Sunday 30 June 2013


Just glancing at a few stories from the Herald, I notice they report that Osborne's spending cuts will affect the poorest 20% of the population most.

A Treasury paper shows only those in the bottom quintile will lose more money as a result of the spending review; all other income groups will lose less. Better Together, huh?

They also report the faux pas over phone roving charges, which appears to have emanated from the Eton Boy's office. (Do they only teach them how to reprimand the butler if he decants the port badly, and throw in a few Latin damnant quod non intellegunt?) What a pile of nonsense from BT.

In the same story some junior minister, Jo Swinson, apparently said the same sort of thing about letters... couldn't have the same price stamps for all over the Uk, despite the fact that the system holds with the republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Man, Northern Ireland, and that both the Post office and the  Federation of Post Masters has indicated it sees no reason (apart perhaps for Swinson) that that would not continue.

What next. All emails will stop at the border? Another pile of nonsense from BT.

The next story reads:

Allan Burnett insisted security services could be "readily created" and traditional alliances easily maintained if Scots vote Yes next year.
His remarks come as figures close to the UK security establishment warn that SNP strategists have "naïvely" underestimated how much time and money it will take to create a secret police service.

Burnett was the old Strathclyde Police's head of intelligence and Scotland's counter-terrorism co-ordinator before retiring in 2010 with the rank of assistant chief constable, and endorsing the SNP. Yep, more nonsense from BT.

The next story involves the report that in the build up to the referendum,  the police department responsible for the security of parliament and government offices, previously in the hands of Lothian and Borders Police, has decided that the first minister may need extra security. 

The amusing thing about this story is that the comment for the newly appointed Labour spokesman for justice is not a concern that public figures (whomsoever they may be) should be safe in the run up to the referendum, but as follows:

“This shows where the First Minister’s priorities lie. We have cuts to support staff, which means police officers are behind desks instead of out on the beat, but he’s more concerned about his own safety rather than that of communities across Scotland.”
Graeme Pearson: Justice Spokesman for the Labour Group
So, what he's saying is that he is more interested in making cheap political points than keeping public figures safe. Oops!

He may have to retrench if the security services decide that Darling should have protection. I wonder what he thinks about Brown having protection from now until he dies, even when he is off on work which swells the Brown coffers...

Statesman like behaviour from Graeme Pearson and Labour, and maybe not the quote for which he will wish to be remembered, in what, I suspect, may not be a long career in politics.

The Herald now appears to ration the number of pages that you can look at in a month for free, so unfortunately although I can give you a link to the last story, I don't know whether you will be able to look at it. On my screen it gives details of how I can sign in and get another 5 stories, or pay £1 for the first month and £2.99 thereafter to read their stories.

Yes... Fat chance.


I've read that Jim Murphy was less than pleased at Ken Mackintosh getting the sack (as was ken himself). Is there a schism in the Labour leadership (using the term loosely)?


THE other day there was a news story about someone putting £200,000 on a ‘No’ vote for next year’s referendum campaign at a William Hill betting shop in Glasgow. But now we discover that Hills refused a £1000 bet on a ‘Yes’ vote from a punter in Paisley.  

The man then took himself off to the office of Paisley’s MSP, George Adam, to tell him the story.

On his own website Mr Adam told the story.

‘I was very surprised that one of my constituents wanted to show me his betting line but after he explained the situation I became very interested.

My first thoughts were that I was happy that he had almost as much confidence as me in Scotland winning independence following next year’s vote.

‘I was then told that he had tried to put a £1000 bet on the referendum outcome at William Hill in Gilmour Street in Paisley. After a member of staff made a few phone calls the constituent was told that the maximum amount they would accept was a bet of £250. 

This from the same chain of shops that accepted the £200,000 bet on a ‘No’ vote.

‘This is not the only betting shop to refuse a bet according to my constituent. Coral in Gauze Street in Paisley refused a £2000 bet and would only allow a wager of £200 to be placed, once again after phone calls to management.

‘It seems both these large chains are happier to accept money for the ‘No’ vote.
‘I think they’re more confident of holding on to that money.’

Although they are not always right, bookmakers don't make a habit of taking silly bets. A £200,000 bet is lot to pay out on... so if I were a bookie, I'd need to be pretty sure that I won't have to before I'd accept it.

