Helen Martin: Let’s say adios to bureaucracy

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GOOD weather, cheap wine, no work . . . the recipe for a perfect autumnal holiday. But one of the most enlightening aspects of going away is noticing how other countries work in comparison to our own.

You wouldn’t think the Costa del Sol contained any mysteries for a Brit other than figuring out who is a genuine UK tourist and who’s a British criminal on the run. It’s little England in the sun, so much so that you can guarantee within five minutes of meeting an English resident they will start a debate about Scottish Nationalism and “why would anyone want to leave us?”, oblivious to the fact that they too have turned their back on Blighty to live full time in Spain.

And yes, there are those who frequent plastic “British”-style pubs festooned with St George flags and Saltires which serve bitter and Tennent’s, and spurn rosada or calamari in favour of cod and chips but mercifully, where we go the British influence is confined to running their own little residents’ association enclaves, outside which the Spanish are in charge of everything including most local restaurants.

One of the most obvious differences is parking regulations, or the lack thereof. In the centre of Marbella things may be different but in our bustling little area of Mijas Costa, if there are rules, no-one obeys them. It’s busier than most zoned suburban areas of Edinburgh but there are no parking wardens and it’s left up to individuals to park where they will. Does this result in chaos?

Curiously enough it seems it’s the very lack of rules, wardens, fines and charges, that allows people to think for themselves and park responsibly, sometimes even on a corner – but only if it doesn’t block the road or another driver’s vision. If only the same could be said here.

Spain suffered badly from the recession but standards of service and the desire to please in shops and restaurants are as strong as ever. The UK seems to have the monopoly on surly staff who are underpaid, under-valued and ashamed to be in a service industry at all, probably not helped by our gaping wealth divide.

In the south of Spain everyone took the hit. Russians and Australians are moving in to take over leisure developments and land investments but local family businesses seem to have survived. Local markets for which the area is famed, are manned by traders who – presumably to stop tourists being ripped off – have to display their licences.

Yet the laid back Spanish attitude means unlicensed “lookie-lookies” (young black men who come from Africa to flog everything from flashing head bands and cheap bling watches to leather handbags and belts) are welcomed in restaurants and given the chance to sell their goods to customers.

Even in the licensed markets the cut-price CK fashion accessories turn out in the small print to be by 
“Charlie King” and the bargain Nike socks come without the trademark tick. What would be the chances of getting away with that in Edinburgh?

Would it be so wrong for us to have a more relaxed attitude in Scotland and the UK? Are all the rules and regulations we have to observe and the hoops we have to jump through really necessary, or just a means of swelling the public sector with inspectors, enforcers and wardens?

And rather than stiff us with parking charges, couldn’t the council actually save money by cutting back on its bureaucratic rule book and taking a leaf out of Spain’s “libro”?

Calais sympathy was misguided

SO now it’s been confirmed by none less than the deputy chief executive of the Bradford-based Islamic Human Relief Foundation – 95 to 97 per cent of the 4000 migrants at the Calais camp are men, the vast majority of whom are not refugees, are not fleeing war and persecution and are economic migrants hoping to get into Britain by the back door. Another aid worker at the camp revealed that a “tiny number” of women with babies and young children were being cared for in other centres nearby but the men threw away clothes and charity aid packages because all they wanted were cash and mobile phones.

The hysteria of support for these thousands of alleged victims of torture, oppression and persecution, was totally misplaced and Europe has been suckered through naivety and ignorance.

I feel very sorry for those who donated and campaigned on their behalf – and very worried that some of those conmen who have been waived through under that tide of sympathy could be Islamic State plants who are now plotting from within Europe.

Interesting, but it’s still not worth money

UNDER pressure from Himself, I finally caved in and took the tram to the airport. He was so triumphant, he even Facebooked the photo of me about to get on board.

With our bus passes this relatively smooth and interesting experience cost absolutely nothing. So there we are, I reckon I will use it at least twice a year from now on.

Still doesn’t make it worth £776 million though.

Just another £800k to go..

EVERY cloud has a silver lining. As councillors frantically search for budget cuts they are at last proposing a reduction of £500,000 to the £1.3 million spent on Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations. Only another £800,000 to go and they’ll get it right.