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 »
The Myth of the Great Leader: Gordon Brown, Jimmy Reid and Alex Salmond
Scottish Review, September 1st 2016
The times they-are-a-changing. There is a tangible feeling in the air of discontent, anger and bewilderment. People feel let down and cheated by the multiple powers that be.
It isn’t surprising then that there is a palpable sense of national nostalgia depicted on TV – remakes fill the screens (Are You Being Served?, Porridge), while period dramas (Downton Abbey) or endless documentaries on World War Two and the Nazis are hugely popular.
The left aren’t immune to this either – having always had their own strand of radical nostalgia from primitive communism, to William Morris’s eco-utopia, the spirit of 1945, and the current vogue for ‘what would Keir Hardie say?’ Moreover, radical nostalgia now seems stronger than it ever has been on the left. It is conservative, about the past offering better prospects than the future, and denying the present and recent past. Jeremy Corbyn is a fitting embodiment of it: consistent and unchanging in his views since 1975, uncaring about electoral prospects, and without any evident self-criticism or original views.
The above view of the world is linked to one of the left’s great pillars – the Great Leader view of political change. Paradoxically, for a political tradition which is supposedly about collectivism, the left have bought into this individualist view of change. And of course, despite all the talk of equality, the left has been about brotherhood – so in Britain, the Great Leader has to be a man. Read the rest of this entry »
Every Year When the World Comes to Scotland
Sunday Mail, August 28th 2016
At the end of every summer Edinburgh becomes a global village – walking down any street or lane entails coming across numerous nationalities, languages and different cultures.
Streets are packed with tourists, sightseers, and cultural backpackers; there are performances in every nook and cranny of the city centre, and all sorts of impromptu and free shows going on all around.
All of this puts Edinburgh and Scotland on the cultural map unlike anything else. It generates large amounts of revenue for the city and wider – estimated to be around £313 million – and even brings parts of London and Oxbridge society on rare excursions north of the border. Read the rest of this entry »
Flags and Stramashs in Scotland’s Summer of Independence
Scottish Review, August 24th 2016
A couple of weeks ago I was involved in one of the many online conversations about politics that now characterise Scotland. Afterwards the animated chat in the pub turned to the previous day’s pro-independence march in Glasgow.
Saltires had been there in plenty – and one person, perhaps more fully signed up to independence than the others, asked ‘Why is Scotland the only place in the world where people are told off for flying their flag?’ This was met by myself and others with incredulity, as we pointed out that all over the world flags are problematic, and not one national flag is completely uncontested.
This amiable conversation concluded with two of us saying in near-unison words to the effect: ‘We don’t want to waste time on these sorts of discussions. If we were to waste time on this sort of thing, rather than substance, we would consider voting No next time.’ Read the rest of this entry »
What does the British Summer of Olympic Success mean?
Sunday Mail, August 21st 2016
Rio 2016 has made the headlines. Before the games, there was the backstory of the Brazilian lack of preparation, corruption and wasting of billions in a country without basic sanitation and health facilities for millions of its population.
As the games got underway, one of the big stories became that of British success – as medal after medal was won, with Team GB achieving second place in the medals table ahead of the Chinese and in its final tally exceeding the number of medals won four years previously in London 2012 (65 then; 67 now).
The tales of success – Jason Kenny and Laura Trott at cycling, Andy Murray at tennis, medals in dressage and swimming, have captivated a nation and even provide a hint of nostalgia by being on the BBC with no TV adverts. Whereas in 2012 £264 million of funding worked out at £4,061,538 million a medal, in Rio £355 million of funding produced £5,298,507.46 per medal. Read the rest of this entry »