Saturday 29 June 2013


I was intrigued to discover, while reading the story on the First Minister declining an invitation to attend Muirfield during the Open Championship, how far the level of debate had sunk.

Mr Salmond and his Sports Minister Shona Robison have written to Muirfield asking them to reconsider their Men Only policy, given that this is the 21st century.

Without wanting to get into the pros and cons of whether the First Minister is right or not; or whether organisations should be allowed to say ... 'no women', or 'no men', the thing I noticed most, and which took my mind off deliberations about whether or not the FM was right or wrong,  was the reaction of Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Conservative party in Scotland.

Mr Carlaw said: “At least we will be spared photographs of him [Mr Salmond] sprawled like a beached whale beside the greens.”

I wonder if Mr Carlaw (pictured) intends to be present beside the greens himself and if there will be photographs for us to enjoy.

Friday 28 June 2013


The problem is that the UK government has done more or less nothing to ensure that their old power stations, which are declining, are renewed. Clearly this was not important enough for them to put any effort into and I can only assume that anyone who matters has a private generator and will not be cold if, or rather when, the lights (and fires) do go off.

Not only, it would seem, do we have the most expensive fuel in Europe, we also have the least efficient generators.

The problem seems to stem from England where, I am informed by a correspondent in the Independent (Peter Thomson), they import 11% of their base load and 15% peak load from us, from Scotland, on a daily basis.

Additionally, to keep London running the French High Voltage Direct Current is going full blast. Eire is building an HVDC line to Holyhead to export reusables to England while the Dutch HVDC link is stalled off the Essex coast because of objections to its landing point by environmentalists. Further lines are proposed from Iceland to Scotland and Norway to England. 

Apparently in 2008 one Scottish base load generator failed to come on line in time, causing blackouts across London and the Home Counties.  According to the correspondent, this is not a UK problem, nor even an English problem; it is a London problem… and it is a failure of successive UK Governments to create a strategy to secure the energy needs of London.

Scotland has sufficient energy for itself and enough to export considerable amounts to England, as it is obliged to by virtue of the national grid.

We are told that fracking is the answer. Fracking will save the English government. But how safe is it? How will it affect the water table, the aquifers? Some places in America have found that the water is poisoned and the crops will not grow in areas where fracking is employed.

How will it affect the geological stability of the area? It has already been blamed for earthquakes in tests in North West England.

I've encountered situations where the supply of electricity was not completely reliable but never in a first world, European country, and never in a big city. In a small town in Morocco or in Sierra Leone, it may be expected. In Edinburgh it is not.

It seems that selling off the power companies lock stock and barrel and putting in place a toothless watchdog, Ofcom Offgen (thanks Arbroath) in this case, to keep them in line wasn't the best of ideas.
Michael Fallon: He's in charge of keeping the lights on, so get your torch and some candles. It's going to be a long dark winter.

The English Energy Minister Michael Fallon has told us all not to panic. The power will not go off says the minister. But then, who in their right mind would believe anything he said? He doesn't in all honestly look overwhelmingly or reassuringly bright.

Of course, if successive Westminster governments hadn't spent so much of their energies and a great deal of our money playing at being big shots, striding the world stage like...erm whatever the opposite is of colossus, they might have found time to run the country, the job we pay them generously to do.  

Wednesday 26 June 2013


The monument dedicated to Icelandic independence in Reykjavik. They said farewell to Denmark in 1944 and went their own way. It now has one of the highest standards of living in the world. What are we waiting for?
My friend, Anya, sent this photograph from Reykjavik where she is spending a few days. The caption is hers, but I wholeheartedly endorse it. 

And, from the YES SCOTLAND campaign comes this message following George's latest statement on the economy.

Today George Osborne's spending review statement laid out in the starkest terms the bleak future that awaits Scotland for so long as Westminster remains in control of Scotland’s future.

Yet more cuts are penciled in for 2015/16. That means less money for public services.

And citizens throughout the country will suffer as a result.
Research by the Resolution Foundation shows that cuts will be even steeper in subsequent years if Mr Osborne is to meet his targets.
The No campaign cannot offer a positive alternative - because Labour Party at Westminster has already signed up to these further cuts. A Yes vote is now the only way we can choose an alternative to this further dose of austerity. Scotland is a wealthy country by international standards, and taxpayers in Scotland have contributed more per head in taxes over the past 30 years than the rest of the UK.  Our public finances are healthier than those of the UK. We can afford a better way.
A majority in Scotland believe Westminster austerity is the wrong approach for families, the economy and our public services.

