Nationalists 'give up' on 2010 referendum
by David Maddox
SENIOR figures within the SNP have privately accepted that their hopes of securing a referendum on independence in 2010 are dead, The Scotsman can reveal. While SNP MSPs are still pushing publicly for a vote, there is a growing acceptance in the party hierarchy that none of the Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat opposition parties will support a poll before the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2011.
Since this 'story' is of no advantage whatsoever to the SNP and in effect seems to be an attempt to take the pressure of the Liberal Democrats, it seems highly unlikely that any genuine spokesman of the SNP would have authorised it.
I reckon its a work of fiction by the Scotsman and the SNP should make it clear that this speculation does not represent its actual view. Why let the Lib Dems and Labour off the hook now when both are clearly split on the referendum issue? What sense does it make to attempt to declare a coalition deal before any elections? It makes no sense whatsoever.
The Scotsman should be aware that its actual job is to REPORT the news, not to try and set the news agenda by fabricating statements from the SNP that fit its own agenda.
This is a new low even for this rag.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Nationalists 'give up' on 2010 referendum
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This is a bit outside the normal preoccupations of this blog but I thought I would share it with you all anyway. I managed to get my first tutor marked assessment done today so I am quite pleased. This isn't related btw, it is a posting/review to my OU group.
I thought I might share with the group a recent experience of reading a novel which indicates to me personally what might be achievable when writing.
I had a transatlantic phone call some time ago with my brother in Virginia. He mentioned that he had recently seen the film ‘The Remains of the Day’ with Anthony Hopkins. I think he might have said he had watched it again, because I seem to remember him talking about it before.
“It’s a wonderful film” he said. “Hopkins is fantastic in it, he subtlely seems to portray a sort of reserved inner sorrow. Emma Thompson is wonderful as well.”
He said more of course than this, but such is my memory of the incident.
“Oh yes,” I said “I have the book. I think you mentioned it before, I’ll have to see it sometime.”
At that point I meant to obtain the film and indeed I might have, or I may have just seen the trailer. I can think of the characters, and I can think of a number of incidents from it however I have just read the book and now I am no longer sure!
I had been to an interview yesterday. It was for a job I have always wanted and my preparation was quite intense. I have no idea if I will be successful, certainly I hope so but it is the nature of interviews to be confusing and I have my doubts. The field was cut from sixty two to ‘twelve strong candidates’, all of whom are being interviewed and one out of twelve is not the best odds!
Anyway, that doesn’t really have much bearing on my story, however I was lying in bed, sweating a bit, the temperature seemed to have changed and I turned my pillow as it was wet. Sharon was turning over, and said sleepily:
“Are you all right?”
“I think I’ll get up”, I said “I feel a bit restless.”
I had actually been lying awake for some time mulling things over, the past interview and other related ideas.
Anyway I jumped up, pulled on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and wandered through to the living room. There I sat and looked around and my eye was drawn to the book ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.
I took it down from the bookcase. I had bought it some time ago from a second hand shop for a few pounds. Perhaps it was before seeing the movie, perhaps it was afterwards, I only know that for a while as I read the book the faces of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson would swim into mind as I read the dialogue.
I’ll give it a go I thought, as I settled onto the couch, I was intrigued by the subject matter and that the writer was of Japanese origin, given that the story is about the inner machinations of an English butler.
[Strangely enough I reached this point in writing and suddenly stopped, I thought I’ll just read my emails! I think this would have interrupted my flow fatally so I will carry on regardless! The emails can wait.]
The story is of a butler named Stevens and his relationship with his employer and fellow staff in a large English mansion from the 1920’s onwards. Stevens prides himself on his professionalism and his decorum, his essential ‘dignity’ which he believes marks him out as a true gentleman’s gentleman. On a road trip to meet up with an old colleague Stevens looks back at his time in service and reflects on his life and his theories about being a great butler.
He relates his story in the first person and we gradually realise that in amongst his colourful reminiscences there is more than meets the eye. How this is revealed is very subtle and the descriptions of the surrounding characters are quite extraordinarily well done.
Stevens’s father in particular is very ably portrayed. He is an uptight emotionless man who nonetheless Stevens is tremendously proud of and who he imitates, to his own folly. Stevens relates one incident in particular which gives the audience a measure of his father’s character and it is perhaps my favourite part of the book, relying as it does on action to illustrate the man.
