scottish stuff

Weir Here

A44FY7xCQAEApC3Quite a few years ago I wrote a joking article about The Scottish Omerta, namely watching Weir’s Way.

After publishing it I got a lot of feedback suggesting that many people shared my little secret.

Now, it’s very pleasing to see that the man has a statue, at Loch Lomond, and it is well-deserved.

Photos courtesy of @Paul_T_M

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In Support Of Alasdair Gray

Just a little note here in support of Alasdair Gray …but not for the reason you might be expecting.
I know he has been under attack for his comments regarding the situation surrounding who runs the arts in Scotland but I don’t want to talk about that.

Rather, I was delighted to see that Alasdair Gray turned down a knighthood (which he was offered by the Brown government, not this one).

It seems that in preference to the company of the aristocracy and their hangers-on, he preferred the company of, to name but a few, Alan Bennett, David Bowie, Francis Crick, Michael Faraday, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, Stephen Hawking, Peter Higgs, Eric Hobsbawm, Aldous Huxley, L.S. Lowry, Harold Pinter and H.G. Wells.

And that is without even getting into the list of people who have turned down other honours.

Just wanted to say well done Alasdair.

I only recently became aware of this song on the subject as well.

In recognition of a hundred million album sales
In recognition of your popularity
You take your gaudy prize
From people you said you despise
You wear your self-respect upon your bended knee

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their name

In recognition of your service to the working class
In recognition of your party loyalty
You get an ermine robe
And you declare when you are probed
You only took it so the missus would be pleased

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their names

Oh vanity
It gets them one by one
Cat, religion, monarchy
But only in tale, fairly frail

In recognition of your bravery up on the stage
In recognition of your bankability
You get to wait in lines
With soldiers crippled by land mines
And you think its the Yanks that dont get irony

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their name

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their name

Their name
Their name
Their name

The Scottish Independence Podcast Episode 12 – Patrick Harvie

For episode 12 of The Scottish Independence Podcast I spoke with MSP and co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie.

We discussed the decision of the Greens to join the Yes campaign, some of the goings-on in Holyrood, the environmental advantages that Independence will bring, an increased focus on giving real powers to local government and much more besides.

Hope you enjoy it.

This is the direct download link (right click and save as).

If you go to the show’s homepage you can listen online or download from there.

Patrick is on twitter here.

The Scottish Independence Podcast Episode 8 – On the BBC, With Professor David Miller

Podcast 8 is up and it is pretty packed.

The way BBC News behaves is often a cause of dismay/fury/disappointment/surprise (delete as applicable to last story you read or watched).

Instead of attacking the latest thing on Newsnicht, Newsnight or the news itself, I think a bit of context might be useful.

Therefore, this interview, that I conducted a while ago, focuses on the organisation rather than the any specific output and how it can be influenced. It also touches on how that organisation sees itself.

In order to get into these matters I spoke to Professor David Miller. As well as being a Professor of Sociology he is also the author of Tell Me Lies: Propaganda & Media Distortion In The Attack On Iraq and more recently A Century Of Spin: How Public Relations Became The Cutting Edge Of Corporate Power. He is also one of the founders of Spinwatch, and as a little correction to what I say in the podcast, Powerbase (which used to be called spinprofiles). Powerbase is a wonderfully useful tool for journalists and bloggers.

There is also a report on BBC Bias from BBC Scotlandshire.

I hope you enjoy.

THIS IS THE DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK (right click and save)

Go here to listen online.

Gretna, City of Love

I caught this oddness recently…

Labour’s Patricia Ferguson said: “It is utterly absurd for Alex Neil to claim that independence will end poverty. He is treating the people like fools. Poverty wasn’t created in 1707 when we joined together and it won’t be abolished by erecting a border at Gretna. That is a malicious falsehood put about by those not brave enough to tell people what their politics are really about.”

Now, as far as I know, if Scotland votes Yes in 2014, there aren’t any plans to “erect” a physical border at Gretna. It would stop all the marriage custom coming in and out for a start.

