An interesting take on Scottish, UK and international politics that hopefully stimulates a little debate on topics where there is too little debate.



The Nine Billion Dollar Question

The Paralympics may only have begun a few days ago but already we have seen some fantastic athletes do astonishing things. A personal favourite has been the final of the mens T42 200m final. The T42 classification is for athletes who are single above the leg amputees. What made this special for me was that the winner, GB’s Richard Whitehead, is a double leg amputee.

Richard Whitehead is better known as a marathon runner but there is no classification for him in the marathon event at the Paralympics. He has adapted to 200m in the higher T42 race which means he starts with a disadvantage before he begins. Without knees he is slower off the blocks than the others and, through choice, his prosthetics are less advanced. Given all of this and all of the talk at the Games that those countries with the best equipment win most, Richard Whitehead glided to gold.

His fantastic achievement did not, however, hide the glaring difference between this race and the men’s 200m final at the Olympics: the Paralympic race was dominated by rich western countries. By my rough calculations the total GDP of the countries competing in the Paralympic race was over $27 billion, and of those in the Olympic final it was just over $18 billion: a $9 billion opportunity gap.

The Olympic men’s 200m final was itself one of the highlights of the games with Usain Bolt taking gold and Jamaica taking all three podium places. By contrast, Jamaica only has three athletes at the Paralympics and none competing in either the 200 or 100 metre races. Why is there this massive gap in opportunity?

Given the way Richard Whitehead won, it’s hard to answer this by saying it is a simple equipment gap. Funding and sporting opportunity must have a massive role. The answer will not be easy but we must find it and work to reduce the gap.

I believe those of us in more prosperous countries have duty to promote disability rights globally and expand sporting opportunity for all. The ability of Paralympic sport to inspire us all cannot be underestimated.



Just remembered this little video I made during the 2010 General Election. It seems like finally Eric Joyce’s time has come. Demand his resignation now so the people of Falkirk can get the sort of MP that they deserve!



"Post hoc ergo propter hoc"

jim murphy

SNP praised Ireland’s competitive tax rates, their VAT now hiked to 23%; not such a good idea now? #NoAnswersfromSNP.

While Alex Salmond is in China building diplomatic and trade links, Fiona Hyslop is not long back from the US and Canada building cultural links and Stewart Stevenson has been in South Africa highlighting Scotland’s world leading climate change legislations: Jim Murphy MP is sneering at Ireland’s economic misfortune. No wonder he never stood for leader of the Scottish Labour Party - that’s not leadership. 


The ‘question’ he poses could be put another way:

Jim Murphy praised the UK’s economic policy under Labour, UK VAT now hiked to 20%; not such a good idea now? #NoAnswersfromJimMurphy.


I’m pretty sure that he, like me, would not see Labour’s tax and spend policies during their time in government as justification for the Tories hike in VAT. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: low corporation taxes were not the cause of Ireland’s economic problems just because they came before the fall. Indeed, evidence showed that before the current economic crisis, low corporation tax helped boost Irish economic growth and actually boosted tax revenue.


Unfortunately Jim Murphy is not interested in engaging in a serious debate about Scotland’s economy: he is only interested in distracting attention from the Scottish Government’s plan for nearly £13 billion worth of investment in large infrastructure projects.  What else would you expect from Labour? There Scottish leadership campaign has, however, highlighted their number one policy – if the SNP is for it, we’re against it. 







Emotionally intense images of retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis - who has joined the #OccupyWallStreet protests - being arrested by the NYPD.

Captain Lewis has been outspoken against the NYPD’s wrongful use of violence against peaceful protesters.

From what I have seen, Ray Lewis’ conduct defines honor, bravery, and dignity.

There is a media blackout on images of his participation in the protest, and on his arrest:


It’s proved impossible for me to get this shot of former Philadelphia Police Cpt. Ray Lewis being arrested, published anywhere.  I was adamantly rebuffed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, NYT, local NY papers, and Newsweek, before even looking at the photograph.  One of the only published photos of this paradoxical and intense event is located here at the NYC Observer:

Make this viral and they will come.

Ray Lewis gets 2 posts this morning, because this needs to be seen. I’m not even sure why, but this pair of photos made me cry hysterically.

oh my god. so much props to this man. this country has turned into utter fucking insanity. 

when the police are arresting one of their own…

Ok Republican America, you tell me how THIS^^ guy is just another “dirty hippy that needs to get a job”.