Scotland returned only one Conservative MP out of 59. This Conservative driven agenda is not of our choosing. It's more urgent than ever that we put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands. 

We can choose a better way.

The illustrations in the YES Scotland message are mine.

Sunday 23 June 2013


Loony right wing Mcnutjob Lord Monckton is, as far as we can discover, no more Scottish than fly in the air. He is from Kent; his father was from Kent and his grandfather was from Kent. The only link he seems to have with Scotland is he has an estate here. Sorry Chris but being an absentee Scottish landlord does not make you “more Scottish than most Scotsmen” (as you recently claimed to be in an STV remember, the one where you spuriously claimed that Alex Salmond was expelled from the Labour Party for being too left wing!). 

In another tenuous link to Scotland, his McNobleness did try to become an MSP in 2011 standing for UKIP on the Central Scotland and Fife list, coming 7th with 1.1% of the vote. Unfortunately, that doesn't make him more Scottish than the Scots either.
What milord seems to be good at is either being a half-wit or a liar. (Case in point being his spurious claim to any link to Scotland.) In this video he claims that the Dunblane Massacre of 1996 took place under a Socialist Government that then introduced knee jerk legislation:
That would be the socialist government of John Major then? 

Interestingly all three shooting rampages that have taken place in the UK have been under Tory Prime Ministers; Hungerford in 1987, Dunblane 1996 and Cumbria in 2010. No doubt in Lord Monckton’s la la land all three PM’s involved are socialists.

I don't recommend that you watch more than a few minutes of the video as milord cod-face manages to put so little feeling or conviction into his right wing anti climate change rant that it quickly becomes more of a tedious boring drone that I'm sure has the interviewer chewing his foot off to get through. Let’s hope the would be journalist is a better motivational writer than he is a speaker or I don't think those climate change fascists down-under have anything to fear other than a surge in membership.
Monkton inherited his lordly title after 1999 and is not, by rights, a member of the House of Lords. However, he widely claims that he is in fact a member of the upper house of the UK legislature but without the right to sit or vote. 

The House of Lords authorities, frustrated by more spurious claims (he’s good at them) have taken the unprecedented step of publishing, on the parliamentary website, a “cease and desist” letter to Monkton from the Clerk of the Parliaments. The letter concludes “I am publishing this that anyone who wishes to check whether you are a member of the House of Lords can view this official confirmation that you are not”.

Monkton, desperate for a seat in the Lords, has stood in four by-elections for vacant seats, created by the death of a sitting hereditary peer. (There are 92 hereditary peers left in the HOL and when one dies they elect another one from among their numbers). 

He has not as yet received a single vote!

Saturday 22 June 2013


I was watching the BBC news (rare for me) last night and I noticed that Rothsay had opened a home in the grounds of a hospital in Birmingham, England, where relatives of injured UK soldiers can stay while they spend time with the soldier in the hospital.

It's a wonderful idea, adopted from America. It removes massive worries financial and otherwise, from the shoulders of the family, and boosts the morale and health of the wounded soldiers by the fact that they know they have their families around them when they need them, and that they are safe and being looked after.

So far so good.

Then we were told that it cost £4 million to build. And that that money had been raised by charities.


We send these lads off to fight halfway across the world and when they get hurt, badly, we, as a country, can't provide their families with accommodation close to the one hospital that has the proper facilities to help them, sometimes hundreds of miles from their homes?


In the vast budget of the fourth largest military budget on the face of the Earth, the government can't find £4 measly million to pay for accommodation for the injured troops' families?

You couldn't make that up.

They found billions to stage a 'prestigious' Olympic Games in London including unknown billions on security after their security fell flat on its face; they found millions to set up the security for G8 heads of government and state in Northern ireland and millions more to accommodate and entertain them; they spent millions on the Queen's jubilee, and £8 million for a funeral for Mrs Thatcher, all without blinking an eye.

Obviously somethings are just far more important to them than the lives of the lads they send off to fight for their glory.