There are many such moments however. I started the book in the early hours of this morning and I had finished it by about 11am with a break of a few hours sleeping in between.
The quality of the prose is really quite lovely and the only thing to touch it to my mind is George MacDonald’s Fraser’s ‘Mr American’. That novel is very different but it is also beautifully written with a tug of nostalgia towards a forgotten age (in this case the American west) and is superior in my mind to his wildly successful ‘Flashman’ novels, even though I do rather enjoy them as well.
The Remains of the Day contains timeless themes, of love, of regrets, of a sense of wasted opportunities and it really is a quite marvellous novel. On the face of it Stevens is a blinkered fool and his boss is a deluded Nazi puppet, but when one understands the background to their characters a much more complex picture emerges.
Stevens’s employer, Lord Darlington, can’t quite understand anti German feeling. He sees the Germans as honourable foes who were harshly treated after World War one was over. So far so good, but later he extends this sympathy and sense of decency towards the later German state and fails to realise the real threat that Hitler poses.
[Another film which covers similar themes of war, honour and modernity and is also quite fantastic is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’. All their films are superb but Blimp is particularly satisfying.]
Stevens’s convictions that “great affairs must be left to great men” is entirely outside what we believe to be correct in the modern age. His class bound ethos blinds him to the poor treatment he receives personally and to the faults of his employer while his emotionless behaviour restricts his life. Stevens’s father works in the same household and their attitudes to each other are revealing.
Nonetheless, he does appear to have a great personal dignity (many of the people he meets on his travels mistake him for a landed gentleman himself) and we sympathise with his behaviour because we can see that the son has followed in the footsteps of the father. Stevens is a real character and his actions are utterly consistent with that character. He is completely and utterly believable and he holds the entire novel together.
It occurs to me that this is what we should aspire to as writers. To create a work which is utterly gripping, which may be quite outside our normal experience, but nonetheless is recognisably authentic on both an emotional and practical level.
The amount of research that must have gone into this book has to have been absolutely tremendous yet it flows effortlessly and there is not a word within it that seems to be superfluous. Little nuggets of humour add to the whole experience. It is a quite tremendous feat and even if we don’t achieve such heights ourselves nonetheless the example provided here is very inspiring.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
IN THE basement screening room of a New York hotel, a small group of international journalists – Scots, Russians, Japanese, Germans and Australians – is waiting for Mel Gibson to arrive. We've just watched Braveheart (a Blu-ray version will be released on 2 November, exactly 15 years after the original), witnessing Gibson's William Wallace slashing and burning his way through English subjugation and straight into the heart of Scotland's iconography.
Mel's interview is interesting. He doesn't add much to the story that we don't already know but Scottish nationalism undoubtedly owes his film a debt of gratitude of some sort.
Not because it was historically accurate (it wasn't, the battle of Stirling Bridge, is missing er... a bridge) but because it raised the profile of William Wallace Scotland's greatest historic hero who laid the way for Robert Bruce's ultimate victory at Bannockburn.
Is that still relevant? Yes, because if we had been beaten then, then the union would have been brought forward by 400 years and it wouldn't have been a union but a total annexation. We might now be sitting in a country called England.
The viewpoints at the end are disappointing, my remarks are in brackets:
Viewpoint Pat Kane: Musician and writer
Is Scottish independence worth it if its narrative is face-painted blue, bares its collective arse at all critics, dreams fondly of its own guerrilla movement and renders the English as collectively either doltish, sadist or effete?
(Yes, independence is worth it no matter what any film says and to imagine that the film in any way reflects modern Scottish nationalism is both absurd and ridiculous. It's a piece of entertainment and yes it reflects a crude sense of humour at times but so what? The political boost was raising awareness of our history and historical figures. Yes at times in our history Scots had to fight to gain independence. Without that win, there would have been no Declaration of Arbroath and possibly less civil rights around the world. For the first time Scotland said, we are in charge, not the King. Considering the times it was declared this is utterly remarkable.)
Every time the SNP does one of its dumb appropriations of Mel Gibson's neo-fascist tartan epic, even an independence supporter like me sinks lower in his chair.
Gibson has subsequently shown himself to be one of the weirder Hollywood movie-makers, seemingly in love with blood sacrifice, one way or another. Isn't it time we consigned the brutal dualisms of this movie to the dustbin of Scottish memory?
