Saturday, 28 April 2012

Donald Trump is not a GlobalScot

This isn't really a proper blog post. More an explanation of why I now have three articles in draft form and am making no progress with any of them.

On Wednesday 25 April I watched Donald Trump's appearance before the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee of the Scottish Parliament. Those of you who also witnessed this circus will understand when I say that I disgusted and angered by Trump's behaviour. His arrogant disrespect for the committee, the Scottish Parliament, The Scottish Government and the First Minister was quite appalling.

He came before the committee completely unprepared assuming that he could get by with nothing more than his pompous, over-bearing bluster. And when challenged to provide evidence to back up his increasingly deranged claims, he capped his ludicrous performance by declaring, "I am the evidence!".

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Chiels that winna ding?

I am, by nature, by inclination, by training and by habitual practice, a rather analytical person. Those who know me well would probably scoff heartily at this as a bit of an understatement. They might instead suggest that I tend to take an issue, any issue, and methodically pick it to shreds before embarking upon a minute forensic examination of the fragments. I rarely take things at face value. I nurture a healthy scepticism and a cynicism that would be rather less healthy did I not strive to keep it in check.

I rarely accept that there are only two sides to a story and if I see no more than both sides of an argument then I reckon I am missing something potentially crucial. For me, every shade of grey is infinitely divisible and to fail to appreciate life's rich complexity is to be guilty of the kind of intellectual indolence that I deeply regret in others and abhor in myself on those occasions when, being but human, I fall into error.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Tory hypocrisy

David Cameron's deputy in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, was recently reported as complaining that the SNP were not sufficiently focused on local issues in the council election campaign because they were more interested in the referendum on independence.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has claimed that the Nationalists are trying to turn the local election campaign into a dry run for the independence referendum.

I raised a more than slightly quizzical eyebrow at this in part because of a campaign leaflet I had received on behalf of a Conservative local election candidate here in Perth. A leaflet which contains a call to arms for unionists across the ward sandwiched between something about Perth City Hall and a curiously congratulatory piece about the SNP's protection of greenbelt land.
Protecting the Union
The referendum campaign will start in earnest soon after the Scottish Government's consultation and the May local elections. As Scottish Conservatives we are proud of our Scottish heritage but equally proud to be British. Perth and Kinross and Scotland, remain fairer, stronger and richer in the Union.

Scotland & NATO: The real debate

Scotland and NATO - A new alliance?
Notwithstanding the mischief-making efforts of the BBC and others to turn the issue of SNP policy on NATO membership into a contrived controversy, there is unquestionably a genuine debate to be had. There seems little point in hoping that this debate will be advanced by those whose sole purpose is to find in it a stick with which to beat the SNP or its leadership. Fortunately, there remain in the desert of Scotland's mainstream media a few oases of intelligent, reasoned journalism. One voice of sanity that manages to rise above the cacophony of rancorous anti-SNP propaganda is that of George Kerevan.

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece in The Scotsman (It can happen!), Kerevan suggests that NATO membership is "a question of morality". (George Kerevan: Nato membership is a question of morality) A suggestion that would doubtless prompt the response from many that non-membership is equally a question of morality. There is a subset of this group who would go further and insist that even to think about the possibility of discussing a change to the SNP's long-standing policy of non-membership is to cross one of their "red lines". It was this group which was the target audience of those elements of the media intent on creating an impression of a damaging "split" within the party. Kerevan's argument is addressed to the more open-minded among us.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Careless words

Johann Lamont - gaffe-prone
You've probably heard it said that good courtroom lawyers never ask a question unless they know the answer they're going to get. Likewise, politicians need to be aware of how the form of words that they use is going to be turned back on them by their political opponents. In her speech at the launch of her party’s local election campaign Lamont gave her political opponents the gift of a large stick when she acknowledged that the SNP would increase its number of councillors. Naturally, her political opponents took the offered sticke and proceeded to beat her with it.

It would be good to think that Lamont was regretting her blunder.  One might hope that a lesson had been learned and that she would be more circumspect in future. But the suspicion is that she will refuse to acknowledge that the form of words she used were ill-judged and instead resort to blaming others for twisting those words. Doubtless her words have been twisted. But that was to be expected when they came with a big label saying, "Twist me!".