Secondly, after saying this she has the cheek to say “malicious falsehood” in the next sentence.

Now let’s get on to the Tories…

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: “The Scottish Government is once again preaching its very own brand of flat-earth economics. If it wanted to spend more money as a separate country, it would have to either borrow significantly more, or tax significantly more. It would be interesting to know which route the SNP intends to take.”

I highlight “flat-earth” because if my party had just allowed government funding to go to creationist schools I would be a bit more careful in my choice of anti-science phrases.

So what did Alex Neil say to rile these two up so much…

“I honestly believe that if we were independent and could manage our own resources in our own way not only would we get much higher levels of employment amongst younger people and indeed older people, but we could do what every Scandinavian country has done and effectively eliminate poverty from our society.”

Possibly true, possibly not but in fairness to the Tory guy, he at least responded to a conditional with conditional, something that Patricia Ferguson was unwilling or unable to do.

All I am saying here is, and for the millionth time this is from an independence supporting non-party-not-joining-party-either person, who has got the positive story here?

When Duty Calls

I wrote this article for Bella Caledonia last week…



We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.

George Orwell

A while back someone posted on twitter (if it was you, let me know and I will update this) that the London Scottish Conservative Society’s “Five Reasons Why the Union is Better Off with Scotland in it” were exactly the best reasons for Scottish Independence so I thought it might be an idea to go through them.

Number 1 – The Acts of Union created one of the most enduring relationships in the history of the world. Why fix something which isn’t broken?

The Pax Romana created one of the most enduring relationships in the world but there is no doubt about who benefitted most from it.

Additionally, I think the contention would be that it is broken. A system where all the nations incorporated in this union often don’t get the government they voted for and don’t have control of their own financial affairs can’t be said to be working too well. Furthermore, a system where the financial system causes resentment on all sides also cannot be said to be working too well.

Their article also goes on to say that Scottish Independence would provide a “brutal knock to British Identity” –  one of the main problems of the Union is that British and therefore English identity tends to ride roughshod over all the others when it suits.

They also say that the Welsh could be next. Go on the Welsh.


Number 2 – The impending Scotland Act will make Scotland more accountable for its own public spending

Oh no! You mean we could choose for ourselves! The horror of it.

Their article says…

“Splitting up the Union would be a clumsy overreaction to a resolvable problem; by tidying up the devolution settlement through legislation, we can ensure a fair and mutually beneficial relationship.”

Well, it has been 300 years of tinkering and nobody is happy with it yet. I also thought they said the system wasn’t broken?

Number 3 – Scottish independence could mean the UK’s largest trading partner has a different currency entailing greater risk, cost and bureaucracy

There are no current plans to join the Euro and that would seem to close the case here but what is bizarre is that their reasoning for this statement then morphs into something about immigration. The bold is mine…

There is a real risk of an immigration crisis should Scotland’s economy struggle on its own. Faced with a declining population, the Scottish administration is openly in favour of immigration and should times grow intolerably hard it is not difficult to see where those in search of work would head

A couple of problems here. The first is that Scotland’s population is projected to rise, not decline. The second is the last thing I put in bold. If you think that sentence through carefully, aside from the whiff of racism, it doesn’t sound very much like any sort of Scottish society this, does it?

Number 4 – An independent Scotland would entail a significant loss in HMT revenues from the North Sea

They say…

The stakes and the sums involved are sufficient to ensure years of international litigation over revenues which would be central to an Independent Scotland’s budget plans.

This of course would be a loss to the UK account, not the Scottish one. How difficult the litigation has to be depends on how unnecessarily or unfairly greedy Westminster wishes to be.

Number 5 – Scotland’s contribution to Britain’s armed forces is far greater than its population share

I think this is quite clearly something that shows the unfairness of the thing and not a reason to stay in the union.

Finally, in their conclusion keep an eye open for a couple of interesting things. Look out for the bold again…

Those are some of the more logical grounds for why England should want to stay in the Union, but truth be told, the reasons run deeper. Despite the family politics of the thing, most of us believe in Britain and want to be British.  In the words of David Cameron, we are stronger together and weaker apart. They say you can’t choose your family; in 2014 that will be demonstrably disproved.