“ The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie… but the myth, …the cliches of our forebears… the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought…

President John F. Kennedy, 1962. Just watched Diomhair, a BBC Alba documentary on how successive UK Government’s have lied and hid the truth in order to undermine the argument for Scottish independence. To this day, unionists play on fear, myths and cliches to fight independence: this quote from JFK has never been more prescient. 



Labours 5 Point Plan for Jobs

Labour have announced a 5 point plan to create jobs and Margaret Curran has launched a tartan version. The ‘PlanMcBrit’ has only one point within the current powers of the Scottish Government which in itself is interesting. But the point itself is a contradiction in terms: it calls on the Scottish Government to increase capital expenditure on infrastructure projects AND increase funding for colleges.

Muddled seems to sum up Scottish Labours thinking just now. The Scottish Government is set to see a 36% cut in it’s capital budget by 2014 but has vowed to continue increasing this in order to support economic growth. In order to do this it has in part moved money from day to day spending to capital budgets. So where is the extra money for more college funding going to come from? Scottish Labour cannot have its cake and eat it. If it has a secret plan to find money for extra spending in Scotland why doesn’t it share it with us all?

Of course, if we had the increased borrowing powers the Scottish Government is calling for (or ffa or independence) this wouldn’t be such a problem. Don’t hold my breath on Margaret Curran acknowledging this anytime soon though.



Wee country with a big voice or part of a big country with a wee voice?


President Obama is in Australia this week and the talk is of the shift in the axis of world influence to the Pacific. However, the real story should be his comments on the crisis in the Eurozone and how this signals a realignment of influence in Europe. In particular he praised Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy for their effort to resolve the Eurozone crisis. Indeed, this shift was acknowledged by the Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf who said in relation to the crisis:

"The time for too little, too late has passed. What is needed, instead, is ‘too much, right now’. Power brings responsibility. Germany alone has the power. It is up to it to exercise the responsibility"

From the appointments of EU technocrats as Prime Ministers of Italy and Greece and the role Germany played in developments in these countries, we can further confirm Germany is in the driving seat of the EU. Angela Merkel made it clear at her party conference this week the direction of travel she wants to take the Europe: “The task of our generation now is to complete the economic and currency union in Europe and, step by step, create a political union”. Little by little, the falacy of UK influence at ‘the top table’ is being eroded, as the Tory-led UK Government further isolate us from the centre of gravity.

The Government in London seem perfectly happy for this state of affairs to continue, the more aloof we remain from Europe, the happier their backbenchers. Douglas Alexander, Shadow Foreign Secretary has accused the Government of ” a tendency to empty chair those meetings that seem to be on the periphery of our interest”. Whilst UK Ministers are in the building but not in the room, Scottish Ministers are battering the doors down to no avail. In her speech to the SNP Conference Elin Jones AM (an impressive candidate for leadership of Plaid Cymru) talked of her experience as Welsh Agriculture Minister and of how she and Richard Lochhead (her Scottish counterpart) would often have to fight with UK civil servants to even sit in the second row at EU meetings. The low regard with which the UK Government holds the EU is only matched by the passion of Scottish Ministers to stand up for Scotland in Europe.

In David Cameron’s speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet this week, his pandering to the right-wing Daily Mail-esque set was summed up in his blast at the EU: ”It’s the pointless interference, rules and regulations that stifle growth not unleash it.” Rather than reinforce the UK’s committment to the EU and attempt to bring public opinion on side, this serves only to reinforce the negative assumptions the public already have about the EU. In fact, for all it’s faults, the EU does a lot of good. Some examples of community laws currently being scrutinised by the UK Parliament include: a regulation to enfore the UN Firearms Protocol; a directive to create a single portal of business registers across Europe; and a Commission Report on animal testing for cosmetics. Not exactly Eurocrats gone wild? Furthermore, the EU also spends money right here in Scotland to create jobs and support businesses. As Alyn Smith MEP welcomed two days ago, €1.9 million is set to be spent in Scotland business spaces and community hubs, potentially creating 76 jobs. There are many areas of the EU that are not perfect but there are far more advantages to membership that disadvantages.

Reform of the EU is the real myth of UK politics, every politician likes to say ‘the EU must reform’ but very few can, or do, ever acheive this. David Cameron peddled this line in his speech this week, calling the Eurozone crisis “An opportunity, in Britain’s case, for powers to ebb back instead of flow away”. It should be pointed out at this point that the EU only as power over economic matters, specifically trade, competition, agriculture, fisheries etc. In terms of foreign affairs and defence it is only a conduit for cooperation of soveriegn nation states. So what powers does David Cameron want back? On this point politicians are particularly vague, none more so than those in Government. Moreover, how would you get these powers back? David Cameron need look no further than his Deputy Prime Minister who made a rare valid point in his speech to the European Parliament earlier this month:

"[I] feel that it is right to caution against returning to the EU’s founding texts without first seeing if we can meet these objectives through other means. Our priorities are stability and growth – and they are urgent.

