They’d love to see Yes movement implode but it’s Unionist castles that are built on sand

THIS week, I return to Brussels after the European Parliament’s recess, but the strange feeling of being in a parallel universe continues. While I did get a few days off here and there, I stayed home, backed away from social media a bit, and caught up with meetings and paperwork. I decided to take a few weeks off from writing this column, because it seems that the Silly Season this year was even sillier than usual. 

The various spats among a few self-appointed spokespeople in the Yes movement have been a sad thing to behold. Politics worldwide is in a strange place, and a lot of people are feeling anxious and frustrated. I’m one of them. So now more than ever we need to make sure that the quiet, thoughtful, sensible majority aren’t spoken over or pushed aside. 

The National header

First published in The National, 30 August 2017

Read more

We must work together to correct harmful immigration falsehoods

IN the last few months I’ve grown really weary of unthinking tribalism in Scottish politics. Like many SNP types, I started my political journey identifying most closely with the Labour Party. I never joined the party, as my time in Brussels and London that crystallised my view that Scotland could be better independent, but I still rejoiced at the 1997 election when Tony Blair’s Labour swept away the Tories. I joined the SNP the week after. It turns out 20 years is a long time in politics!

But I say all that to prove that I’m up for coalitions. 

The National header

First published in The National, 2 August 2017

Read more

Battle tactic of the deluded Brexiteers is straight out of The Simpsons

IN an episode of The Simpsons, Homer decides to take up boxing. His extraordinarily thick skull combined with his general flaccidity mean his technique is to take a beating that tires out his opponent, then gently push them over. It’s successful, and he rises up the ranks of the Springfield Hobo Boxing Association. One day Homer finds himself up against the heavyweight champion. Deluded about his own abilities, he promptly gets the snot beaten out of him.

And so on to the UK Government’s performance in the Brexit negotiations. 

The National header

First published in The National, 26 July 2017

Read more

Nordic-inspired Newton Rooms will equip our experts of the future

WE talk a lot about the unspoiled beauty of the Highlands, the villages and crofts, the Neil Gunn museum and the kind of scenery that would make Walter Scott bite his pen in two. But the Highlands aren’t there as a kind of unspoiled garden sanctuary that we can forget about until we want to visit whenever we deem fit, like Louis the Sun King.

In our interconnected, fast-paced world, we need to equip our young folk with the skills they need to succeed, and for STEMD (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Digital) subjects, that often requires access to top-of-the-range equipment. 

For folk in some of the more rural areas of Scotland, that can be a bit tricky. So we look to our neighbours and friends across the water for inspiration. 

The National header

First published in The National, 19 July 2017

Read more

The life of Simone Veil is a reminder of why the EU was brought into being

In front of the European Parliament stands the Simone Veil Agora, a public space named after a true giant of European politics. Holocaust survivor, former president of the European Parliament and an utterly fearless champion of women’s rights – her passing a fortnight ago leaves Europe much poorer.

National header

First published in The National, 12 July 2017

Read more

Be warned: if the cyber extremists win then all of Scotland loses

The first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge one exists. I’m concerned about how politics and current affairs are discussed and debated online - worldwide and across the UK if it comes to it - but I think we need to do a few things differently in Scotland. The technological changes we’re currently going through in terms of how people access and process information about the world around us is unprecedented, similar only to the development of radio and TV mass media but much more powerful even than them.

Sunday Herald

First published in The Sunday Herald, 9 July 2017 

Read more

We need to get the Brexit fantasists in check – and that includes Corbyn

LAST week was, in some ways, quite a big week in the twists and turns of Brexit. The anniversary of the vote not long past, I was tickled to have so many folk wishing me a happy Sherkaleg day, the anniversary of my own speech in response to the vote. A year on, yet even after so much heartache we’re all barely further forward. 

National header

First published in The National, 5 July 2017

Read more

Brexit's toxic legacy of hate imperils our hard-won freedoms

I've been thinking lately on how people across Europe felt in the early 1930s as they watched events around them and in faraway places with unfamiliar names. Of course, they were unaware of the future so could not imagine the horrors ahead. But would they have done anything differently? Or would most folk just have done what they did, put it all out of their minds and get on with their lives as best they could? Replace Pastor Niemöller’s “First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out, for I was not a socialist …” with Syrians, or refugees, or sick, poor or disabled, or immigrant, and you get my idea. Solidarity is all encompassing or it doesn't exist. 

Sunday Herald header

First published in The Sunday Herald, 2 July 2017

Read more

The National Roadshow in Caithness: A community well aware of its history

There's a tremendous sense of community in Caithness – not the kind of dusty, vague “community” that only exists in speeches and faded newsprint, but a tangible, breathing, vibrant community that looks around, rolls up its sleeves and does what needs to be done. 

National header

First published in The National, 30 June 2017

Read more

Credit where it’s due – it’s EU that has ended mobile roaming charges

ONE of the few good news stories to emerge from the UK’s decision to leave the EU is that people have started to engage with European politics in a more active way. I admit this is ironic but it means that for the first time people are aware of developments in the EU beyond that being covered by the major news outlets.

National header

First published in The National, 28 June 2017

Read more