Serious Business

StuAlecBrolly

From Stuart’s site:

Cabinet Secretary Visits Inverclyde Business with Local Candidate

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioner Rights Alex Neil joined SNP candidate for Greenock and Inverclyde Stuart McMillan today to visit Blair’s Windows in Greenock – and both highlighted the positive impact that the Inverclyde firm’s products could have on making homes more secure and cost efficient.

The local  firm has developed a range of product designs of windows and doors safe, long-lasting and far more energy efficient.

SNP Candidate for Greenock and Inverclyde Stuart McMillan commented:

“I was pleased to visit Blair’s with Alex Neil to get a tour of the plant and to have a discussion about their products.

“Blair’s is an important local business in Inverclyde whose products could play a crucial role in the development of the SNP’s plans to build more affordable, safe, quality housing in Scotland.

“Blair’s Windows has a long standing, excellent reputation for the manufacture of timber windows and doors at their plant in Greenock and are members of the Glass and Glazing Federation. Currently, the Greenock plant is involved in developing modern, energy efficient structural windows and doors that are essential in modern homes and commercial buildings.

“The SNP in government has a strong track record on housing – having exceeded our own target to build 30,000 new, affordable homes over the last Parliament and re-started the construction of council housing, with 5000 new council houses.

“A re-elected SNP government will go even further. We have set an ambitious target of delivering at least 50,000 new affordable homes over the course of the next Parliament. Our plans will create 14,000 jobs per annum and deliver a £9bn boost to the economy.

Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil further commented:

“I was delighted to campaign with Stuart today. He’s a strong advocate for Inverclyde and will build on his previous hard work and make a first class constituency MSP.

“The SNP in Government has invested unprecedented amounts of money to eradicating fuel poverty – significantly more than any previous Government in Scotland.

“Since 2009, over half a billion pounds has been allocated to make Scotland’s homes more energy efficient, and over 700,000 of the most vulnerable households in our society have received assistance to help them heat their homes affordably.

“The SNP in Government has also maintained the expenditure available in the budgets that it has under its control, has made available more than £103 million to tackle fuel poverty and energy efficiency in 2016-17.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the response to the supposedly TOP SECRET BACKDOOR DEAL between Chinese investment group SinoFortone, China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group, and the First Minister, which was so secret that it was, erm, promoted by the companies and published in Chinese newspapers, complete with a photo shoot.

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YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO SEE THIS APPARENTLY.

It really says something when the possibility of £10 billion of investment into Scottish infrastructure is met with such open, relentless, baffling hostility by people who are supposed to be looking out for Scotland’s best interests. I can only presume that if any other party was the government, they would reject such a boon for Scotland, given they have a horrendous history with PFI debt, did nothing of consequence about the UK government’s attempted highway robbery of £7 billion from Scotland’s budget, and even sent £1.5 billion back to the UK treasury when they found they had a surplus.

Perhaps this is why hundreds of thousands of No voters are still voting SNP despite their reluctance to support independence – because they know the SNP will do everything in their power to ensure Scotland flourishes, in Union or out.

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EXCLUSIVE: Leaked First Chapter of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

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I’m a bit reluctant to even put pictures of Harry Potter on the blog, so I’m just going to put pictures of other fantasy series which feature wizard education that are well worth reading. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is that rare breed of comic fantasy which not only pokes fun at the conventions of the genre, but furthers it with genuine meaning and creativity.

While J.K. Rowling has never shied from commenting on politics in her personal time, she did not bring it into her fiction for the most part. The infamous “The Other Minister” chapter of Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince was one of the rarer overt intersections between the mundane and the mystical. However, as Harry Potter & The Cursed Child book is set in the year 2017 (19 years after the events of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows) it seemed natural that the more and more politically outspoken Ms Rowling would delve into the political sphere of the Muggle and Wizarding Worlds.

Through the powers of subterfuge, cunning and more than a little luck, I have acquired the first chapter of the upcoming book.

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Saints, Serpentology, and Scottish Independence

James-Connolly

James Connolly, a link between Irish and Scottish self-determination.

It is not long until the centenary of the Easter Rising, the start of a ferocious and bloody conflict which put Ireland on the road to independence. Yet for all the long night of war, pain, and death, within a few years, the sun would rise on an independent Irish people. I have Protestant & Catholic Irish ancestry in my living family, which makes Irish history complicated no matter the occasion. This day, of all days – this year, of all years – I will be reflecting most somberly on the Irish men & women on both sides of the ensuing conflicts, and indeed, on St. Patrick.

