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Wings Over Scotland

A quick morality check 136

Posted on November 06, 2018 by

There was a certain uncomfortable 2018 inevitability this morning over the fact that where people were offended, arrests would follow.

And the burning of a cardboard model of the Grenfell Tower last night was certainly right up near the top in the pantheon of cretinously offensive things. Many victims of the appalling tragedy, which killed 72 people and injured many more, still haven’t been properly rehomed almost a year and a half later.

But if it’s a CRIME, we have some questions.

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Soapbox: The War Of Words 443

Posted on April 29, 2018 by

So everyone’s fighting about Gaelic again. Provoked by a minor story about a Gaelic dictionary MSM and alt-media pundits are flying at each other with daggers over a language spoken by almost nobody on Earth and on which the government spends a few measly and irrelevant pennies, trying to turn it into a proxy war over politics and the constitution and fascism and genocide and goodness knows what else.

We’ve covered the political nonsense around the issue numerous times on this site, and we’re not about to do so again here. This, as befits the Soapbox section, is a purely personal view, which will doubtless attract more furious shrieking from the sort of people who long ago lost the ability to listen to a counterpoint – or indeed tolerate the mere concept of one – let alone consider it or debate it without abuse.

But hey ho. After a while you just learn to tune that stuff out, so let’s go.

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Picking up the gauntlet 116

Posted on July 21, 2017 by

We’ll be honest with you here, readers – even though it’s only July, when it comes to sheer ham-fisted, tin-eared, clown-shoed, foot-shooting idiocy we didn’t think anything in Scottish politics in 2017 could possibly top the SNP’s decision that the surefire way to win back voters after a poor election result was literally mutilating puppies.

After all, that’s the sort of thing you say as a self-evidently ludicrous and hyperbolic joke: “Ha ha, the SNP are so dominant in Scotland these days that the only way they could lose an election would be if Nicola Sturgeon went on telly and started hacking the tails off week-old puppy-dogs without anaesthetic! LOL!!!!!”

It couldn’t even be defended as a grotesque but cynically cunning attempt to win votes from the rural hunting-and-fishing lobby – they did it right AFTER the election, when all those people had just gone out and voted Tory anyway.

But bless their hearts, Scottish Labour never once saw a low bar that they didn’t try to slither under, and today they pulled off the seemingly impossible.

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The Decency Charter 374

Posted on April 23, 2017 by

This site has spoken a few times, usually in jest, about forming its own political party and contesting elections. But as the UK heads for the biggest democratic trainwreck in its history – a vote which, depending on where you live, is really either a proxy Brexit referendum, a proxy independence referendum, a judgement on the personal character of Jeremy Corbyn or any of half-a-dozen other things – we found ourselves thinking again about what, on the fundamental ideological level, we’d stand for.

It’s a question that existing parties find it remarkably hard to answer. Labour used to define it clearly in its key “Clause IV” – a clear statement of commitment to socialist principles like public ownership and wealth redistribution – before Tony Blair junked it in the 1990s for some woolly neoliberal rubbish from an aspirational Facebook meme.

For the SNP, clearly its primary defining goal is always the democratic pursuit of independence for Scotland. What you might call its day-to-day policies have, like most parties, varied and evolved over time, but it’s always had that one clear unifying and overriding aim. It may have won electoral success through decent governance, but its purpose was never merely competent administration for its own sake.

In the case of the Conservative Party, the turn-of-the-20th-century US economist John Kenneth Galbraith summed up their position pithily and accurately:

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

(And lest an offended Tory should seek to instantly dismiss him as some flavour of pinko tree-hugging bleeding-heart lefty, he also said: “Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.”.)

The Liberal Democrats, of course, stand for being in the middle of Labour and the Conservatives, whatever that means on any given day. (They did briefly experiment in the 2000s with being to the left of Labour, partly because it was hard NOT to be, but the coalition scuppered that and now they’re basically Tory wets.)

But what about us?

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We need to talk about the oil 255

Posted on January 21, 2017 by

The link between the rise of modern Scottish nationalism and the production of North Sea oil is pretty indisputable. Both took off in the early seventies, with that decade’s campaigns powered by the slogan “It’s Scotland’s Oil” and it’s still a given in media circles that the desirability or even the feasibility of Scottish self-government depends principally on the spot price of Brent crude.