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


First of all, let us be clear about why this topic is even being discussed at this time. It is most decidedly not because of anything said or done by the SNP. To whatever extent there is a significant debate going on about a possible shift in the SNP's policy in relation to NATO, this is entirely due to some substance-free speculation by the BBC. Speculation which was surely indulged in with the intent of provoking precisely the kind of outraged reaction graciously provided by some SNP members. This kind of political mischief-making is hardly new. Even this particular manifestation of it has a history. Fully two months before the BBC picked up on it Kenny Farqharson was flying the same speculative kite in Scotland on Sunday and urging us all to remember where we read it first. How disappointing for him that it took the BBC to succeed where he failed. And without even crediting him as principal mischief-maker.

Another thing worth noting is the response of the anti-independence alliance to the BBC's empty speculation. Am I the only one to notice the striking similarities in the language used by both Ruth Davidson and Jim Murphy? Or the fact that both came out with the identical sound-bite, "The SNP just don't get defence!"? Reading from the same script? You be the judge. But there is no doubting the drooling glee with which they both pounced on the opportunity to portray the SNP as undecided and internally riven on the matter of NATO membership. A number of SNP members and supporters have subsequently fuelled this perception by comments on Twitter and elsewhere. But is there any rational justification for the fuss?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

"Skintland": Satire?

Let me make it clear from the outset that I do not accept that the scurrilous cover image which The Economist chose for its UK edition was ever meant to be a joke as has been claimed. I am firmly persuaded that it was always intended to be precisely what it appears - a crude, casual but quite deliberate insult. Intentional but not calculated, other than to the meagre extent that the target of the insult was only those "uppity Jocks" and so it could safely be assumed that nobody would question it. Everybody would go along with the slur.

Of course, as far as ultra-parochial, London-centric journalists are concerned, "everybody" is a very restricted audience indeed. Few outside their own clique, and then mostly the kind of people who think Alan Cochrane is a knowledgeable and erudite commentator on Scottish affairs.They knew they were publishing a nasty, gratuitous insult, but that didn't matter because the people they were insulting don't matter.

Such is their contempt for Scotland and its people, for anyone outside their conceptual village, that it didn't even occur to them that this facile, intellectually bankrupt vilification compromised their normal editorial standards. Had the object of abuse been almost any other nation - France, Germany, even Greece - alarm bells would have rung somewhere in the offices of The Economist. But no! It's only Scotland, so it's not even worth a thought. The mindset is all too familiar - not only to people in Scotland but to those in the "far-flung" regions of England as well.

Such is my take on it. But some have chosen to try and rationalise this puerile pap by passing it off as satire. So let's indulge the apologists for a moment and judge it in those terms.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Anoraks are people too

Political anorak pride!
In a contribution to the admirable, if somewhat constipated, Newsnet Scotland, journalist, commentator and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch sets out, not so much to contribute to the debate about Scotland's constitutional future, as to serve as midwife to that debate. (Will there be a genuine public debate about Scottish independence?)

I don't doubt Lesley Riddoch's good intentions. But I am ever wary of those who seek to define and constrain the space in which a debate proceeds. And even more suspicious of those who want to stipulate qualifications for participation.

Ms Riddoch seems to have a bit of a thing about "anoraks" and, while not explicitly implying that they should be excluded from the debate about Scotland's constitutional future, she appears to prefer that their role should be limited and to believe that they are certainly not the ones to be leading the debate.

But who are these "anoraks"? Is this not merely an unthinkingly derogatory term for those individuals who have the knowledge, interest and commitment to promote debate? Is it that the discussion is "anorak-heavy"? Or is it that anyone who seeks to lead debate is dismissively labelled as an anorak?

I am passionately in favour of participative democracy. But I am also realistic enough, and experienced enough, to know that participation is not something which just happens. It has to be facilitated. It has to be actively encouraged. And when it happens it has to be managed in a structured way or it simply degenerates into the very kind of disputatious dead-end that puts so many people off participation.

Do not despise the "anoraks"! Who but they will be the facilitators?

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Scotscum

The Scotscum
I kind of promised myself, and my precious handful of hopefully forgiving readers, that I would refrain, at least for a while, from commenting on the generally scurrilous conduct of what passes for the mainstream media in Scotland - particularly with regard to our democratically elected government and First Minister. But there's a piece of crude, unsophisticated propaganda in The Scotsman's online edition today (Monday 9 April) which simply cannot be allowed to pass unremarked.