And they have the nerve to imply that Scotland wouldn't be able to cope on our own.

Anyone who knows me, either personally or through what I have written, will know that I'm not a huge fan of the military. 

Indeed our future as a tiny military power is one of the (many) things that appeal to me about being independent. 

And I don't get dewy eyed about "our boys"; I don't believe that they are all hallowed heros; some, of course, are exactly that, while some of them are just thugs. 

But what I do believe is that if we insist on poking our noses where they don't belong  and in doing so we injure and maim some of our troops, then we owe these guys the best we can afford when they wheel them home. And that includes taking away the worry of what happens to their families.

That we leave this work to charity, when it costs so very very little, makes me wonder if what members of the aristocracy and royals have been insisting for the longest time is true: 

The ruling class really is another species.


From Yes Scotland

The Westminster government has today published a list of 200 public bodies it claims would have to be replicated in an independent Scotland. It is probably one of the poorest and most embarrassing contributions to the referendum debate so far.

The list only serves to highlight two very important problems that exist within the current system of government.

Scottish Portrait Gallery
First, it shows just how out of touch Westminster has become. There appears to be a genuine lack of understanding about what actually goes on in Scotland. The first version of the list missed out 90 Scottish public bodies: the Westminster government didn't seem to know they even existed.

And, this new attempt shows the lack of knowledge goes deeper.

    • they are so out of touch with Scotland, they don’t seem to realise we already have a national sports body SportScotland.

    • they say an independent Scotland will need an Information Commissioner, but we've already got one

    • they even suggest that an independent Scotland would need to replicate Public Health England - no, we won’t.
Scottish Food Standards Agency

The bizarre list goes on. There is the claim that an independent Scotland would need a Food Standards Agency.

We will have one. But at the moment the UK government is scrapping the Food Standard's agency for England.
National Library of Scotand

Scotland is clearly nowhere on the Westminster government's radar, to the extent that they believe an independent Scotland would have to replicate the British Library, forgetting we’ve already got the National Library of Scotland.

The second major problem they have, unwittingly, highlighted is the vast number of civil service functions that are carried out for Scotland, and paid for by Scottish taxpayers, but where the jobs and financial benefit go elsewhere.
Oh and look, we do sport too. And you thought all we did was go to the pub and the bookies!

The UK paper lists many bodies that perform a UK wide function but whose staff and offices are based wholly or almost totally in and around London. These include the Treasury and Foreign Office. Between them, these two departments have so few staff in Scotland you could count them on one hand. Your taxes are paying for these services, but the benefit of that investment is directed to the already dominant London economy.
...and we also even have our own royal palace

If these jobs were based in an independent Scotland, we'd still be paying for them through our taxes, but the benefit would be felt in the Scottish economy. The taxes they pay would go to the Scottish Exchequer. They would spend their wages in local shops boosting local jobs and local entrepreneurs. They would create career paths and new opportunities for graduates, for school leavers. Instead of feeding an already dominant London economy, the multi-million pound benefit would be felt right here in Scotland.

When you add all this to the laughable nonsense spoken by that fool (who is 'more Scottish than most Scotsmen'...according to him) Viscount Monckton last night, you start to wonder if anyone in UK politics actually has a clue what they are talking about when it comes to Scotland.

It might also have occurred to some of them that we actually own a part of all of the organisations which are based in England but serve the whole country... and that some of them are about as much use as an underwater hair dryer,  because their only reason for being set up was to reward some toady with a high paid non-job for "services rendered".

Friday 21 June 2013

Alan Bissett - Hear the Nation - May 2013


Nigel Farage, it emerges, opened an offshore trust fund in the Isle of Man in a plan to avoid tax bill. The revelations come just the day after UKIP lost its deposit at the Aberdeen South by-election. I wonder what would have happened had they come a day earlier.

Farage has said that his financial advisers recommended the Trust  for inheritance purposes as a vehicle to build up a trust fund for his children or grandchildren.

He told the Daily Mirror:  “It was a mistake for three reasons. Firstly, I'm not rich enough to need one and I am never going to be.

“Secondly, frankly, the world has changed. Things that we thought were absolutely fair practice 10 years, 20 years ago, 30 years ago aren't any more.

"Thirdly, it was a mistake because it cost me money.”

