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

Heartbroken but unbowed

We have been defeated and it is hard to take, but the result was clear and we need to respect the decision of the Scottish people. We should celebrate the high turnout and the extraordinary, vibrant, creative movement that came together in support of independence. There has been a huge investment and engagement in hopes of building a better fairer Scotland and we need to try and sustain that in spite of the result. Continue reading

Dodgy Business

Business leaders are entitled to their opinion, whether they are paid up Tories, or whether they just visited Cameron in Downing Street out of curiosity. But we know the kind of political opinions business leaders, with some noble exceptions, tend to have. They mostly opposed the introduction of a minimum wage with warnings of cataclysm. Many opposed equal pay legislation and continue to oppose workers rights. I once saw a poster in the US that said, “organised labor, the people who brought you the weekend.” Business leaders resisted such changes each step of the way. Continue reading

More than twice as much for No on BBC News at Six

A quick analysis of the first 13 minutes and 40 seconds of the BBC News at Six on Wednesday 10th September had 48 seconds of Yes voices and 102 seconds of No voices. In addition there was 41 seconds of description/commentary which could be seen as Yes supportive and 141 seconds of description/commentary that was No supportive. There was a further 423 seconds of reporting which could be defined as broadly neutral and 65 seconds of non referendum reporting. Overall there was 89 seconds pro Yes, 243 seconds pro No and 423 seconds neutral. There was more than twice as much coverage of direct No comments than Yes. And the Yes comment includes Alex Salmond responding to a critical question from Nick Robinson. None of the No spokespersons were asked a critical question. (see breakdown below) Continue reading

Don’t panic, the White Heather Club to the rescue

There is a long way to go, and there may well be a few twists and turns before we count the votes, but the last 48 hours in Scottish and UK politics has been quite remarkable. The trigger has been the opinion polls catching up with the shift in the mood of Scottish voters. Continue reading

Can we love Better Together?

Better Together have announced that they love their families more than we do, but the real question is whether we can love Better Together.

I was in Chile in 1988 a few months before the referendum which signalled the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship. One of the surprising things for me, as we met with the youth organizations of all the political parties, from Communist to Christian Democrat, was how much they were concerned with the one third of Chileans who supported Pinochet. Continue reading

Representing ourselves in the world

The first British diplomat that I met was Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Paraguay who was rejoicing at the “re-election” as President for the 8th time of General Adolfo Stroessner and praising his “free-market zeal.” Stroessner was of course a brutal dictator and notorious for providing refuge to Nazi war criminals, and his free-market zeal was largely centred on smuggling. Paraguay in the 1980s was officially a huge consumer of Scotch whisky amongst other things. The Ambassador lamented that Thatcher could not be persuaded to fly in for a visit. Continue reading

Beyond the debate and towards a vision for Scotland

We have won the first phase, Scotland can be a successful independent country. Even David Cameron says so, though Alastair Darling can’t bring himself to admit it. The challenge in the next six weeks is to articulate what we can do with that to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country. Continue reading

How can we help the people of Gaza?

How can we help the people of Gaza? There is a humanitarian and medical catastrophe which the UNRWA and others are seeking to respond to. But this is the third war to have targeted the civilians of Gaza in the last 6 years. The killing of civilians, the killing of over 300 children, the deliberate collective punishment are war crimes. And the only way to stop the whole bloody cycle coming around again is to make some progress on bringing those responsible to justice. Continue reading