It has been somewhat ironic and amusing over the last few weeks to see various Labour and Liberal figures rant and rail about how the SNP proposal to retain sterling after independence is not proper independence. The fact that Alastair Darling had already conceded that retaining sterling would be “desirable” and “logical” for an independent Scotland was an inconvenient truth that our brave journalists tried not to draw attention to. Some Better Togetherers on twitter proclaimed that the issue of currency would be the Yes campaign’s greatest weakness.
However, the concerted efforts of Better Together to raise a stramash about a policy which polls suggest is popular with a majority of Scots reveals the fundamental weakness of the economic case for the Union. Continue reading
I have worked for international human rights organizations for the last 23 years. I have met with the families of victims of Serb paramilitaries. I have met with courageous human rights activists who have been jailed and tortured in Iraq and Iran. I have been to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burundi, Colombia, Congo, Guatemala, Pakistan, Palestine, Sudan, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe because of my human rights work. When I was Director of Campaigning and Crisis Response at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International I was responsible for our work at the international level to try and promote respect for human rights with the business community and accountability for human rights abuses in which multinational corporations were involved or complicit. I worked on issues related to Shell in Nigeria, BP in Colombia and CNPC and Petronas in Sudan.
Given that context it is perhaps understandable that I would be shocked and disgusted by Ian Taylor’s donations to the Conservative Party and now Better Together. In fact I am pretty much shocked and disgusted by Ian Taylor and Vitol full stop. But not surprised. And to be honest I expect such dealings from the Conservative Party. Continue reading
The Cyberdialogue organised by the impressive Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto brought together a stimulating mixture of academics, technology experts, diplomats, politicians, private sector representatives, journalists, military & security professionals and civil society. It was refreshing and sometimes quite challenging to be in a discussion with genuinely diverse perspectives. Continue reading
Kenyans took to social media in the last days before their election to criticise foreign journalists and NGOs for talking up the potential for violence. There were multiple fairly scathing comments on twitter with the hashtag #TellCNN because of what was perceived to be a sensationalist and ill informed report. There continued to be barbed comments about foreign journalists looking for violence to report and cliches to use.
It is therefore with some trepidation that I write down some reflections as a mzungu who flew in for only a few days. However, I did have the privilege of meeting and discussing with a diverse group of Kenyan human rights defenders as well as of talking to an eclectic mix of people at polling stations and in some of the villages which bore the brunt of the 2007 post-election violence. Continue reading
Douglas Alexander made an important speech on Friday in Edinburgh titled, “A voice of hope in the Scottish conversation.” I was interested because the speech was part of a series of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Politics Department at Edinburgh University and I was sorry to miss it in person because I was out of the country. I was also intrigued by the comments of Kate Higgins @BurdzEyeView that “there is plenty to disagree with in his arguments but the very fact that he is setting out a positive course for his party to take in this debate is a symbol of hope all in itself.“ I resolved to read the speech in full and to try not to merely react to the bits I disagreed with. Continue reading
Alan Trench is quoted in the Herald as saying, ‘Scotland could only become independent in the SNP’s timescale if the country was out of the EU initially, accepted the presence of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, took on a “hefty share” of national debt and settled for a “raw deal” on North Sea oil.’ Alistair Darling blustered on the radio that the proposed timetable was “unrealistic” but offered no reason why. Continue reading
Alex Massie was correct in his review of 2012 to lament the lack of anything “edifying or uplifting” in the referendum campaign, but I am not so sure it was a wasted year. If we win a Yes vote in two years’ time I think historians will look back on five key developments in 2012. Continue reading
I generally think that we should label jars and not people, but I was inspired by Euan McColm‘s twitter masterclass on nationalism this morning to muse on whether there would be a more friendly typology that could be developed for the various warring tribes of the independence debate. Continue reading
It was a little strange to hear the phrase “they don’t like it because they want to be perceived as Robin Hood,” during a discussion in Spanish on attempts to close down independent community groups in the barrios of Caracas. I didn’t know Robin Hood was so famous in Venezuela. I did know that the supporters of President Hugo Chavez claimed to be working to deliver health and education to the poorest communities. Continue reading
An interesting blog by 5 Million Questions on the history of the Union included a quote that “Scotland was and is a deeply fissured nation.” Scottish politics in 2012 may well be deeply fissured and tribal but I am not so convinced the same is true of Scottish society. Indeed in many ways Scotland is a more self-confident and comfortable place than it was in the Thatcherite 1980s. Continue reading