At least at the end there is a stark admission that these are reasons for England to try to keep a hold of Scotland, not for Scotland to stay in the union, but we also get the strange “can’t choose your family line. I think 100 interpretations could be put on that so I will leave you to decide for yourselves what that one means.


What To Do About Loch Lomond?

There are some discussions going on about what to do about some of the problems that have been going on at Loch Lomond with regard to antisocial behaviour…

A camping ban on east Lomondside could be extended to four islands in the loch to tackle “irresponsible behaviour” like vandalism and fire lighting.

The Loch Lomond National Park said “major change” was needed to secure the future of Inchmoan, Inchconnachan, Inchtavannach and Inchcruin.

New laws banning camping outside designated sites is one of three options being considered.

A public consultation reviewing all by-laws on the loch has been launched.

It will run for three months, closing on 18 June.

This is a risky subject as it risks stigmatising certain groups of people and it isn’t fair to have one rule for one group of people and a different rule for another.

The crux of it is that the countryside must be left open for use to everyone but also must not be left to be trashed by people and to manage these two things is a thorny problem.

I’ll start by telling you my experiences with this.

There isn’t only one group of problem people.  I have been there and seen the “I’ve got a merc and I love showing it off” type of idiot throwing things out of cars, leaving bottles and cans etc. Their lack of care for their environment that they show in the city by driving unnecessarily large cars and using unnecessarily large amounts of resources is reproduced in the countryside too.

But I’ll explain another kind of problem you can encounter there too. For a few years my friends and I regularly went up the east side of the Loch in the summer.

As we all know, the weather in Scotland prohibits planning these things way in advance so what we usually did was if the weather was fine in the afternoon then the calls would start at around 3 to see who was coming. Whoever finished work first would go to buy the necessaries and then after work we would pile into my friends car and off we went. Sometimes we camped and other times the wishes of the only sober one (the driver) had to be respected and we went back to Glasgow.

We, as I am sure many other people do, were careful to remove everything that we brought with is. All beer cans, cigarette butts, bags, literally everything that we took with us and used went back with us in the car. We did build a fire however, there are very good reasons to stop fires being built in some areas but in others it shouldn’t really be a massive problem. This is why one of the suggestions for the consultation “A second option would be to provide camping facilities and fire pits, but not legally enforce their use.” might be a good idea.

With the problem of rubbish, when we first started going there really wasn’t that much rubbish around or signs of misuse but over a few years it started to get worse and as we walked around the east side trying to find a spot there was more rubbish, year on year.

The last straw (or possibly the penultimate one) for us  was when we went and got ourselves set up on one beach and we heard the boomf boomf boomf of some pretty sh*tty rave music coming from up the beach a bit. Then we saw a few of them approaching us and we knew that this wasn’t likely to be good. We had made a fire and the young guy who had come over to speak to us was clearly off his face (as were we to honest but with a different combination of things). He proceeded to ask us what we had been using to cut wood and informed us that he had a machete and was making vaguely threatening noises about it.

Oh sh*t.

We were starting to worry at this point but we were lucky as one of our group had some kind of mate of a mate of a mate relationship with one of them.

This wasn’t the only incident we had had and after this we started looking for other places around the Loch or elsewhere that we could go. We found a pretty secluded spot next to a little river that flows into the Loch and from then on we went there and were neither seen nor heard, nor were we bothered by anyone else. We never went to the islands in the middle of the Loch.

“We have some of Scotland’s most precious species and habitats here and sadly some visitors continue to behave irresponsibly, which clearly has a lasting impact on nature and also the experience of other visitors to the islands,” he said.

As I said before, it is vital that the public is free to get out in the countryside. For the islands it is even more vital that the ecology there is not ruined.

It is not an easy problem to fix.

The consultation continues until June 18th. Please take part if you have any solutions or suggestions.