I’ve always found that argument a bizarre one, firstly because it takes no account of people’s emotional attachments to either the UK or Scotland, and secondly because as this site has repeatedly pointed out Scotland is both a producer and consumer of hydrocarbon fuels, so low or high prices are neither an unalloyed good or an unalloyed bad thing for her citizens.


What is incontestable is that the revenue from 45 years of North Sea production has not been well managed by the United Kingdom in comparison to the other states who have benefited from this bounty.

So far so uncontentious.

Outside of constitutional questions, party politics in Scotland revolves around health, education and jobs, with every party more or less in favour of all three. But what if there was an existential threat not just to this trinity but to our entire way of life? Where would that fit in to our politics?

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The unhappy 11% 299

Posted on September 18, 2016 by

The Sunday Times has a new Panelbase poll out today, and it borrows a question that was first asked by this website (via the same pollster) 14 months ago. These were the results this month:


They broadly show little change from when we asked last year (for the five options the changes are +1, 0, -3, +8 and -5), suggesting that the main practical upshot of the EU referendum campaign was to halve the number of Don’t Knows, which was achieved by shifting almost all of them straight onto the Leave side with the Remain camp’s abysmal recreation of Better Together’s “Project Fear”.

Nevertheless, the chart is a fascinating and pertinent one. Because while there’s only one of the four non-DK groups in the list who definitely can’t get what they want, there’s another one whose decision will be a lot harder than Yes supporters would like.

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Soapbox: From your tether unwind 333

Posted on January 23, 2016 by

Governments, of all political stripes and nations, are often accused of being control freaks bent on constructing and enforcing a “nanny state”, where citizens’ freedoms are arbitrarily curtailed under a pretence of it all being for their own good.

Things from banning smoking and routinely snooping on private emails to forbidding people from wearing certain types of hats or expressing unpopular opinions (or even popular ones simply deemed unacceptable by a self-selecting elite) are justified for all sorts of social and economic reasons.


But where, if anywhere, should the line be drawn?

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Unscheduled day off 269

Posted on October 10, 2015 by

Because this isn’t the fairer, better, equal Scotland we’re fighting for.


See you tomorrow, readers.

The Tory who voted Yes 211

Posted on August 08, 2015 by

“In an independent Scotland, we’ll never have to worry about Tory governments again”, said the man on my doorstep, his YES badge gleaming in the sunshine.

“I am a Tory,” said I, watching with some amusement as the man’s jaw dropped.


“But I’ll still be voting Yes,” I added.

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The end really is nigh 146

Posted on July 18, 2015 by

This week, as the UK’s new Conservative government brought forward a bill to impose tax on renewable energy projects, just seven Labour MPs turned up to oppose it.


You know these guys that you used to see wandering round the city centre with a sandwich board telling us “THE END IS NIGH”? It seems they were right.

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Soapbox: On A Boat 70

Posted on June 28, 2015 by

I was on my way to work in London the other morning when I heard someone talking on his mobile phone. He was a white English man in his thirties, wearing builder’s gear, presumably on his way to work too. We were heading in the same direction, so I listened to his end of the conversation as we walked along.

He was in mid-rant when I first clocked him, complaining about drug addicts and alcoholics living on benefits, while he had to get up and go to work. “I’m on my way to work too,” I thought, and the only thing that bothers me about the thought of drug addicts and alcoholics lying around at home or still asleep on the streets is the utter waste of human lives it involves.


But of course, I was on my way to a job I love, and even though I would happily write comedy whether or not I was paid for it, I’m guessing that my job probably pays a lot more than his does. And from the tone of his voice, I don’t think he was looking forward to his day’s work nearly as much as I was looking forward to mine.

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Soapbox: The Hangman’s Lottery 351

Posted on February 14, 2015 by

In September 2011, a group of US state employees took a man called Troy Davis from his prison cell in Atlanta, Georgia to a small room and strapped him to a gurney. They inserted a needle into one of his veins, hooked it up to some tubes connected to a machine and pressed a button on the machine, knowing that it would cause lethal chemicals to be pumped into his bloodstream until he died of asphyxiation.

These people – every one of whom doubtless considered themselves an ordinary, decent, caring member of society – participated willingly in the killing despite knowing that there was an enormous degree of doubt as to whether Davis was in any way responsible for the death of the man in whose name he was being executed.

Bafflingly, very few people found this behaviour at all odd.

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