However, whatever the dubious truth of that is, it sits badly with his criticism of offshore tax havens, including the Isle of Man, which he actually named in a speech in the European Parliament.

There are, apparently, only two good reasons to set up an Isle of Man trust.

One is secrecy, and the other is tax avoidance. Of course, as he says he had nothing to do with either of these,  it  begs the question that if he was setting up a trust for his grandchildren, why would he not do it in his own country?

Tax dodging costs the UK billions of pounds a year, far more than benefit fraud, which the government is trying to stamp out, killing off poor people in its trail.  Tax Research experts say the sum involved could be as much as £123 billion.

David Cameron backed a deal at the G8 summit this week to crack down on corporate tax evasion. He must be laughing like a drain that Farage has got himself into this mess.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Wednesday 19 June 2013

A response to my 'Question Time' critics

By Liam McLaughlan

I've lifted this article from The Targe, having informed Liam of my intention to do so. 

As I read it I found myself wondering if Labour really was ever the party of the working man, so incredible I found some of the comments. I'm trying to think what kind of person, professing to be a supported of the party of the workers, would subject a 16 or 17 year old lad to this kind of abuse for his left wing political views.

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me on Twitter since my appearance on Question Time on Thursday. In particular, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Radical Independence Campaign, Owen Jones, and, last but certainly not least, Kevin Bridges. Sadly, however expectedly, it was not all praise after I called for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to stand trial for war crimes at the Hague, as the ever encroaching Blairite section of the British Labour Party labelled me as a “ned” and threw insults about my appearance and accent. In this latest piece for The Targe, I will show how this latest Twitter assault on me has merely showed up the Labour Party for what they truly have become – and why it has made me ever more determined to broadcast this reality to as many people as I possibly can.

I live in a Labour-voting constituency, and have been brought up in a family which is and always have been Labour-voting, just like many others in the community. That is, of course, if they do go vote, which most don’t. Given this, you would think that for someone of my age and social background to become interested in politics would be seen as something of a rarity, and a triumph for the Labour Party. It is, however, the failings of the Labour Party, which has failed to protect me, my family, and my community, which drives me to become politically active. This area continually puts its faith in a party which desperately tries to portray itself as the party of the working man, but in reality is removing itself from the needs of the people of this community and many others like it around the country. It is testament to the failure of the party this area has a lower life expectancy than that of the Gaza Strip, and the time has come for this façade to be brought to the attention of the electorate in deprived areas like mine.

The abuse I received on Twitter after Question Time was not from a minority, but sadly an ever-increasing majority of Labour Party activists, which targeted me firstly for wearing a tracksuit top, secondly for my accent, and thirdly for my general appearance. They began by labelling me as a “ned”. For those who don’t know, “ned” is supposedly short for Non-Educated Delinquent. I have 8 Credit Standard Grade Qualifications to my name, and I've sat 5 Higher Exams this year; I am also predicted to go to university. I travelled from my school in the East End of Glasgow for just under an hour at a cost of £12.50 to be in the audience of Question Time in Edinburgh. I’m hardly someone who you would describe as “non-educated”.

How shameful then those activists in the so called “party of the working man” should dare attack someone who represents the very values on which the party was founded in such a derogatory and insulting way. After this, they then began to suggest that I needed an interpreter due to my Glaswegian accent and told me to “read a book, not a newspaper”. The abuse was rounded off by some suggesting that I needed a “carer”, and comments regarding the shape of my head. To see mental health issues touched on in such a casual and disgusting way was particularly hurtful and infuriating, given I have a family member who is mentally ill and receives help from dedicated, professional carers.

The support from others, however, has merely shone a light on this criticism and these insults as nothing more than petty and disgusting attempts to discredit my point on something they can no longer defend. It has also shown the true face of the new Labour Party – the same which is portrayed by some as the best reason for staying in the United Kingdom, despite their refusal to commit to basic policies like revocation of the shameful bedroom tax.

My message to those who took to Twitter to mock and insult me is this: your insults have only strengthened my determination to bring about the end of Labour control of both my city and my constituency.

My message to all Labour Party members who are still trapped in the illusion that Labour is a socialist party, aiming to protect the working class, is to take this incident as an eye-opener.

