View from Gleneagles

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Thursday July 7

The News

I was on the bus to Gleneagles when I heard about the bombs. A few

minutes later the bus passed the turn-off to Dunblane.

Early Thursday July 7

Global warming will make you colder

It’s been a grey and damp day (or ‘dreich’ as the Scots say, which has a pleasingly phlegmy ring to it), occasioning a truly hilarious round of gags about how perhaps we could do with MORE global warming!

But at this point there is generally some annoying know-it-all twit on hand to point out that in fact, global warming might make northern Europe colder by messing about with the Gulf Stream. And on this occasion, that annoying twit is me

Wednesday July 6

The boys on the bus

It was perhaps the second time that the bus driver got lost and did a three-point turn in a side road that we got the impression we weren’t in the most reliable of hands. Yes, I know there have been protestors blocking the roads and all. But three hours for a bus journey from Edinburgh to Gleneagles estimated at ninety minutes is not a good way to start the day. And while we got a nice view of the fine castle of Stirling, perhaps we didn’t need to circle right round it to make the point. It’s never hard to differentiate a bus full of grumpy journos from a ray of sunshine.

Anyway, now I’m briefly at Gleneagles, which looks like the Chelsea Flower Show (huge white tents, lots of people handing out leaflets etc) except with laptops rather than lupins. Now it’s more or less time for me to get the bus back to Edinburgh again, where I am due at a conference this afternoon.

The thing is, it melts in the heat

But for the moment, enough with the summit trivia and on with the trade nerdishness. One thing you hear all over is that the poor African countries are allowed to export raw cocoa and coffee beans but prevented from making chocolate and roast coffee by vicious high tariffs exacted by the evil rich folks. It’s a good story but sadly, as I discovered this week, largely untrue. If you are a least-developed country (Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda etc) you can export anything except guns and ammo to the EU completely tariff and quota free apart from some transitional arrangements for sugar, rice and bananas, as the nice folks at the International Coffee Organisation confirmed to me. And even if you are a non-LDC like Ghana, you can export chocolate duty-free to the EU under a separate special trade scheme for the African, Caribbean and Pacific – a kind of “sorry about the Empire and all, but do feel free to sell us stuff”.

Don’t believe me? Check out this useful nerd’s guide. Put in Ghana and chocolate, or Ethiopia and coffee, and see the tariffs vanish before your eyes.

So why doesn’t Ghana make more chocolate? As someone gently pointed out to me this week, chocolate melts in the heat. You’d have to keep it refrigerated or at least cool all the way from factory to port or airport, and then on the ship or plane as well. Expensive and they don’t have the infrastructure. So there you have it. Mine’s a double espresso and a square of Green and Black’s.

I am an idiot

On the other hand, why would anyone pay attention to me? I am an idiot. In a scene straight out of a 1970s sitcom I spent ten minutes this morning texting my FT colleague Fiona (”Stuck on bus in traffic”, ”Me too, though it seems to be moving now”) etc before I went up to speak to the driver and discovered – wait for it – Fiona and I were on the same bus. Doh!

The Olympics with teargas?

So before we sink helplessly together into the mire of trade’n’aid’n’debt’n’global warming, let me just say thank you for having me to one of the world’s finest cities, from where I will be shuttling to and from Gleneagles.

I think it was this man who said that arriving at Edinburgh Waverley railway station in the evening and coming out into the middle of the city to see the fairytale castle on the hill and the bustle of Princes Street was possibly the best arrival in any city anywhere. On the other hand, flying in over the hilltop of Arthur’s Seat, taking a turn over the misty Forth estuary and swooping down low over the spruced-up Leith docks runs it a close second.

I did hear a vicious rumour that the Finest Department Store in the World – ludicrously helpful staff, eccentrically creative store displays - was going to close down for the duration for fear of window-smashing. Happily this proves to be untrue. Several other shops along the street have boarded themselves up, though these include River Island and Clarks (for non-UK readers: respectively, purveyors of cheap clothes to teenagers and comfortable sandals to grandparents), which I would have thought unlikely targets for anarchists bent on destroying international finance capitalism.

In fact the city centre looks a bit subdued, and despite the extra hotel bookings you do wonder why any city would be happy to hold such a weird and potentially unpleasant event as a G8 summit. Top-level contacts in Edinburgh society (my brother) tell me that, odd though it sounds, Edinburgh doesn’t think enough people around the world has heard of it - apparently it’s not big in Asia - and hence is quite happy to host such things. Branding is all. They spent a chunk of public money bringing the MTV Europe awards here in 2003 as well. Is this what the G8 has become? The Olympics with teargas? I can’t think that the 2001 G8 did much for Genoa, frankly. Ah, well. It’s great to be here.

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