Mental Wealth

There were two amendments at the Autumn 2018 SNP Conference which I felt moved to speak on:

11. Whole-school approach to mental health provision
Conference acknowledges that 2018 is the Year of Young People and that in partnership with the third sector, the Scottish Government has tasked a group of 22 young people with gathering evidence and offering solutions on how young people’s mental health services in Scotland can be improved.

Conference acknowledges the challenges in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and welcomes the new CAMHS Taskforce, backed with £5 million of investment, to reshape and improve services and ensure that young people have access to support when they need it.

Conference affirms that investment in prevention is crucial if we are to tackle the root causes of mental ill health and notes with concern the Mental Health Foundation’s research that 33% of young people aged 18 to 24 in Scotland have experienced suicidal feelings because of stressful situations while 24% have self-harmed.

Conference believes that teachers need the right training and support to explore emotional wellbeing in schools to help prevent mental ill health from developing and escalating into crisis. Conference therefore backs the Mental Health Foundation’s campaign to create a “whole-school approach” to mental wellbeing by supporting mental health training for all teachers and support staff.


20. Adverse Childhood Experiences

Conference notes that across Scotland there are still many children who are growing up with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a term that covers abuse, physical and emotional neglect and household adversity, the effects of which can cause chronic stress responses and have a lasting impact on children as they grow into adults.

Conference notes research which suggests that generally, but not specifically, instances of ACEs rise with the level of deprivation that a child is living in while understanding that there are no published studies to date of the prevalence specifically of ACEs among the general population of Scotland.

Conference notes what it sees as the benefits of early intervention and addressing ACEs and considers that such an approach has a positive impact on the person as well as society as a whole.

Conference further notes the view that, in order to mitigate against these experiences, a greater understanding must be achieved among policy makers and that focus should lie on prevention, resilience and enquiry and calls upon the Scottish Government to commission an ACE specific study of the Scottish population to determine how many people are affected and what steps can be taken for prevention and healing of ACEs.


I rarely consider speaking at conference, or at all, unless I feel confident in that I have anything relevant to impart and the experience necessary to justify my contribution. This was one of those occasions. I was not called to speak at either motion due to the great number of cards in support – a testament to the necessity and support for the two topics.

Seeing as it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d cobble together the thoughts I had into a post.

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Brave Hearts and Brave Minds

The late Andy Hillhouse’s depiction of Wallace is probably my favourite of them all.

The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no-one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless prince, King and lord, the lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, bore cheerfully toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Maccabaeus or Joshua. Him, too, divine providence, the succession to his right according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our prince and king. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by his right and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

– Declaration of Arbroath

Braveheart is a film which I believe will become important in the history of Scotland. I’m extremely… ambivalent about Mel Gibson’s work, in that I both love it and hate it for several reasons. Yes, I know, it’s “Hollywood not History,” you can’t expect complete fidelity to current understanding of historical events, there are going to be changes for the benefit of modern audiences, et cetera. It’s become something of a potent symbol of the independence cause in Scotland – but strangely, a symbol applied by its critics more often than its supporters. Usually this takes the form of patronising articles that suppose modern independence supporters cannot tell the difference between Medieval and modern politics, that they’re over-emotional softies who let their hearts rule their heads, and that they’ve fallen prey to a Hollywood fantasy version of Medieval Scotland.

For my part, I think Braveheart was about more than Scottish Independence, or about the events of that war, or Wallace himself: it was about the forging and consolidation of national identity.

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… As Ithers See Us: The Most Terrifying Thing H.P. Lovecraft Ever Wrote

It figures that the best Lovecraftian fiction set in Scotland tends to be written by Scots like Cameron Johnston and William Meikle.

The Rose of England

At morn the rosebud greets the sun
And sheds the evening dew,
Expanding ere the day is done,
In bloom of radiant hue;
And when the sun his rest hath found,
Rose-petals strow the garden round!

Thus that blest Isle that owns the Rose
From mist and darkness came,
A million glories to disclose,
And spread BRITANNIA’S name;
And ere Life’s Sun shall leave the blue,
ENGLAND shall reign the whole world thro’!

H.P. Lovecraft, The Scot, No. 14 (October 1916), 7. (Yes, seriously, that HPL writing about the Rose of England in a magazine called The Scot)

Among my many offline projects, one subject I’ve been researching is Scottish Pulp. Scotland has its own rich history with pulp fiction, and the Americas’ ancestral links to the hame country mean there are plenty of stories of Scotland and Scots to be found in the pages of Weird Tales, Astounding Stories, Argosy, Adventure, and beyond.

One recurrent theme: American authors tend to like the Scots and Scotland a lot more than most Scottish authors. Even some of our greatest pulp authors seemed incapable of completely shaking the Cringe, or the more insidious and pathological “Caledonian Antisyzygy.” There are obviously cultural and historic considerations surrounding the age of pulps (two World Wars in particular), but the inferioritists who belittle Scotland and the Scots in fiction do not restrict their disdain to the Scots themselves. Just look at how a film about Scottish history that won 5 Academy Awards, 5 ACCAs, 3 BAFTAs, a Golden Globe, & a Writer’s Guide of America Award (among many others) is viewed by so many (though not, clearly, everyone): the Braveheart effect long predated that film.