Efforts to drag the Labour party back to its founding principles are both valiant and honourable, but those activists are fighting a losing battle. The party will only continue to distance itself from our values and aspirations for the people of this country. For a new Left which is strong, united, and committed to the socialist ideology of helping the many and not the few: revoke your memberships now, and help myself and others who are determined to bring about this new Left. I’ll finish with a quote which epitomises all I have said and all I feel at this moment: “a shiver ran along the Labour backbenches, looking for a spine to run up”. 

Tuesday 18 June 2013


Broughty Ferry Development Trust (BFDT) is to have an official ceremony to mark the refurbishment of the ornate Victorian Lamp standards on Beach Crescent.

They are grateful to Brian Cox, star of numerous Hollywood films and currently serving as the University of Dundee's rector, for agreeing to announce the refurbishment officially. Brian is of course from Dundee but has his own Broughty Ferry connection as the main character in the cult series set in the burgh, about Bob Servant's efforts to become the MP for Broughty Ferry. Brian has been very active in promoting Dundee and Broughty Ferry and is proud of its role as “Dundee on Sea”.

The ornate Victorian lampposts on Beach Crescent, each of which depict Broughty Ferry Castle in relief on the doors, were in a very bad state of repair and funding from Dundee Historic Environment Trust was  obtained to refurbish them. This is now complete.

In addition, Dundee City Council’s Lighting Department refurbished the Provost’s Lamppost, also situated on Beach Crescent. It commemorated Provost Orchar’s tenure as Provost of Broughty Ferry between 1886 and 1898, before Broughty Ferry was incorporated into Dundee a hundred years ago, in 1913.

In the 1960s  one of BFDT's founder members, the late David Goodfellow, saved these lampposts from going to scrap by drawing attention to their historical significance and secured their current siting.

Broughty Ferry Development Trust  is a charitable organisation, with over 150 members, which aims to improve Broughty Ferry by accessing grants to progress sensitive development supported by the community.

Mr Cox will perform the ceremony this afternoon at 4.30 on Beach Crescent, just outside Orchar Nursing Home. Everyone is welcome ...

Late addition. Big success: 
Before restoration
After restoration
Mr Cox outside the Orchar Nursing Home
The Lord Provost lamppost in the foreground and the other lampposts going back towards the castle

Sunday 16 June 2013


This then, is what we have to look forward to if we vote NO.

The departments, which agreed on new spending cuts, include the Home Office, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which mostly cover areas devolved to Scotland.

The other three departments are the Scotland Office, Wales Office and the Law Officers Department.

The actual amount of cuts to each department and how they could impact Scotland is still not clear as the Treasury has delayed giving details until the Spending Review is unveiled.

George Osborne is looking to find £11.5 billion in savings before making his Spending Review announcement on June 26.

However, with less than 2 weeks to go before the Spending Review is announced, 10 of the 24 departments remain to be settled among which is the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Last month, British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said further defence cuts could undermine the country’s military capability. He sounded sceptical that he will be able to meet Osborne’s requests on budget cuts.

Earlier this week, Whitehall spending watchdogs also warned Osborne over short-term emergency cuts, saying the measures cannot produce permanent savings for UK taxpayers. 

Friday 14 June 2013


Like many other people, I wrote a letter of complaint to the BBC over the choice of panelists for last night's 'Question Time'.

The BBC will, I am sure, in due course, acknowledge that I have written to them and will doubtless come up with some long winded management speak gobbledegook reply, about overall balance, and period of referendum campaign, etc.

In a debate clearly meant to be largely about the referendum (why otherwise invite an audience of only 16 and 17 year olds?*), it was odd that neither the YES campaign nor the NO campaign was invited to take part. Instead of that  the Respect MP from Bradford and the UKIP MEP for South East England were invited.

A cynic might think that with the dual disadvantage for UK viewers of the programme coming from Edinburgh, and having questions supposedly framed by 16 and 17 year olds, the largely English audience would give it a miss and  the ratings would suffer. So to spice it up, why not bring in two well known hopefully adversarial figures from England, to make the tv audience feel less alienated? (After all, the English audience neither know, nor care, who Robertson, Davidson, Riddoch or Sarwar are, and both Galloway and Farage are good tv.)

I'm glad to know that, among all the letters of complaint from unimportant ordinary people like me, the BBC will also have received a letter from the unaffiliated Electoral Reform  Society of Scotland. They may have to put a little more effort into answering this one.