It's no surprise that European and American neo-Nazis take it as an inspiration. And as Scottish independence – if and when it comes – will be a matter of mastering the complexities of politics, law and economics, the last thing we need is the stench of Gibson's macho and xenophobic version of national liberation in our nostrils. Sorry, compatriots: Braveheart no more.
(To compare today with any historical movie is absurd, and it is just a film, after all. Let's remember that the real William Wallace was fighting for Scotland in very different times and he actually died for our nation. Mel's film might not entirely reflect the man but it does offer a moving tribute to his spirit. It deserves some respect for that.)
Viewpoint T M Devine: Sir William Fraser professor of Scottish history and palaeography, University of Edinburgh
One thing is certain, the movie has dramatically raised Scotland's international profile and place on the world map, for good or for ill. The Wallace Monument at Stirling, for decades neglected and virtually ignored, is now one of the nation's star tourist attractions. drawing visitors from across the globe. Americans may be still uncertain about where Scotland actually is, but they do know it is the land of Braveheart, which has now become as famous a part of the Scottish iconography
Then there is the extraordinary impact of Braveheartism in Europe. Scottish festivals abroad have become a veritable growth industry, booming from almost zero activity in 1990, from Moscow to Amsterdam. An event in the German city of Leipzig draws nearly 20,000 people annually. For the first time, in 2007 thousands of Russian 'Scots' paraded in full Highland dress in front of the Kremlin. The most recent count suggests that there are now at least 160 of these fantasy events scattered across Europe.
Not all this of this has come about only because of Braveheart, but who can deny that the movie has done much to renew the remarkable world-wide romantic appeal of a fictitious Scotland. Mel as the successor to Ossian and Scott?
Viewpoint Neil Davidson
Senior research fellow, University of Strathclyde
Freedom is a noble thing, but what kind freedom did Braveheart offer us? In a telling scene, Edward I throws his son's gay lover to his death. Edward is the pantomime villain – he hates Scots and gays: boo, hiss. But here's the point; the scene is played for laughs, and the audience does laugh.
As this suggests, the politics of the film are those of the right-wing, rifle-wielding backwoodsmen who think Barack Obama is a Kenyan commie and the NHS exists to kill your granny. Is this the kind of freedom we want for Scotland?
(So one scene means the whole film represents modern American politics right down to their current views on the NHS? Mr Davidson hates Scots independence, that is his political agenda.)
The film famously ends on the eve of Bannockburn, but long before then, before Wallace's death even, the Wars of Independence had become a struggle to see which gang of French-speaking, Latin-writing feudal banditti would exploit the Scottish peasantry. "Our" side won: fantastic. But freedom? As the Eagles used to sing: that's just people talking.
(It's a strange type of Scot that couldn't care less who won at Bannockburn. Yes 'our side' won, Scotland!)
Viewpoint Hannah McGill
Director, Edinburgh International Film Festival
Braveheart's position in Scottish film culture is as wobbly as Mel Gibson's on-screen accent. It has more sentimentally invested in the idea of Scottishness than any other film, but its own racial profile is notoriously all over the place: Australian star/director, American screenwriter, English leading lady and – most controversially of alI – some Irish locations.
(I think it's international flavour is actually its greatest strength. I don't think anyone else would have made it, it needed an Australian to look at Scotland's past and see the potential for a blockbuster.)
So, is it invalid as an icon of Scottish cinema? Not if you view it as what it is: one of the few big, fat, populist films to take Scotland as a subject, and as cross-bred, cobbled together, cynical and inconsistent as big fat populist films almost always are. Along with its more obviously 'authentic' contemporary, Rob Roy, Braveheart lent Scotland a presence in Hollywood as an inspiration and as a location. If Ireland got some temporary business out of Braveheart, Scotland – for better or worse – got its own permanent movie myth.
(I think this probably genuinely sums up the impact of Braveheart, certainly it helped put Scotland on the map internationally. It had obvious flaws but most big budget blockbuster films do. It also had confidence however and was unambiguous in supporting Scots independence. Something no film did before or since. I find the only people who really detest the film are British nationalists who would prefer no-one had ever heard of William Wallace and would prefer Scotland had no voice on the international stage at all. JOE)
British Conservative leader David Cameron's remarks again show his party's irrelevance to Scotland. If Alex Salmond and by extension the SNP are "irrelevant" to a British general election then this shows up the fact that Scotland does not count within the current setup.
