diverse as the US and Japan – and, of course, individual Commonwealth countries. Australia and Canada, for example, have already expressed interest in a free trade agreement. In this post, Ruth Lea, CBE (Arbuthnot Banking Group), explains why trading with the Commonwealth offers buoyant economic prospects.

The current biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), being held in London on 16-20 April, seems a suitable time to analyse the economic importance of Commonwealth countries and consider their potential as future growth markets for UK exports.

Commonwealth countries are rarely considered together as an economic entity. Yet they account for over 17% of world GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms (chart 1a) and contain 2.4 billion of the world’s 7 billion people. Moreover, many Commonwealth countries have favourable demographics compared with several major European countries, where working populations are expected to age and shrink. Today’s 53-member Commonwealth spans the five continents and contains developed, emerging and developing economies. It also comprises some of the world’s largest economies and many of the smallest. In its diversity, it captures the character of the 21stcentury globalised economy as no other economic grouping can. The Commonwealth’s membership includes two of the world’s largest ten economies (the UK and India), two members of the G7 (Canada and the UK) and five members of the G20 (the UK, India, Canada, Australia and South Africa).

The Commonwealth: buoyant economic prospects

Charts 1a and 1b show the IMF’s latest forecasts to 2022 for EU28, the US, China and the Commonwealth in Purchasing Power Parities (PPPs) and at Market Exchange Rates (MERs).1-2 Chart 1a (in PPPs) shows just how profoundly the world economy has changed since 1980 and is projected to continue changing up to 2022. EU28 countries accounted for 30% of world GDP in 1980, whilst the US contributed nearly 22% and the Commonwealth contributed 15%. China’s share was just over 2%. By 2017, China had increased its share to over 18%, reflecting China’s staggering growth over the past 30 years, which exceeded the Commonwealth (over 17%), the EU28 (down to 16.5%) and the US (still over 15%). Crucially these trends are expected to continue to 2022, with China and the Commonwealth (not least of all because of India’s buoyant growth) expecting to gain share over the EU28 and the US.

Chart 1b (in MERs) shows how currency effects can affect the GDP data. For example, the strong dollar in 2000 “boosted” the US’s share (in MERs) to over 30%. Inevitably, the forecasts are dependent on forecasts of currency movements, which make them even more than usually non-robust. The decline in the EU28 share in MERs over the forecast period less pronounced than in PPPs because GDP in MERs favours developed countries. But, nevertheless, the global share had dropped from 34% in 1980 to 21% in 2017 and is projected to slide further by 2022. The rise in the Commonwealth’s share is considerably dampened in MER terms, not least of all because the significance of India, where GDP in MER terms is significantly lower than in PPP terms. But it is still expected to more than hold its share.

UK-Commonwealth trade

Given the relatively buoyant growth prospects in Commonwealth countries, UK export growth prospects to these countries should be favourable, especially if free trade agreements are successfully negotiated. There are two other general points worth noting. The first is the observation that, because of shared history and commonalities of language, law and business practice, it has been estimated that Commonwealth countries trading with one another experience business costs 10-15% lower than similar dealings with non-Commonwealth countries of comparable size and GDP. This has been called the “Commonwealth advantage”.3

The second point notes that the potential in any export market does not, of course, just reflect the size of the economy. It is also a matter of the relative incomes per capita in various export markets. Especially when it comes to consumer goods, potential consumers need to have the kind of disposable incomes that will allow them to buy the cars, televisions and other goods that have been staples of “middle class” life in the West for decades. And, on this metric, developed countries still have a very appreciable lead over emerging and developing countries. According to the IMF, income per capita was 7 times as high in Germany as in India in PPP terms in 2017, and 24 times as a high in MER terms. The corresponding figures for China were still as high as 3 times and 5 times respectively.

But, looking forward, the potential growth of the middle classes in the emerging markets, not least of all in India and China, is expected to change matters radically. A report by Ernst & Young (EY) on this issue concluded:4

“…by 2030, so many people will have escaped poverty that the balance of geopolitical power will have completely changed – global trade patterns will be unrecognizable too. Meanwhile, companies accustomed to serving the middle-income brackets of the old Western democracies will need to decide how they can effectively supply the new bourgeois of Africa, Asia and beyond.”

Specifically concerning China and India, EY said “large populations and rapid economic growth mean China and India will become the powerhouses of middle class consumerism over the next two decades.”

Turning to the UK’s current trade with our major Commonwealth partners the main conclusion is that it is still relatively modest compared with the EU. This is not, of course, surprising given the relative size and wealth of many of the EU’s members. UK-Commonwealth trade is also modest relative to the US (especially) and, arguably, China. Clearly, there is potential for expansion.

Chart 2a shows exports grew by just over 31% to the top eight Commonwealth countries over the decade 2006-2016 compared with total export growth of 40%.5 Trade with India, Pakistan and South Africa, in particular, was disappointing. As a consequence, the share of UK exports to these eight Commonwealth destinations actually fell from 7.5% in 2006 to 7.0% in 2016. Commonwealth trade, nevertheless, outstripped the rise of just over 11% to the EU28. Exports to the US (which took over 18% of UK exports in 2016) were up over 55% and exports to China more than tripled, though from a very low base. Other buoyant non-EU markets included Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, the Residual Gulf Arabian Countries and Hong Kong. Chart 2b notes that, even if exports growth to the top eight Commonwealth countries over the past decade has been relatively subdued, at least overall trade has been in small surplus, whereas trade with the EU28 and China is heavily in deficit.

In conclusion, Commonwealth countries seem to have a bright economic future and offer expanding domestic markets that could greatly benefit UK exporters. There is, therefore, considerable potential for them to be future growth markets for UK exports.

This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of LSE Brexit, nor of the London School of Economics.

Ruth Lea CBE is Economic Adviser at the Arbuthnot Banking Group.

You can see the graphs mentioned in this article at:

And that's it for this week and hope you have a great weekend.