Trump's actions prove nobody wins when major nations make snap trade decisions

"TRADE wars are good, and easy to win.” With one tweet Donald Trump cut straight to the heart of the Brexit delusion. Far from being a free trade enthusiast keen for a deal with dear old Blighty, his instincts instead lead him to confrontation, protectionism and isolation.

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First published in The National, 9 March 2018.

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The EU know the value of maintaining the Good Friday Agreement

THERE’S a reason the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier has been so laser-focused on the Good Friday Agreement. In his role as an EU Commissioner, he was responsible for the EU PEACE Programmes in Northern Ireland. As Commissioner for Regional Policy, his second Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland prioritised economic renewal, social integration, and cross-border co-operation, all supported by EU funding, including €531million in structural funds.

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First published in The National, 1 March 2018.

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Now is the time we win hearts and minds of betrayed No voters

I’VE noticed lately that more people are getting in touch with me about Brexit, not just raising particular points but expressing their own unhappiness and anxiety generally over the whole thing. The UK Government, in the grip of Brexit Ultras like Jacob Rees-Mogg, has decided to pull the UK, and Scotland with it, over the cliff edge of a hard Brexit.

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First published in The National, 22 February 2018

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Farming is at the heart of Scottish society, but Brexit threatens it

BREXIT, if it happens, has not even begun to happen yet, but already there are clear signs of what heartache is ahead. This week the NFU, Scotland’s biggest voice in farming, sounded a panic alarm that we should all hear. I’ve long said call it agriculture and you’ll have only so big an audience, but call it food and we all pay attention.

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First published in The National, 15 February 2018

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Democracy and Scottish devolution are being attacked by the UK

THE next few months are going to challenge us like we’ve not been in a while, and we’ll need to keep the heid. Those who want to see the UK leave the EU at all costs have had their orders – make this as scary as possible so that regular folks walk away. Anyone who cares about democracy, the rule of law, public service and public life in Scotland, or indeed our near neighbours, is going to need to focus on common cause with people from other parties and countries to defend what is good against what is coming.

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First published in The National, 8 February 2018

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The EU helps us learn the lessons of the Holocaust

I READ with interest Bryan O’Hanlon’s letter in yesterday’s National highlighting the extraordinary bravery of Jane Haining, the Scottish Christian missionary who refused to abandon the Jewish children in her care and in doing so was murdered in Auschwitz.

Inhumanity, malevolence or outright stupidity aside, can you imagine the sheer arrogance that it would take to believe that you’ve uncovered a vast conspiracy to “pretend” that the Holocaust happened?

As a general rule, Holocaust deniers go in the same “ignore pile” as spambots and people who believe the CIA is controlling people through their fillings, but they seem to have been more emboldened lately. It’s an uncomfortable, upsetting subject, and that’s exactly why we need to make sure we understand.

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First published in The National, 01 February 2018.

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Accessibility is great, but lose the jargon

EMMANUEL Macron, a refreshingly frank head of state, said at the weekend that France probably would have voted “Frexit” had there been a referendum last year.

Personally I’m not sure I agree, but it struck a tone with the debate, especially in England. If he had said “zut alors, we’re forever European” he would have closed minds, where he came across more as a sympathetic friend with an interest in fixing our problems.

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First published in The National, 24 January 2018

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Scottish Government is demonstrating the grown-up approach to Brexit

I’M all for optimism. I couldn’t do this job if I wasn’t. But on Brexit it becomes harder and harder to see an upside, or indeed to maintain a sense of humour.

This week’s report published by the Scottish Government – Scotland’s Place in Europe – is the latest in a series of serious, hard-headed assessments of what is at stake, and what sobering reading it makes. It analyses the likely impact of different possible scenarios as Brexit comes into view – none of them good, but some worse than others.

Hard Brexit is going to be a horror show, and no amount of red, white and blue flags, blue passports or Brexit Day stamps can disguise the fact that the implications are getting clearer and clearer and are nothing like the sunlit uplands the Brexiteers promised.

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First published in The National, 18 January 2018.

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SNP is fighting to stop Brexit – but protecting Scotland’s interests

IT has already been a busy time back in Brussels but I was able to read Tuesday’s National column by the excellent Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the much-needed Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER), our newest independent think tank. Her piece The SNP Is Opposed To Brexit, Why Aren’t They Fighting It? sets out some challenges that I think deserve to be answered properly. For transparency, I’m a member of the SCER advisory board but did not collaborate with Kirsty on her piece – she is an independent commentator and has quite properly set us some questions.

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First published in The National, 11 January 2018.

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It’s easy to be a cynic. What’s trickier is joining the fight for a better world

WHATEVER happened to empathy? It’s strange. As we become free to reach out and make connections all over the world, people instead seem to be withdrawing, throwing up the walls and lowering the barrier for Them. The self-defined and vague-by-nature Us is getting smaller, and meaner, and tighter.

First published in The National, 21 December 2017

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