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Scots aren’t better than the English … or worse. We’re the same … but our political cultures are worlds apart

THERE was a sting in the tail of the Cowdenbeath by-election. It came as little surprise that Labour won with an increased majority but when we learned the LibDems had come fifth behind Ukip, the twittersphere ignited. Was this confirmation that the Scots aren’t so different after all? Is the myth of communitarian Scotland just … Continue reading

Yes or No: disenchantment is the issue for both camps

That £500 question just won’t go away. It’s in danger of defining the referendum campaign. The latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey confirms that a majority of Scots would vote Yes if they were guaranteed to be £500 better off, while only 15% would support independence if they were £500 worse off. The survey of 1500 … Continue reading

Ed is right: socialism for banks must end

WHEN George Osborne starts offering more money to poor people, it’s a sure sign the Tories are getting worried. The Chancellor tried to upstage Ed Miliband’s speech on banking reform on Friday by announcing, in advance, that he planned to restore the real-terms value of the national minimum wage by raising it to £7 an … Continue reading

Scrapping corroboration is a populist bridge too far

What is it about sex crime that turns liberal politicians into legal vigilantes? The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is as liberal as they come. He wants to abolish custodial sentences for many crimes; he released on compassionate grounds the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, defying even President Obama; he supports the European Convention on … Continue reading

A rare breed: Scottish pacifists in the First World War.

Article in The Herald I was signing books at the Wigtown Book Festival when a distant relative appeared from nowhere and handed me an old black and white picture of my father and mother’s wedding day that I’d never seen before. Unfortunately, they left before I could thank them properly. Or speak to them, because … Continue reading

Yes-vote roadshow: a sales pitch or a public flogging?

Tony Blair called it his “masochism strategy”. During the run-up to the 2005 General Election campaign, the then PM toured Britain exposing himself to relentless criticism in public forums. It was a kind of atonement for the Iraq war which by then had of course turned into a nightmare. But the PM survived, and went … Continue reading

Dangerous Games at Govan and Grangemouth

I’m not sure that last week’s First Ministers Question Time did a lot to reassure Scots the nation is in sound hands. Labour’s Johann Lamont and Nicola Sturgeon, standing in for Alex Salmond who was in China, turned the indignation meter up to 11 in a finger-jabbing confrontation my granny would have called a stair-heid … Continue reading

Grangemouth – A lot of people would jump at jobs paying £40k a year

Article in The Herald. Grangemouth no more. It’s hard not to hear echoes of the 1980s in the abrupt closure of Scotland’s only petrochemical plant with the loss of 800 jobs. Ravenscraig revisited. Industrial vandalism. Shell-shocked workers leaving factory meetings; self-important union leaders making threats they can’t deliver; attention-seeking politicians making portentous pronouncements that only … Continue reading

For the First Minister’s next trick … can he make independence as popular as he is?

The SNP’s final annual conference before Scotland’s Day of Destiny, as Alex Salmond calls the independence referendum, went rather better than expected. Aware that they risked squandering their main media showcase of the year, ministers unlocked the box marked “November White Paper” and sprung a few policy surprises on energy and the minimum wage. These … Continue reading

SNP should be bold and call pre-referendum convention

IT looks like a hopeless cause. The opinion polls refuse to move. Professor John Curtice’s authoritative polling blog,What Scotland Thinks has been struggling to find anything new to say as survey after survey tells the same story: that Scotland thinks it should vote No. At best, only one-third of Scottish voters support independence – a … Continue reading

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