WITH little of note happening on the Brexit front in Brussels this week, I am in Scotland catching up with people and seeing what is happening. I was privileged to be in the gallery at Holyrood on Tuesday to watch the EU debate. It was a set-piece occasion and pretty much everybody rose to it. It was historic because it was the first-ever joint motion presented in the name of almost all the parties in our national Parliament and also the National Assembly for Wales, the Senedd. Scotland’s SNP government and the Welsh Labour government have been working hand in glove on Brexit since the stramash was visited upon us, and it is testament to our outstanding Scotland in Europe Minister Michael Russell that we have such a strong joint position.
First published in The National, 7 March 2019Read more
THERE’S not a lot certain in Brexit, and buckle up folks – this week is going to be less certain than most.
I am for other reasons looking back through my files to write about “how on earth did we get here?” and am struck by how little has actually changed in the past few years for those of us who have been dug in from the start.
First published in The National, 27 February 2019Read more
EVENTS this week at Westminster are being hailed as a game changer. Maybe the last few years of enforced Brexit diet has made me cynical but sorry, I can’t see it. Worse, I’m concerned it is just yet another distraction while the petty officers of the Titanic manoeuvre themselves a bit closer towards the lifeboats rather than try to steer the ship off the iceberg.
Things I warned of two full years ago are now coming to pass, yet for every piece of economic bad news there is a squadron of useful idiots deployed to take to the airwaves to blame global events, the weather, the dog eating their homework ... anything. Anything but to accept the simple reality that Brexit has already made the UK, and for the moment Scotland with it, a less attractive place to invest.
First published in The National, 22 February 2019Read more
I have devoted, perforce, the last couple of years to trying to stop Brexit. Scotland’s view is clear, we voted to remain within the European family and that has been my instruction. But as we approach the exit day more and more attention is going to the other potential answer to the Brexit shambles if, despite all our efforts, we cannot turn it around for the whole of the UK.
More and more people are asking me "when will there be another independence referendum?". Invariably I reply that there is no question of "if", it is only a question of "when" but that depends on a great many variables.
First published in the Sunday Herald, 10 February 2019Read more
WHILE in the UK the black hole otherwise known as Brexit has sucked in nearly all media and political attention, that is not the case elsewhere in Europe. Indeed in Brussels it has long been regarded as an unwelcome distraction from bigger problems the EU is facing, both internally and across the world. In recent days, the European Parliament has addressed one such challenge, namely the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
First published in The National, 10 February 2019Read more
Over the last two years and twists and turns of Brexit one of the things I have most struck by is how some politicians have risen to the occasion, put the badges to one side and worked across the traditional party lines to bring some sense to all this. Also, how some have proven themselves to be venal cowardly blawhards.
I have learned a lot about myself over the almost 15 years I’ve been elected, and the two main things are that you catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar, and get a lot more done when you focus on where you agree than where you don’t. The European style of politics is built upon what the German Federal President called a “revolutionary idea...that your opponent might have a point.”
First published in The National, 9 February 2019Read more
IF anyone was looking to Westminster for reassurance in these troubled times then Tuesday night will have been a grisly spectacle. I have come to not expect much from the Palace by the Thames but even I was watching the sorry sight from behind the sofa. I don’t know how my pals in the SNP group maintain their blood pressure at a healthy level. From the messages I was getting I’m not sure many did, such was the frustration at events.
I was watching it from Brussels, as were a great many of my colleagues. Aside from the low Monty Python-esque comedy of the procedures themselves (jokingly shouting “Orrrderrrrrr” in the cantine or the bar has become a thing in Brussels) there was blank incomprehension verging on anger at events.
First published in The National, 1 February 2019Read more
ONE of the main issues at play in the Brexit vote was immigration, and it is important to be open and honest when we are discussing it. It is an important issue, some people are concerned about it and those concerns must be addressed, not dismissed.
I applauded to the rafters the decision of the Blair government to open the doors of the UK to full freedom of movement from the first opportunity in 2004, where a number of other EU states had opted instead to have more restrictive phasing in of the rights over a number of years.
First published in The National, 23 January 2019Read more
I TWEETED over the weekend that this week is going to be tough, and I’m afraid it is. We’ll need to look after each other in the next few weeks. I know from my own inbox and being out and about that for a lot of people Brexit s not just a news crisis far away, it is real life and folk are anxious.
First published in The National, 15 January 2019Read more
I WAS lucky enough to be able to take some time off over the holidays. I uninstalled Twitter, only checked my email once a day and spent the time with family and friends. After a bit of a break, I would love to say that I’m feeling upbeat, but I’ll confess my main feeling when I contemplate 2019 is one of a deep foreboding. We’re going to have to support each other even more than usual because, on matters of Brexit, I think things are going to need to get worse before they get better.
First published in The National, 7 January 2019Read more