Tag Archives: currency

Scotland, Please Stay British!


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With the Scottish Independence Referendum only just over a week away on 18th September 2014, I wanted to send my plea to Scottish people to vote to stay British! The rest of the United Kingdom loves Scotland and we want you to remain part of it.

Although a lot of the debate has rightly focused on issues such as the economy and currency I have been surprised the discussion hasn’t been more about why do some Scottish people not want to be British anymore and/or what are the benefits of being British?

I’m a British person born and raised in England and have relatives from Scotland on my father’s side of the family. I think being British is great, actually it is awesome, and feel the United Kingdom is unique in combining the individual country states of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It means each individual country retains it’s own identity and heritage with Welsh people being as proud of their country as Scots and English people are, but it also means we are also get to be British. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and by being united we can all reap greater benefits and achieve more. Our countries are individual but yet so entwined together.

It is a long-running partnership ingrained in our culture. No partnerships run smoothly and there will always be issues from time to time that need addressing to ensure fairness and equality. However, when we work together we can solve these.

There are many sporting competitions where we compete as individual nations (football, rugby, etc.) but we also compete together as Great Britain in others too. The 2012 Olympics was a triumph for ‘Team GB’ demonstrating what can be achieved when combining our best talents and resources.

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The Scottish are very rightly proud of their country and their countrymen and women and I am sure if they choose not to be British they will make an independent country work. It won’t be easy and the whole currency issue will need to be resolved. I am sure Scotland will be able to deal with the situation but it make take some time as the plans around this area look decidedly shaky.  Nevertheless, concerns about currency arrangements should not be the only reason for not voting for independence. Although it is a very good reason for some as they may feel it’s not the right time until the plans are more sorted.

I feel the main reason to vote no should be to want to remain British (and European) and a very important part of the United Kingdom. Scotland has it’s own parliament and it’s clear a no vote would see an increase in more powers, but the plans on this too are unfortunately rather vague.

In short, of course Scotland can be an independent country, but that doesn’t mean it should. Staying part of the United Kingdom and retaining its Britishness is special and although it may seem exciting and adventurous to give independence a go, Scottish people may not realise the value of what they have until they lose it.

Stay British Scotland and please vote no on 18th September!


Americans, Sort out your Pricing!


I got back from an amazing weekend in New York recently and I am definitely a big fan of your country, your people and culture, even more so after the weekend in NYC, however, I was reminded again of the pricing problem you guys have. You make it all unnecessarily complicated and hard work?

In such a modern and civilised country full of fantastic convenience services and devices, I find it incredible that Americans waste so much of their lives trying to figure out the actual price of whatever it is they are buying. The problem is created through complex sales taxes and confusion over tipping.

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Sales tax in the US is non-standard, unlike many other countries (e.g. the UK’s standard 15% Value Added Tax), and varies from state to state. For example, in Chicago (Cook County), Illinois, the sales tax is 10.25% which is made up of 4(!) constituent taxes: 6.25% is the state tax; 1.25% is the city tax; 1.75% is the county tax and 1% regional transport authority tax.  I am not suggesting altering your entire taxing structure, but would it be so hard to put the price on the label that includes the sales tax? Can you imagine a world where the label says $4.85 and that was actually the price you paid?! Other countries manage it, so can you.

Why do you make everyone do a maths calculation when they pay for something? As a tourist it is doubly worse as not only are you not sure of the sales tax rate, but you are also trying to do an exchange rate conversion back into your own currency to see if the good or service is actually worth purchasing.

Tipping in America is a minefield. Somewhere along the way you have combined service charge and tipping together. A tip, or gratuity, should be a voluntary ‘extra’ payment that is given to those who you feel have given a service that is beyond satisfactory.  A tip should not be compulsory as then it is not a tip, it is just part of the normal cost of whatever it is.

As a humble guest in your country I found it extremely difficult to know when and how much to tip? I was fortunate to have 3 kind New Yorkers show me around my first visit to NYC and I was told to tip taxi drivers 20% and 15% in restaurants and in bars where there is table service. However, if ordering from the bar then I was told to tip a dollar a drink. Is this standard? Nobody knows.

Every time we ate out together there was a big discussion about sorting out our shares of the check and moans from the group of “I hate having to work out the tip”. People like to have wine and other alcoholic drinks and so makes doing mathematics even more arduous and mentally taxing when slightly or a lot inebriated. Calculators are brought out and it becomes a whole “to do”.

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So America, my request is that you sort out your price labels so they display the actual final price and add a standard service charge of whatever percentage you see fit to the food bill. That way you will spend less time arguing and sorting out the check and more time being happy.

Go on, do it, it’s easy.

Jake McMillan