The SNP are currently Scotland's most popular party. They won the last Scottish election and the last Euro elections with the largest share of the popular vote. The Tories on the other hand have one MP in Scotland and might soon have zero. The SNP however could realistically under FPTP increase their numbers to 20-30 seats.
That makes the SNP a huge player in Scotland. If David Cameron continues to push this line then what he is actually saying is that no party in Scotland counts and that whatever way we vote does not matter in a UK election.
If that is so then the only logical option for Scots is independence, because otherwise he is right and we don't count at all within the UK setup where we are outvoted 10-1.
If the BBC go ahead with a debate and show it in Scotland without the SNP's participation then they will be wide open to legal action. It may be David Cameron's opinion that the SNP don't count but in reality it is his party that is the irrelevance to all Scots.
In Scotland this election is between Labour and the SNP. Who wins will have relevance to whether we move forward to independence or have a future of right wing rule. Cameron knows he is not popular up here and he also knows he has no hope of winning any election but he has no right to decide the scottish people's vote in advance of te actual election, nor has he any right to declare that the SNP are irrelevant when they have an excellent chance of winning the elections in Scotland!
David Cameron has branded the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond "an irrelevance" in the upcoming general election. His comments came after Mr Salmond predicted England would be "dancing to a Scottish tune" if the election delivers a hung Parliament with SNP MPs holding the balance of power.
But Mr Cameron insisted the only options for voters casting their ballot in any part of the UK was between continued Labour rule and a switch to Conservative government.
The Making of A History of Scotland: a debate presented by The Open University in Scotland in this year's Edinburgh Lectures series ¦ Wednesday 11 November 2009, 6.30 pm ¦ The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE
A History of Scotland is a landmark ten part television series for BBC1 Scotland, co-produced with The Open University. The series, presented by the writer and archaeologist Neil Oliver, is being transmitted in two parts throughout the UK in 2008 and 2009.
In this debate, presented by The Open University in Scotland, BBC producers Neil McDonald and Richard Downes, and series historian Mark Jardine will be joined by historian Catriona Macdonald to discuss the issues involved in presenting Scotland’s history. Chaired by journalist and broadcaster Ruth Wishart, the discussion will be illustrated by clips from the television series.
Tickets must be pre-booked and are available from Hub Tickets, The Hub, Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh (Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm). Tel: 0131 473 2000. www.hubtickets.co.uk. There is a £3 per ticket non-refundable booking fee.
This debate is part of the Edinburgh Lectures series 2009/10 which runs from 1 October 2009 to 23 February 2010. For further info on this debate and all 2009/10 Edinburgh Lectures visit www.edinburghlectures.org.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The National Conversation comes to Dalkeith
Monday 26 October 2009 – 7.00 pm to 8.00 pm
Dalkeith Schools Campus, 2 Cousland Road, Dalkeith, EH22 2PS
The National Conversation is the debate on options for Scotland’s future, including independence. The Scottish Government is keen that as many people as possible have a chance to take part in the debate. That is why Government Ministers are holding meetings across Scotland to let you have your say. You can find out more on the National Conversation website.
The event will be chaired by Alex Neil, Minister for Housing & Communities and will feature a presentation from Kenny MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice on the options for constitutional change. This will be followed by an open question and answer session.
Refreshments will be available from 6.30 pm, but in any case it would be helpful if you could aim to arrive by 6.45 pm. There is no charge to attend, but you do need to register in advance. I would be grateful if you could indicate whether you can or cannot attend this event by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0131 244 1893 during office hours.
Please also let us know if you have any dietary, access or other requirements. You are welcome to nominate someone else to attend. If you are nominating someone else please pass on their name and contact details, including their e-mail address.
You should note that this event may be recorded and video and audio coverage of the event may appear on the Scottish Government website
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/a-national-conversation or on broadcast media.
Friday, October 23, 2009
It was a daft decision by the BBC to show the BNP on question time at all, but the media now needs to show some sense.
His squeals of political bias, whether by him or his merry band of skinheads from the English 'defence' league should be ignored.
This tube consorts with the KKK yet thinks a few questions equates to a lynch mob!
All parties should have maintained a boycott. Either that or pelted him with eggs, he should certainly not be chased around by reporters as if his band of bigots actually matter.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Campaign for an English Parliament
Dear Mr Cullen,
Your headline says 'England to dance to Scotland's tune' says Salmond yet you must be aware that Mr Salmond said nothing of the sort.