To sit around tables for months on end, agonising over this article or that one, becoming engulfed in endless institutional introspection, would be a huge political distraction from the economic task at hand.”

For the first time in a long time “I agree with Nick”. We only have to look at the failed EU Constitution project and the lengthy (and costly) Treaty of Lisbon that was born from the ashes to realise that reform isn’t easy. The problem is there seems to be a growing Eurosceptism across all three main UK parties so the call for reform and repatriation is becoming louder, just as the current crisis makes it even less likely.

Reform, however, is not what is on the lips of Scottish politicians. Instead we have a pointless argument over whether an independent Scotland would even be a member. I say pointless for two reasons: firstly there is no legal precendant for this particular form of enlargment; and secondly there is no logical reason whatever the legal position, for Scotland not to have expedited membership. Nonetheless, let’s leave this argument to the lawyers and begin to debate what sort of member we want to be.

As the mythical power and influence of the UK ebbs away, the case has never been stronger for Scotland to be a wee country with a big voice and not part of a big country with a wee voice.

I welcome all comments and suggestions below. Let’s have a serious conversation about Scotland in Europe, not a distracting discussion on the legalities of membership.



The Referendum Debate: State of Play

A quick glance at the Scottish Politics pages tells us that the debate over the independence referendum is alive and kicking. George Osborne has said ‘uncertainty’ over the referendum is damaging investment in the economy and Ruth Davidson is on message with her ‘colleague’ George, questioning Scotland’s future membership of the EU. Even Brian Taylor is blethering about the legality of the referendum. But that’s just the problem: the debate is over the referendum not independence. 

This is exactly where masochistic Unionist politicians want the debate to be: they failed at stopping a referendum, now they’ll try to discredit it by any means. Masochistic because in order to discredit the process, they are in danger of making themselves sound relentlessly negative. Just a quick look at the Twitter accounts of Tom Harris MP and Lord Foulkes shows just how obsessed they have become. This dog-whistle politics does them no favours and is not the path back to government, far less winning a no vote in the referendum. Tom Harris’s already slim chances of becoming Labour leader seem to fade with every nationalist baiting Tweet: it’s unstatesmanlike and it’s getting embarrassing. I must add, however, that Anas Sarwar has shown that this negativity will not necessarily be the future of Labour politics.

I must be sounding like broken record now but it’s not to late for us all to raise our game. 



Another picture “Wot I Made”. Winnie Ewing is a legend because in spite of the support and popularity she had in the SNP and outwith, she never sought high office, she remained a ferociousness constituency parliamentarian. It seems appropriate to mention her just now soon after Eilidh Whiteford MP made her complaint against Ian Davidson MP. Winnie wasn’t welcome at Westminster in 1967 as the only Scottish Nationalist, least of all a Scottish Nationalist woman. 


Another picture “Wot I Made”. Winnie Ewing is a legend because in spite of the support and popularity she had in the SNP and outwith, she never sought high office, she remained a ferociousness constituency parliamentarian. It seems appropriate to mention her just now soon after Eilidh Whiteford MP made her complaint against Ian Davidson MP. Winnie wasn’t welcome at Westminster in 1967 as the only Scottish Nationalist, least of all a Scottish Nationalist woman. 



Scotland Will be a Force for Good in the World

At school they often make you study dated and archaic poetry. But some poetry has an affect on you that makes it stick with you. Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen is one of those poems for me. The language in the last paragraph still creates such a strong, harrowing image in my mind. It reminds us that war is something to be avoided at all costs, for it is only ever a waste of innocent lives. Our armed forces are not something to be remembered for two minutes once a year, their contribution to the history of our nation is not represented by a piece of red paper on a pin. We must honour their memory by fighting against aggression across the world but not by resorting to rifles.

I believe that our best opportunity to do this is by Scotland standing alone as a force for good in the world. Not as part of a nation that still sees itself as a superpower, to take a phrase I’ve heard Kenny MacAskill use in the context of crimninal justice “tooled up, rammed up and ready to go”. That is not the nation I want to live in, that is not the Scotland I believe we are. 

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.