Dear Ms Valentine

The Electoral Reform Society in Scotland seeks to inform and improve Scotland's democracy. With that in mind, we have being undertaking an inquiry into what a good Scottish democracy looks like.

A major theme that has emerged from this year long, citizen led inquiry, is the importance of the media to instruct, publicise and inform the debate. There has been support for a publicly funded media provider, but a strong sense that that body should be impartial and should seek to provide balanced and informed coverage of politics. Clearly this is of particular concern in the run up to the 2014 referendum.

We were concerned therefore to see the lineup for the BBC Question Time programme to be held in Edinburgh this evening (Thursday 13th June). Not only does the selection of panellists fail to represent the makeup of Scottish politics, but it also seems to be aimed more at pantomime than serious debate.

That this should be the case when the audience is, very pleasingly, to be made up of 16 and 17 year olds in recognition of the extension of the franchise to that group for the referendum is  worrying.

It seems to  show a lack of respect for these young audience members - implying that they do not deserve serious political debate. It also fails to allow them to hear from their elected representatives in this public debate forum which receives the widest of political attention. Two of the parties which will be competing for their vote in 2014 are unrepresented and the Yes and Better Together campaigns are needlessly unequally represented. Were this not bad enough, available spaces on the platform are taken instead by George Galloway MP and Nigel Farage MEP, two individuals and parties who are not represented in Scotland.

We welcome the decision to involve 16 and 17 year olds in a public debate about the referendum, but the chosen panelists do those 16 and 17 year olds a disservice as they will not be able to hear from the parties who represent them and who will be seeking their vote in 2014.

We would ask the BBC to urgently reconsider the panel, and at the very least to re-schedule a repeat of this edition of Question Time, but with a panel representative of Scottish politics that respects the BBC's role to be impartial and equal.

Yours sincerely

Willie Sullivan

* The programme actually was divided up by topic as follows (thanks for Rev Stu's research)

(By the way, I'd like to make it clear that I have not watched the programme. I wouldn't give them the audience numbers. My complaint is about the makeup of the panel; the exclusion of two parties which have representation in parliament and the inclusion of two parties which have none.)

Thursday 13 June 2013


Good news for Scotland on the unemployment front is contained in the UK figures for the three months from February to April.

Unemployment in the country dropped by an amazing 6,000.

The figures also show that actual employment increased by 47,000 in the 3 months, that the number of people claiming JSA dropped by 700 over the period, and that youth unemployment dropped by 6.1% over the last year.

These figures compare well with the UK figures for the same period.

Unemployment in the UK overall is down by 5,000 (meaning that it has increased elsewhere in the UK: a fact that the BBC somehow neglected to mention).

The news on youth unemployment is particularly encouraging. The UK figure is 19.5%, so the figure of 15.2% in Scotland is extremely good news.

As the article goes on to say, our government has announced an investment of £88 million in work and support for small businesses. The money has the potential to create 10,000 youth jobs in the country.

We have a long way to go, but at least we can say much for all the scare stories from Osborne and his like about how the fear of uncertainty would blight the Scottish economy. Like on so many other issues, it seems he was either ill informed, or lying.

Tuesday 11 June 2013


More details of the 'celebrations' for the centenary of the start of the imperial war to end all imperial wars have been announced. 
Glasgow will play host to Her Majesty the Queen at a church service of commemoration, the week after the end of the Commonwealth Games.
I don't care what your views on Scottish independence are, no one, but no one celebrates the centenary of the start of a war. Not even a little war, never mind a bloody great huge totally unnecessary war. 
And if you can't find a better or a more decent way to spike any feeling of Scottishness that might come from a few weeks of Scotland competing in Games as "Scotland", only a month or so before the referendum, then shame on you, Cameron. To try to take some advantage from the numbers of Scotsmen that died for the Empire, well over 100,000 of them, is beneath any person with ordinary decent morals.
Celebrate, by all means, the end of the war in 2018. Celebrate the end of the hideous carnage of ordinary lion-like men, who were, you will remember, led by donkeys. 
Ahhh..but that would be too late for your purpose, wouldn't it?
What a horrible little man Cameron is.
There is a good piece over at Rod McFarlane's place on this. It culminates in this poem which Rod wrote. It really is worth reading. He once told me I could use any of his stuff on this blog and I do so now with thanks.
Dancing on the Graves of the Dead
We can have a Celebration Cameron said
Breaking out all these Union Jacks
Flying that tattered torn empire battle flag
A Cross between a Diamond Jubilee
and the Olympic Celebrations they agreed
The main even in Scotland
The day after the Commonwealth Games
6 weeks before the referendum
They will Celebrate the Dead and the Maimed
An Appeal to British Patriotism is the plan
Wave those little flags about, every woman child and man
Celebrating the worst war in mankind’s history
When we should be mourning them instead
Where They used them once as fodder
they are still using them when they're Dead!
Her Majesty and Heads of State will kick the whole thing off
When She deigns to come to Glasgow with her dogs
There is the “Spectacular” and the “Theatrical”
These Shows will keep you all enthralled
Come on line the streets in Britishness when you’re called.
Rod Macfarlane