The relevant part of his speech is here:
"Votes for the SNP will turn all these noes into yeses from the London government. A Scottish bloc of MPs will unblock Westminster."
"We shall use voting power to make London dance to a Scottish tune."
London Government is a reference to Westminster which is the British parliament.
I look forward to an apology and a retraction on the epolitics site.
Adjusting politicians speeches to give an inaccurate account of what they said is simply not acceptable and is poor politics.
If you want to attack the Scottish National Party (I wonder why when logically the British state is the obstacle to international recognition for England!) then do so on the basis of what they actually say.
This kind of silly headline based on inaccurate remarks is no way to gain credibility for your campaign.
Monday, October 12, 2009
You have to laugh at the contradictory messages currently coming from the British media. On the one hand David Cameron is trying to dictate whether Alex Salmond gets an invite to the proposed TV debates:
David Cameron calls for Alex Salmond to be barred from TV debates
David Cameron has said Alex Salmond should be barred from a series of televised general election debates between the main party leaders despite Scottish National Party threats of legal action.
On the other hand the Times pretends that he is desperate to woo Scotland, aye right! (Even Angus Mcleod can't quite believe it!).
David Cameron desperate to ‘seal the deal’ and win over the Scots
So it's a kick from a boot and a simpering smile and words of encouragement as well.
David Cameron's local puppet the pantomine dame Annabel Goldie tried to bring in her brand of comic relief:
"I have been delighted at the response to the message in my speech on Monday that the approaching General Election is a British election, for the British Parliament, for a British Prime Minister
"People are saying to me at Conference that that message is resonating beyond Scotland."
Only if your head is wedged firmly in the sand at Berwick! Poor old Goldie appears to be delusional.
She goes on:
"The SNP are irrelevant at a British General Election. Their influence on the British economy is virtually nil."
So is Scotland relevant? Not to Goldie it isn't.
"As a sideshow Alex Salmond, and he is a sideshow in the British General Election..."
"... I shall do all I can to persuade people in Scotland that at this British General Election they should be voting for a British Prime Minister."
So what relevance does your Scottish position hold then? Why on earth should we listen to Ms Goldie when both her and her leader treat our country with utter contempt.
Speech to the 'Scottish fringe' that just about sums up the importance the Tories think Scotland has.
But let us not forget those organs of the British press determined to spread light and truth around the planet, well everywhere apart from Scotland obviously, for us it's spin, lies and distaste.
Gillian Bowditch: Allow Gaelic to thrive without taxpayers’ cash
Scottish Gaelic our once proud national language is just a figure of fun to Anglo-centric commentators, what a disgrace.
David Cameron has no right to dictate the relevance of the SNP. That is up to the people of Scotland to decide. He has no right to demand a rigged TV debate either which excludes our most important political party.
Scotland will not stand for politicians who ignore our opinions and our interests.
The fact the Tories have one solitary MP should give them cause to consider before trying to dictate our future to us.
Britain is busted and independence is normality. David Cameron has nothing to offer as a political Tweedle Dum to Labour's Tweedle Dee. Scotland does not want or need a pompous Tory boy who looks like he needs someone to skelp his lug. Tony Blair was bad enough and no other smirking opinion poll driven power mad spinner is required.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
I am pleased to hear that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is going to appear in a Prime Time TV debate. Unfortunately it also appears that broadcasters are attempting to exclude the most popular party in Scotland from that debate! This simply cannot be fair and must be inconsistent with the BBC's position as a politically independent broadcaster.
The idea that Scotland's views are irrelevant to a UK parliamentary election are a direct consequence of being in an unequal union with a country ten times our size. If the fiction that Scotland and Wales do indeed share an equal place in Britain is to be maintained then the SNP and Plaid Cymru must have an equal voice in this debate. Scotland is not a part of the cozy British three party consensus and to suggest that Scotland has no say whatsoever in picking the next Prime Minister is to indirectly prove the pointless of Britain as a political concept.
Those TV channels who allow such a blatantly discriminatory situation to exist are opening themselves up to legal action. They are also hastening their abolition since they are showing themselves up to be ignorant of the Scottish national interest. In such circumstances why retain a BBC if it is prepared to entirely ignore Scotland during a UK election where for the first time ever the SNP are amongst the leading contenders?
The choice is clear. Either include the SNP Government and maintain a semblance of political democracy or ignore Scotland altogether and hasten the end of both the BBC and the British Union.