Glasgow store pioneering bitcoin transactions

A Glasgow branch of second hand retailer CeX today became the first brick and mortar store in Britain to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment. The Sauchiehall St branch sees the retailer bin the pound and become a Bitcoin only zone for three days starting today.

Bitcoin is the world’s most prominent digital currency with popularity exploding, particularly within the last year. A virtual currency, powered independently by its users without a central authority such as a bank or government – bitcoin has already garnered recognition by online retailers but this is the first example of it penetrating the high street.

Users can buy, trade or sell bitcoins as well as using a method called “mining” to slowly make their own fortune. Other than complete user control, attractiveness of such a payment method includes the ability to quickly and securely make payments from a mobile device without need for cash or bank account whilst avoiding any potential transaction fees. Rapid appreciation of the value of the currency is making it particularly appealing to people looking to make a quick profit in such gloomy economic times.

So is this something all shops around Glasgow will be adopting in the near future? I don’t doubt that some virtual currency will eventually gain enough momentum to force widespread acceptance, this however is a long way off and certainly not a viable replacement for Sterling in its current form. However, I am sure with Scottish Independence and the debate over the future of the pound in Scotland dominating the news, CeX are more than happy to be getting attention from what feels like a clever publicity stunt.


Tickets Galore

Not long to go now to register your interest for tickets to next year’s Commonwealth Games as the ticket ballot closes on Monday, 16th September 2013. The people of Glasgow are starting to really buy into the idea of world class sporting action taking place on their doorstep with last year’s Olympics undoubtedly boosting the mindshare ahead of the action getting underway in 313 days time at Celtic Park.

Organisers are said to be ‘delighted by the enthusiastic response’ amid rumours of public interest being far stronger than expected. While I am thrilled that ticket sales are going strong, it also fills me with trepidation that we could see a repeat of the ticketing fiasco that marred last year’s London Olympics. I hope that lessons have been learned and we can avoid ruining Glaswegians’ growing goodwill towards the competition by implementing a fair ticket selection process.

The prestige event is of course the 100m at Hampden Park on 28 July 2014. If as rumoured Usain Bolt does compete then it could be one of the last times to see the legendary Jamaican sprinter run the 100m at a major event. Ticket prices range from £15 to £90 and must be the golden ticket of the competition, even if you probably have no chance of getting one! I however am more realistic and my current ticket applications are for the ‘less fashionable’ sports – Boxing at the SECC, Table Tennis at Scotstoun and Gymnastics at the Hydro. There will be no athletics or cycling for me.

I, for one, am very excited for the games to get underway and expect Glasgow to show itself to the world as a city we can all be proud of. Don’t miss your chance to be part of history. Remember “People make Glasgow.”

Minimum Alcohol Pricing – The best way forward?

The question of minimum alcohol pricing continues to cause anger, debate and conjecture ahead of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce the legislation which could be in place as early as 1 April 2014. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon is relentless in her views that something has to be done about Scotland’s “booze culture” and believes minimum pricing may be the way forward in dealing with spiralling social depravation and most importantly from the Government’s perspective, the colossal £110 million NHS bill due to excessive alcohol consumption. From a pragmatic standpoint the upshot of minimum alcohol pricing would mean a typical bottle of wine would cost just under £4.70 with the cost of a bottle of whisky increasing to £14.

While I remain highly sceptical of the proposals, it is clear to see that the problem has to be tackled. Scotland is the UK’s “booze” capital and binge drinking isn’t just a small problem, it’s worryingly a way of life for some of our young teenagers. If the culture remains the same then the figures from the Government are only going to get worse and our reputation as a nation will continue to be slowly clouded by overindulgence in alcohol. Like many, I personally enjoy a few drinks at the weekend – I think this is a natural social leisure time activity and when done in moderation is good to keep our Scots “spirits” high.

So is minimum pricing the best answer to tip the balance from excess to moderation? The truth is I don’t know and I can’t make a convincing case either way. The cynic in me believes that it won’t work.  In 2003 the average price of a pint of beer cost around £2.10. Dramatic inflation and tax rises mean that the same pint of beer on average now costs £3.24. While statistics show a small decline in the number of pints consumed between those dates, a massive 54% increase in the cost hasn’t deterred too many people and I fear it will be the same outcome if this legislation comes into force next year

Without doubt it’s encouraging to see the Government trying to act. Even though it will hit me personally in the pocket, I am happy to support the cause and hope that my doubts are unfounded.

Internet Privacy & The Snooper’s Charter

Following the tragic murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, Theresa May has again raised the possibility of the revival of the ‘Communications Data Bill’. In short the Bill would allow government agencies wide ranging powers to access your online communications and browsing history. The government back up the need for such powers by stating a case that terrorists are becoming more and more savvy when using internet communications to plan terror attacks. They argue that if they were able to monitor flagged suspects ‘online’ communications then they would be much more equipped to thwart a horrific attack such as the murder of Lee Rigby or potentially, an attack on a much larger scale.

While I don’t doubt the good intentions of this Bill, the systematic monitoring of every single website you visit, the video you’ve just watched on youtube or the contents of that personal email you have just sent to your loved one makes me feel uneasy and surely goes against what most people would regard a common civil liberty, the right to privacy.

Added to that a projected cost of nearly £2 billion to develop the retention system that would archive such data then surely this legislation is best left buried?

Either way it’s a debate that won’t go away and with more and more methods of communication being widely used it is something the government will undoubtedly need to address again in the future. Hopefully they do so in a way that satisfies our desire for stricter privacy unlike the Communications Data Bill.