Whatever happened to the idealism of Space: The Final Frontier?
Scottish Review, September 21st 2016
All life cannot be about politics. That is a definition of tyranny and dictatorship.
In the last couple of months whilst working on some big projects I have chosen to relax late at night by watching the 1960s original TV series ‘Star Trek’.
I haven’t watched it since I was a kid in Dundee. It has proven to be a real piece of time travel taking me back to when I viewed the world in more simplistic and naïve colours.
Viewing ‘Star Trek’ now by complete accident – as the series celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of weeks ago (it began on September 8th 1966) – has been utterly compelling and captivating. It more than stands the test of time, while raising all sorts of questions about then and now.
First and foremost, there are the characters. Captain James T. Kirk, Spock and Bones of the Starship Enterprise are almost ageless – held in a kind of limbo which only TV and becoming virtual heroes can bestow; while a great supporting cast of Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov represented a united humanity. Read the rest of this entry »
We need a Spirit of Independence to shape the Scotland of the Future
Bella Caledonia, September 19th 2016
No one needs reminding that Sunday represented the second anniversary of the indyref. It was a significant watershed: a passing of time from being in the shadow of the 2014 vote to looking to the future.
If that’s true, then an awful lot of attitudes are fairly entrenched. While that’s true of both pro-union and independence opinion, it belies the forces of change to more ruthlessly assess, be honest about failings and foibles, and change and adapt to be successful.
Take this weekend’s polls in ‘Sunday Times Scotland’ on whether voters want a second indyref. It is constantly cited that voters don’t want another indyref anytime soon. The ‘Sunday Times’ front page declared emphatically that ‘Scots against second vote on leaving the UK.’ Ruth Davidson and David Mundell say it all the time – so it must be true.
Trouble was the poll the paper cited said nothing of the kind. The Panelbase survey cited said that, for an indy vote in the next two-three years during Brexit talks, 33% were in favour; in about two-three years after a Brexit deal 21% would support it, and not for a few years 46%. That’s a 54:46 majority for an indyref in the next three years and even the 46% No wasn’t absolute on the wording of the question. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland
Scottish Review, September 15th 2016
These are strange times. We are told everyday in every way by numerous experts and talking heads that this is an age of unprecedented change, uncertainty and flux. That nothing can be taken for granted.
Yet this is also an age of great conformity and conservatism; not only in mainstream politics but in large acres of what passes for popular culture – from music to novels, theatre, comedy, TV and visual arts.
Scotland fits into this pattern rather well. It has shaken the UK to near breaking point and tells itself continually it is social democratic and egalitarian, while being rather conservative in how it goes about this as well as many other things.
Our country is littered with examples of our collective conformity and lack of interest in substantive change – let alone any real radicalism. And what is telling is our lack of interest or curiosity in these discrepancies – lest they disrupt our telling ourselves how unique we are.
If Scotland were this place of radicalism wouldn’t there be a land filled with lots of examples of radicalism? Of pioneering legislation, examples of social change, and people and communities empowered? Would there not have been a shake up of one of the ultimate closed shops: the Scottish legal establishment? Or the education community? Or even senior health consultants? Public sector reform is a phrase left at the border. Read the rest of this entry »
The Rise of an English Ideology and the Joys of Reading ‘The Spectator’
Scottish Review, September 8th 2016
I have long been an admirer of ‘The Spectator’. Well, why would I restrict myself to reading only that which confirms my world-view? It is good to be challenged, provoked – as well as entertained – plus the magazine gives an insight into another world (that of right-wing England) – which is influential and plays a role shaping ideas around the Tory Government.
In the last few months I have been reading ‘Spectator’ back issues for a forthcoming book and, having become more absorbed in, and familiar with, its terrain, I realise it represents something much more that I ever thought. Not only is it a key part of the right-wing alliance – which includes the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and Taxpayer’s Alliance which believes in low taxes, a minimal state and greater choice – it is also putting forward a view of Britain which can be called the English ideology.
The components part of this are first, an advocacy of ‘the Great British economic miracle’. In the view of editor Fraser Nelson this is primarily about job, jobs, jobs, and even though he didn’t approve of George Osborne and his deficit reduction and austerity, he was upbeat about the underlying nature of the economy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking any criticism of Osborne was because Fraser is a bleedin’ heart liberal; it was because the then Chancellor wasn’t hard enough on cuts and austerity. Read the rest of this entry »
Does Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have the courage to challenge Scotland and her own side?
Sunday Mail, September 4th 2016
This week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a major new initiative on independence.
At the moment she is playing for time – waiting to see the developing post-Brexit landscape, Theresa May’s hand with Article 50 and the broad outline of the deal the UK is proposing with the EU.
There are numerous factors at work. Sturgeon has to be seen doing something. She has to appear in charge and doing something on independence. Plus there is the small issue of keeping 120,000 members busy and engaged, 80% of who weren’t in the SNP two years ago.
It has taken two years from the indyref for the SNP to get to this – a listening exercise. That is, to put it mildly, slow progress and not exactly prioritising independence. What have the SNP leadership been up to in these two years, apart from perma-campaigning? Aren’t politicians able to multi-task? Read the rest of this entry »