Scotland does not have its own distinctive film industry or its own broadcasters, and our theatrical, musical, & literary institutions are heavily dominated by supposed “British” sensibilities to this day. The advent of radio and television broadcasting meant that this “British” culture – one as alien to the vast majority of English people as it was to the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish – could be projected into every household with a transceiver with an immediacy and power impossible with print. Thus, in the 20th Century, we often looked to those creators who are outwith that particular sphere of influence to present an outsider’s interpretation of Scotland and the Scots, be they members of the grand diaspora or not – from Talbot Mundy’s Scottish adventurers and Harold Lamb’s Nial O’Gordon to Diana Gabaldon’s 1990s’ novel (now turned television sensation in the 21st Century) Outlander.

On the other hand, sometimes you get folk like Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

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The Case For Banning Books

Banning books is a terrible thing, so I thought. I’m the sort of guy who still gets upset about the Library of Alexandria, the Maya Codices, and Scotland’s own National Records, so you can imagine how I feel about symbolic desecration of cultural heritage. Even though Ray Bradbury wasn’t thinking of censorship when he wrote Farenheit 451, the power of his narrative made it incredibly applicable – especially since the practise of burning literature still goes on, and many books are still prohibited on the basis that they might be dangerous, especially to those with suggestible minds.

Book banning & burning is a fixture of dystopian literature. After all, if people read subversive books, they may think subversive thoughts. They may find inspiration, even hope, within pages that whichever oppressive regime wants to redact from humanity’s collective consciousness.

But what about when it’s those oppressive regimes who are getting their inspiration from them?

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Dreaming for a Blue Sky

Why is it that humanity is divided into different nations and ethnic groups? It’s because each group has its own mission. We can compare these missions to different colors—there is blue, there is yellow, and there is red. The different colors blend together harmoniously and enhance each other, creating beautiful new colors. In the same way, different ethnic groups have their own missions, and as they accomplish these missions, they help each other and bring about great harmony in the earthly world. However, when human beings enter this physical world, we forget about these heavenly missions, and instead begin to turn against each other. We become selfish, interested only in protecting our own country or group. If our color (mission) is blue, or red, or white, we only want to protect our own blue, or red, or white nation. When we have experienced this to the very limit, we finally realize that it can go on no longer.
– Masahisa Goi, “Be Honest With Yourself,” from Living Like The Blue Sky

Masahisa Goi was born on the 22nd of November in Tokyo. He grew up in a family with nine children, where he pursued his love of arts, literature, and music in his education. He worked his way through school with the aim of becoming a teacher, overcoming ill health and stress through esoteric practises like meditation, yoga, and martial arts. He was working as a cultural activities coordinator at a manufacturing plant when Japan entered the Second World War.

He was 28 years old when Hiroshima was destroyed.

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Nobody Here But Us “Populists”








It’s certainly been a good few years for rubbing your eyes, shaking your head, looking at whatever you were drinking, and then pouring it down the drain.

Because you’d have to be drinking some sort of unspecified purple liquid to think that England & Wales voting to leave the EU was anything but the triumph of what most media and political folk inaccurately label populism, and that the UK is “one of few states in Europe without support for a “populist” party.”

Just like Spain. And Portugal. And Greece. And all the other countries that don’t have a “populism” problem.

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Time To Say Goodbye to the Electric Eye

There was a time when I loved the BBC.

Growing up, there weren’t many opportunities for me to watch live television: for a number of years, we didn’t have a television in the home at all. Therefore whenever we visited friends and family, live telly was a special treat. We’d watch Star Trek with the grandparents – repeats of the original series, and the UK premieres of Star Trek: The Next Generation on BBC2; sometimes we’d catch Dòtaman on days off from school, or City Lights, The High Life, or Red Dwarf if we stayed up late; big events like the Proms and Hogmanay Live were essential viewing. But most of all, I remember the documentaries and current affairs programs – Natural World, Horizon, Panorama – because they were the “adult” programs. As a precocious wee Aly, I was indeed very interested in being very grown up.

Some of our family and friends worked at the BBC, and in the 1990s, I got the opportunity to visit BBC studios with the rest of the family. I couldn’t wait: back then, the BBC felt like one of those wonderlands where ideas and dreams came to fruition. Even though it didn’t have quite as many rides or attractions as Disneyworld or Universal Studios, it was more than enough for me to see all the cameras, the lights, the scurrying crew, the chattering headsets, the flickering monitors with analogue countdowns. This, thought wee Aly, was where they made Jackanory, Blue Peter, Record Breakers, Tomorrow’s World, Natural World, Horizon, The Living Planet, The Trials of Life, Lost Worlds Vanished Lives, and a host of other programs that informed, inspired, and enthralled. Best of all, David Attenborough himself was present! While we never got an opportunity to meet him personally (We did, however, get a chance to meet Philip Schofield, who was as warm and friendly as he was on television) it was amazing enough seeing him as they filmed Going Live! from afar.

The BBC continued to be a positive thing in my life growing up: I’ll never forget when Hartbeat was interrupted with breaking news of a ceasefire in some war off somewhere (much as I wanted to see the rest of Hartbeat, knowing a war was over was good news); seeing the Scottish Parliament opening ceremony; watching that first episode of Walking With Dinosaurs. Then Iraq. Then Hutton. Then the Gaza War. Then fascism. Then the internal scandals.

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