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Posted on December 01, 2011 by

Okay, so after yesterday's fit of grand polemic for St Andrew's Day we've got some normal news to catch up on again. We left off mentioning this before because the Newsnet Scotland server had a bizarre extended outage and because the feature itself is horribly written, but the statistical fact that the mainstream Scottish media is 11,319 times more likely to run a story based on the SNP being accused of some terrible wrong than they are to do the same thing to the Tories, and that "accused" stories directed against the SNP make up 88% of all such articles, is definitely worth examining if you haven't already.

Meanwhile, the BBC and Herald run a pair of bone-chilling pieces about the economic future of the UK (the latter one also echoed in the Scotsman). In the coming years before the independence referendum, it's increasingly clear that it's going to get harder and harder for the Unionist parties to credibly push the "stronger together, weaker apart" line, because it's hard to imagine how an independent Scotland bursting with natural resources could possibly be in a bigger mess than successive Labour and Tory governments have left Britain in, even if we elected The Krankies to run it for a laugh.

The Scotsman also runs with an interesting piece linking the gay marriage consultation with the independence referendum, highlighting comments by former SNP leader Gordon Wilson suggesting that the SNP can ill afford to alienate a single voter in the run-up to the vote with such controversial policies. It's a fair enough point, except that with Labour and the Lib Dems on the same side as the SNP on the issue, and the Tories actually led by a lesbian, we're not sure there's much scope there for the opposition to exploit it politically. (Curiously, while the Scotsman piece makes great play of Wilson's SNP connection, it neglects to mention anywhere that Bashir Maan, one of the other opponents of gay marriage extensively quoted in the piece along with Cardinal Keith O'Brien, is a prominent former Labour figure.)

And as with the sectarianism bill and minimum pricing, the SNP is wisely front-loading its more contentious policies into the first half of the Parliament – presumably counting on any furore having long died down by the time of the referendum, as armies of angry Old-Firm-supporting gay couples enraged by the price of booze for their weddings fail to materialise on the streets.

Over in the blogosphere, Kate Higgins takes a surprise angle on the Chancellor's offer yesterday of £50m to upgrade/preserve the London-to-Scotland Sleeper train – contingent on the Scottish Government putting up the same amount of money – by advocating that the SNP should decline the offer. We see her point, to be honest – we suspect the main users of the service are MPs, and that normal folk won't miss it particularly much. (We're also not sure how urgently it needs £100m spent on it, or what that money would deliver.) The sleeper is so pricey that you might as well either get an earlier train and book a night in a hotel, or take a cheap flight to Edinburgh or Glasgow and make the rest of your train journey from there. Either option costs about the same as the sleeper premium, and doesn't involve shutting yourself in a tiny rattling shoebox with a complete stranger for the night. (As we were horrified to discover was the case the first time we ever used the service. We didn't get a lot of sleep.)

Malc Harvey has almost finished Thinking Unpopular Thoughts on the state of the Scottish parties, having rounded up the Scottish Tories, Lib Dems and Greens this week and promising his views on the SNP later today. His conclusions aren't encouraging for any of the first three, with the most intriguing suggestion being that the Lib Dems may have a future as a party of the centre-right, essentially occupying the ground the Tories declined to move onto under Murdo Fraser – if, that is, the Tories don't dump Ruth Davidson quickly and get there first. It's certainly true that there's a substantial minority of Scottish voters of centre-right inclination waiting for someone convincing to vote for, and neither the Lib Dems nor the Tories are going to get anywhere in Scotland for the forseeable future as they are. We'll be watching that space.

And with that, we're off to await First Minister's Questions, and see if Iain Gray has the sheer suicidal gall to challenge the SNP on walking through picket lines yesterday, exactly as Labour's leader and MPs did at Westminster

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