St. Patrick’s Day is often reduced to an excuse to get drunk in a caricature of the long, strong traditions of Ireland. Yet the story of St. Patrick – like many a saint – is full of the sort of blood & thunder that would get any Sword-and-Sorcery yarnspinner typing furiously. Indeed, the man’s own legend is full of conflicting tall tales – though some common strands weave through the tales. We can deduce that he was a Romano-Briton born and raised in early Medieval Britain, once called the Dark Ages. At 16, he was kidnapped by Irish reavers and enslaved for six years. Toiling in imprisonment, he took resolve in his burgeoning spirituality. He escaped, travelled two hundred miles to the nearest port, voyaged for three days across the sea, and then embarked upon a spiritual journey… through a “wilderness.”

By his early twenties, he had returned home, and studied the Christian religion. He was thought to have visited Tours and the French Riviera on his studies, and became a missionary. Soon, he returned to the land of his kidnappers, with a Mission in mind. The exact temper of his mission varies from scholar to scholar – Tírechán and Muirchu portray Patrick as a fiery evangelist, engaging in thunderous debates with druids, breaking and toppling pagan icons and sacred stones, and cursing lands & leaders alike. Yet Patrick’s significant work with the poor, the lower classes, and women, suggest a more nuanced approach – perhaps even in conjunction with the spectacular exultations. The legends of Patrick are just as varied: the time he proselyted for so long, the ash walking stick he thrust into the ground to steady him had turned into a tree; his conversations with the spirits of the Fianna; and, of course, the snakes.

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I’d love to have seen Robert E. Howard’s take on St. Patrick (illustrated by Frazetta, natch)

Regardless of the actuality* of Patrick’s expulsion of the serpents, the symbolism of the event – driving evil from the land – is potent. Whether it represents pagan cults, the malign hand of the Auld Enemy, or simply the terrible black abyss that is Evil Itself, it was an act to save – and free – the souls of the people of Ireland.

The Scottish independence movement must drive the snakes from our land – but we are not lucky enough to have external, identifiable ophidians to drive out. No, the snakes we Scots must cast out of Scotland are the psychological snakes in our minds. Vipers and cobras poison our blood with self-doubt and reluctance; asps and adders corrode our nerves and resolve; constrictors and pythons strangle our hearts & ambitions. When we free ourselves from those snakes – apathy, resentment, fear, cringe – then we can free our nation.

You know what to do. Grab those snakes by their loathesome tongues, and hurl them to the depths of the sea. It’s what Pádraig would’ve wanted.

*At least, as we understand it…

See No “Wee,” Hear No “Poor,” Speak No “Stupid”

ThreeWiseMonkeys

Behold the Three Wise Monkeys, the Mystic Apes of Eastern thought. Mizaru, who covers his eyes, “sees no evil.” Kikazaru, who covers his ears, “hears no evil.” Iwazaru, who covers his mouth, “speaks no evil.” In its original context, it was a proverb, a maxim by which to lead one’s life according to propriety – to prevent evil from corrupting a healthy mind. In modern times, a new meaning has developed – a warning against shielding oneself from external evils to the detriment of others. Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, and being silent in the cause of righteousness. There is a certain appropriateness in such a change in meaning from a Chinese philosophical perspective: seeing, hearing and speaking no evil being both good and bad for humanity.

There’s a similar duality at play with the infamous phrase “too wee, too poor, too stupid,” and its variations. It is most often repeated as a mantra by independence supporters as a shorthand characterisation of the perceived arguments of union supporters – that Scotland is too small, impoverished, and incapable to succeed as an independent nation. It has since been used against independence supporters by unionists who seek to characterise them as poor debaters more interested in knocking down strawmen than engaging with the real arguments.

The central argument from unionists is that no-one who advocated a No vote has ever used the phrase “too wee, too poor, too stupid.” It was John Swinney, you see, who made the phrase popular as a paraphrase of the more cynical fear-based mantra against Scottish independence. You would think that people would understand that Mr Swinney was not saying that the phrase was a verbatim quotation from the mouth of Alistair Darling or another Better Together champion – but apparently not. If nobody ever said that Scotland was “too wee, too poor, too stupid” in those exact words, then the Nats have completely made it up, and the sentiment behind it is meaningless.

