A reasonable Irish view on Scotland?

I suppose Mark Hennessy didn’t have much luck with timing in publishing his article. “Reasoned debate is the first casualty in post-referendum Scotland,” the morning after Nicola Sturgeon won the UK leaders debate largely because of her reasonableness. As someone who lives in Edinburgh and works in Dublin I didn’t recognise his portrayal of division and rancour in Scotland. It is true that Alex Salmond received several death threats during the referendum campaign, but the worst actual violence involved one egg. Mark might look at the water protests in his own glass house before he starts chucking stones. Continue reading

Winter is coming

The Conservatives are on course to form the most extreme right wing government of the modern era. It has been fun to speculate whether Miliband will refuse to govern with SNP support, or whether he can get away with pretending Scots votes don’t count. But if any of our political journalists could break away from the drip-feed of opinion polls and coalition chatter they might notice that the omens are all pointing to a Conservative election win. And this is not a caring Conservative Party. Continue reading

Who will be the next Secretary of State for Scotland?

It is great fun to watch various unionists in turmoil about the prospects of Scottish votes, through SNP MPs, playing a key role in who forms the next UK government and how they govern. The Deputy Chair of the Conservatives apparently thinks it will be undemocratic for Scottish votes to be counted. Miliband seems to have conceded that Scotland is lost to Labour, but proclaims that he will ignore the result. Continue reading

The dangerous lure of what is possible

The BBC was busy again last week promoting the line of the UK security services that they need even more extensive powers to be able to read and track all our email messages and online interactions. This might just be a double bluff given that the Snowden revelations show that GCHQ is hoovering up huge amounts of data illegally. However, it is more worrying if the spooks actually believe that this is something they should prioritise. Continue reading

The case against human rights

The sight of autocrats who deny freedom of expression marching through the streets of Paris is perhaps a good time to belatedly reflect on Eric Posner’s, “The Case Against Human Rights.” Posner correctly identifies the hypocrisy and lack of integrity of the US and Europe on human rights as a serious problem. However, it is somewhat ironic that his critique of the “top-down” approach of international human rights law is blind to the huge growth and effectiveness of grass-roots human rights activism around the globe. Continue reading

We won sovereignty

Arriving in Brussels to meet with colleagues who had questioned Scotland’s independence referendum was a useful moment of reflection. We did not win independence. But we did win the battle for Scottish sovereignty. Never again will it be in doubt that it is the Scottish people who will decide our future. Continue reading

It is not about Labour, the 2015 UK election must be about protecting Scotland from the Tories

Many of the articles which have been written in the aftermath of the independence referendum have been suffused with anger and frustration at the dishonest campaign of fear and smear fronted by the Labour Party. There was probably some value in getting that off our collective chests. But we now need a clear-eyed strategic focus on the future. And we must not fall into the same mistakes which Labour made in 2007 and 2011. Continue reading

A Man’s a Man for A’ That

Robert Burns great poem seemed appropriate for my friend Nabeel Rajab who has just been detained again in Bahrain for comments on Twitter which allegedly, “denigrated government institutions.” No irony that a Government that has shot and killed peaceful protesters, arrested and tortured doctors and human rights defenders and young kids, demolished mosques and engaged in widespread and brutal repression in order to maintain its corrupt and autocratic rule, should think that it is comments on Twitter rather than their own actions which reflect badly on them. Honest men and women look and laugh at that.

And also for our friend Abdulhadi Alkhawaja who is serving life in prison because he is indeed, a “man o’ independent mind.” Continue reading

ISIS, Saudi Arabia and laser guided stupidity

In the 1980s the US and the UK encouraged Saudi Arabia to support the armed opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The US and UK had earlier entered into a Faustian pact with the Saudi regime. In order to secure access to oil, the Western powers agreed to turn a blind eye to the corruption, brutality and misogyny of the ruling house of Saud. The poor Westerners had delusions they could guide their protegés. Continue reading

Purpose and process and daring to hope again

What do we want? Independence was partly about democracy and self-respect, but it was also about building a better, fairer Scotland, that gave equal opportunity to our young, and looked after our vulnerable. We lost the referendum, but we must not lose our focus on building a better future. We must use the current powers of the Scottish Parliament to more effectively reduce poverty and inequality. Amongst other things we should also pursue serious land reform and give renewed focus to community owned renewable energy. We must also engage in the discussion on further powers, and press constructively for whatever we can use to start to build the better Scotland that is our purpose. Continue reading