Monday 10 June 2013


David Cameron has again ruled out a head-to-head TV debate with Alex Salmond ahead of the independence referendum.

Cameron said the idea was a ‘complete red herring’. (Why is it a red herring for the head of the UK government, which wants to keep Scotland and its vast resources for the good of the UK,  and the head of the Scottish Government which wishes to be independent of the UK and to be able to use the aforesaid resources for the good of Scotland, to debate? red herring my butt!)

He challenged Mr Salmond to debate with Scottish politicians such as former Chancellor Alistair Darling – who is leading the anti-independence Better Together campaign. (To which the answer is that the only position Mr Darling holds, other than being an ordinary back bench MP, is that of Better Together Campaign leader, and his opposite number is Blair Jenkins the head of the YES campaign. They should surely debate, otherwise  with whom would Mr Jenkins debate?)

He said: "This is a debate between people in Scotland, some of whom want to separate from the United Kingdom, but the majority of whom want to stay in the United Kingdom. The TV and radio debates should be between Scottish politicians with differing views." (Well David, if that is the case why are you giving an interview to the Scottish press on the subject? Why did it form the main part of your speech to the party conference? Why not leave that to Ruth, who is supposedly the Scottish Party leader and is certainly a Scottish politicians, therefore exactly the kind of person who, in your opinion, should be addressing it?)

"I seem to remember Alex Salmond said he wanted this referendum made in Scotland – well now that he’s made a bit of a mess of it, he wants to make it somewhere else." (Recent figures show that more people want to change the constitutional settlement than leave it alone. Support for independence, trumpeted by the No campaign only a few months ago at 23% has risen, by the same measures from the same polling company, to 35% in less than 6 months. Not my idea of a mess, Dave. You want a mess, go look at your hospitals, or trains, or schools. They ARE a mess.) 

"Let Better Together debate with Alex Salmond and the Nationalists. This is a complete red herring and I'm absolutely not falling for it." (Either you are very stupid and have failed to grasp the point [in which case, better shut up now, in fact resign now, because this is really simple compared with some stuff a first/prime minister should have to deal with], or you are being deliberately obtuse. 

Let me try to make it simple for you:

Better Together should debate with Yes Scotland.

Politicians should debate with politicians.

That might mean first ministers with first ministers; finance ministers with finance ministers; deputy first ministers with deputy first ministers; environment ministers with environment minister. By now, presumably  even you will have caught onto the system)

Please note for this exercise I have conflated "first" and "prime"... They mean approximately same thing.

It seems to me that the real reasons that David Cameron will not debate with Alex Salmond are as follows:

He feels that as Prime minister of the United Kingdom, he is better suited in the company of presidents and kings. A mere Scottish MSP is beneath his Eton and Oxford dignity.

Or, David Cameron knows that he would be a complete turn off to around 90% of the Scottish population and throw them running to the arms of the horrid separatists, because let's face it anything has to be better than this tosser.

Or finally, because he is feart (his word) of the intellectual rigour of the debate from a man who would wipe the floor with his silly arguments of "greatness" and "power" and "place in the world" and show him that Scots, by and large, care a great deal more about the fact that there are people in our country eating out of rubbish dumps and food banks, than the fact that we could blow a southern suburb of Moscow off the face of the Earth if the American gave us the co-ordinates.