Semantics, eh?

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Still Not Over It

As the SNP continue to dominate in the polls leading up to the Scottish elections, the Nevers’ butter-fingered grasp on political reality becomes more and more frenzied. They truly seem to believe that their views and that of the rest of the 55% recorded in the official result are identical. They seem to think everyone who voted No despises the SNP as much as they do. They seem to think everyone who was recorded as voting No was voting “Never.”

And so we have lunacy like Tom Gallagher actually suggesting that David Cameron campaigning in Glasgow would be a pretty grand idea:

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“Cameron should magisterially progress down Glasgow.” Glasgow. The third highest Yes-voting constituency. A city where the Prime Minister’s party achieved a paltry 6.9% of the vote across 7 constituencies, where the SNP achieved 55%.* He thinks the Tory Prime Minister parading down a city street “showing folk who’s in charge” would play well. In Glasgow.

Midvale School for the Gifted

Bless you, Gary Larson.

But this sort of wilful myopia is not restricted to commentators such as Mr Gallagher – it is a malady rampant among sections of the Scottish news & media.

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About Next Week

No Independence DayIs it any wonder the UK is so opposed to Scottish independence when the UK’s one of the only “nations” in the world not to have a national day?

Yesterday was Gibraltar National Day, where the people of Gibraltar asserted their Britishness. It took place on the anniversary of the Gibraltar Sovereignty Referendum, where the Gibraltarians decided they are not, never were, and never will be Spanish.

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Today is Diada Nacional de Catalunya, the Catalonians’ national day. Where Gibraltar’s day is dedicated to keeping their sovereignty in the hands of a larger power, Catalonia’s is a sombre remembrance of the day the Catalonians surrendered their sovereignty unwillingly – the anniversary of the Fall of Barcelona, and subsequent loss of Catalonian sovereignty.

The UK, on the other hand, is distinctive for not having a national day at all. While most countries in the world have independence days – mostly because they had lost their independence at one point, and fought to reassert their sovereignty – there are several which have national days of unification, like Romania, France, and Germany. Yet the UK does not.*

It is not through want of trying – Liam Byrne made a heroic attempt, as have Lord Goldsmith, Gordon Brown, and the DCMS – yet none have appeared thus far. Surely it is time to address this anomaly, this injustice, and finally acknowledge One Nation Britain?

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There is no failure except in no longer trying

(This is the toughest article I’ve ever written, and likely going to be fairly controversial. But I feel extremely strongly about this. I am positive many readers are going to disagree with it, perhaps some may even be offended, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had such a profound disagreement with others who share the desire for Scottish independence, but I simply must get this all out or I think I might blow a fuse. If nothing else, it’s at least worthwhile to bring it up in the interests of debate)

There’s a trend going about right now in pro-independence circles: “we’re not ready for another referendum.” Certainly former SNP leader Gordon Wilson, who saw fit to offer damning criticisms of the Yes campaign thinks so:

“Support for independence is falling, indeed sunk to 43 per cent. It would be a strategic error to commit to a referendum until you know you are going to win. It will take a lot of character to resist the calls from enthusiastic but inexperienced new members or even those experienced hands who raise the matter prematurely. That is the mark of political leader.”

“The SNP should adopt a medium term strategy. Serious research on currency, pensions and economic growth – all significantly missing from last year’s effort – is necessary.”

I agree with some of Mr Wilson’s assessments, but there are many I disagree with. I found it rather cheeky when he criticized Yes Scotland’s passion, vigour and reluctance to embrace its own “Scottishness,” for example. All I can say is, with respect, he’s the former SNP leader – there’s a reason for that.

There’s this troubling air of uncertainty, of treading carefully, of not biting off more than we can chew. “We need to reflect on why we lost the last one.” “We have to take it slowly.” “We have to be cautious.” “We can’t risk everything on what will certainly be our last chance.” “We’re not ready yet.” “Beware.” Intelligent people whose opinions I respect greatly are urging we not rush into a second referendum before we’re ready, arguing that if we went for another one now or in the not too distant future, we would lose.

This is far too close to the language of the No campaign for me.