The item in question concerns the MSP for Dunfermline West, Bill Walker, who has been expelled from the Scottish National Party for alleged irregularities in the selection procedure which saw him adopted as the party's candidate.

There are three clear issues with the item in question. Firstly, at the time of publication Mr Walker is no longer a member of the SNP. How then can this "newspaper" possibly justify the use of an SNP graphic. An image which is bigger than the article itself. An almost comically ridiculous size that has no editorial justification whatever. The sole purpose of this image is to associate Mr Walker's name with a party of which he is no longer a member - subject only to the appeal to which he is entitled under the party's constitution.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

I am a Nat so...

Whatever else may be said of Scotland on Sunday Deputy Editor, Kenny Farquharson, it is unlikely that he will ever be accused of underthinking things.

At first glance, his somewhat rambling piece in today's edition (It’s the ‘I’m not a Nat but . . .’ voters who could tip independence scales) seems to make a bit of a laborious traipse of coming to the rather obvious and superficial conclusion that the outcome of the referendum on Scotland's constitutional future will be decided, not by committed nationalists nor fervent unionists, but by the large swathe of the voting population which falls into neither of these dichotomous camps.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Labour find lost steel plant?

While rowing down the River Twitter today with a few chums I encountered some outrage about a council election leaflet being distributed by "Scottish" Labour in North Lanarkshire. Curious as to what the fuss was all about, I dispatched a member of my dedicated research team to secure a copy of said local election literature. By which I of course mean that I asked somebody to email me pictures. They did. And I'm duly grateful.

I can also see what what was the cause of the fuss. The leaflet in question makes the bold claim that, "Labour would use Lanarkshire steel" in the construction of the Forth Replacement Crossing. A remarkable promise - not least due to the fact that the supply contracts for fabricated steel which they are promising to bring to Lanarkshire have already been awarded to firms in Poland, Spain and China.

We might be forgiven for wondering by what authority "Scottish" Labour councillors might be empowered to arbitrarily rip up these contracts. We might also ask of them what part of the council's budget they plan to set aside to cover the inevitably substantial penalties that would surely be incurred.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Big Brother's little brother

Cameron - Big Brother?
Nick Clegg just doesn't get it! It's not about process! It's not about procedures! It's about principle!

The very fact that he feels the need to rationalise his boss, David Cameron's proposed new snooping legislation with talk of "safeguards" should be ringing enormous alarm bells. If it requires safeguards then it is, by definition, dangerous. He cannot sensibly argue both that the UK government's intentions are entirely benign and that they are such that we would need to be protected from their implications and potential consequences.

 Clegg says,
Any measures will be proportionate. They will not sacrifice people's civil liberties, we will not create a new government database and we will not give police new powers to look into people's emails.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The mother of all scandals?

Anas Sarwar - cack-handed hatchet-man

Or the distant cousin of a damp squib!

I refer, of course, to the British Labour & Unionist Party's latest desperate effort to smear the SNP/Scottish Government and, by no means incidentally, to kill the referendum consultation process - by which I mean the real consultation and not Micky Moore's rather pathetic effort on behalf of his Tory masters.

As you will know by now - so long as you don't rely on the mainstream media for information - the whole thing ended in farce with "Scottish" Labour's cack-handed hatchet-man, Anas Sarwar, left standing with his trousers around his ankles and his union jack boxer shorts flapping in the breeze.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

No decency in the name of the union

Jocky Wilson - Scottish sporting legend
I seem to find myself writing far more often than I would like on the subject of distortion, disinformation and downright dishonesty in the "Scottish" mainstream media. This is not so surprising, really, as the increasingly scurrilous behaviour of the anti-independence effort as conducted in the press is becoming a major feature of the independence referendum campaign. So I make no apologies for returning to the subject yet again.

What has irked me on this particular occasion is a couple of items which between them illustrate the sewer-bound direction of the "no" campaign. We start with a quite distasteful piece in The Guardian by that well-known anti-SNP obsessive, Kevin McKenna. (Don't let the prudes loose on Jocky Wilson). At first glance this appears to be another tribute to one of Scotland's great sporting characters, Jocky Wilson, who died recently at the relatively early age of 62. All is well until we reach the third paragraph, at which point McKenna abandons all pretence of simple human decency as he contrives to use the sad death of a man held in some affection across Scotland as a stick with which to beat the SNP.