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The Wheels of Inevitability

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“The most dangerous ideas are not those that challenge the status quo. The most dangerous ideas are those so embedded in the status quo, so wrapped in a cloud of inevitability, that we forget they are ideas at all.”
Jacob M. Appel, Phoning Home: Essays

With Holyrood and Westminster in recess, political journalists are scrabbling for news, any news, to fill the pages. So when the former leader of the SNP – fresh off both personal success as part of 56 MPs and collective success in seeing support for his party rise and rise – notes something the Scottish (and British) public are already saying, it is classified as shocking, scandalous, and requires immediate clarification. A political party whose entire existence is based on campaigning for independence continues to campaign for independence. Stop the presses!

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Poke, Poke, Poke…

Yes, that's Private "Och" Aye. They just cannae help themselves.

Yes, that’s Private “Och” Eye. That’s how they’re covering the issue published in the final weeks of the most important referendum in the United Kingdom’s history. Because those Jocks, they always say “Och Aye,” don’t they? “Och Aye the Noo,” isn’t it? They just cannae help themselves.

Speaking of the news, I had a skim over the latest Private Eye. I noticed Dave McEwan Hill got a letter published rightly chastising Eye for calling many of the SNP MPs “Braveheart dreamers, useless time-servers and local authority drongos” in the previous issue. So naturally, instead of sucking it up and acknowledging they were being a tad insulting in calling SNP MPs naive idealists, worthless wastes of time, or political no-hopers – you know, like grown ups – they put Dave’s letter in a column headed “Even more thin-skinned than UKIPPers…” The irony of petulantly acknowledging criticism with a passive-aggressive title like that while calling someone else “thin skinned” seems lost on them.

I guess Private Eye feels it’s allowed to say whatever they like about whoever they like with impunity, because they’re a satirical magazine. But if you say it’s unfair for them to characterise elected officials as naieve, useless or drongos, then you’re being unreasonable.

This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t have “Auld McSparky” (the “cute” Scotchified handle of Old Sparky whenever he talks about Scottish energy – would he call himself “Ord Spalki” when talking about Chinese energy issues, or “Mohammed Al-Sparkeh” for Pakistan?) perpetuating the old “Scotland is heavily subsidised by the UK” myth and the newer “oil price is 1/10th what Alex Salmond predicted” misconception – though at this point, calling them “myth” and “misconception” rather than “slur” and “flat out lie” is probably being overly generous.

Again I feel the need to point out how much I appreciate Private Eye, even if I can’t bring myself to buy it anymore. It started off with a belter about the Chancellor’s RBS sell-off, and just about everything that doesn’t regard Scotland is usually top-notch, so far as I could see. The problem is that Private Eye is not operating in a vaccuum: the SNP are constantly attacked from all corners of the media, from the press to television, from all the Westminster parties, from big business and beyond. They’re not saying anything new, or unique, or ground-breaking: they’re just another wasp buzzing around nipping at the SNP, and too often, that spills over into anti-Scottishness.

Again, this is not because I believe the SNP and Scots are synonymous, or even the SNP and the independence movement – it’s because criticisms of the SNP too often throw Scots under the bus in their desire to get at Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon. Hence they couldn’t resist calling Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh a “Scot on the make,” Old Sparky gives himself a shortbread tin makeover when spouting nonsense about Scotland’s energy, and all the jokey stuff in the back can’t help but make comparisons to Braveheart or Trainspotting or Brigadoon or whatever piece of Pop Scotch comes to mind. And when this comes within memory of some of the most outrageous statements, accusations and editorials, it isn’t a case of having a thin skin – it’s a case of being fed up with the nonsense we’ve put up with for too long.

We’re getting along fine without Private Eye in Scotland: we have our own champions taking the media, government and business world to account. But England and Wales needs them more than ever: they owe it to themselves to better themselves.

No Regrets

For the umpteenth time, Bella Caledonia has issued an olive branch to No voters, inviting them to explain themselves:

As we stagger about the burnt-out shell that is post-indyref Scotland, we are trying to make sense of it all. So next week we are offering a space for No voters to have their say.

Understanding what the hell just happened before we all disappear for Christmas Pudding and box-set bliss is important – so we’ll be giving over space to allow No voters to express themselves now we are three months on.

If you voted No – what do you think and feel now?

You might want to apologise. You might feel vindicated. You might have realised you were being lied to all the time. Does the oil price prove we would have been an economic basketcase? Or does the pensions revelations prove that propaganda won? Did the Vow wow you?

Whether you changed your mind or feel it was the right thing to do, we want to hear from you.

Best of luck to Bella, it’s very magnanimous of them. But I’ve spent enough time being accommodating to No voters.

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