I WAS in Hong Kong earlier this week. I’ve landed a new role in the Parliament of drafting a report on the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty back to China, and how the “one country, two systems” commitments are working out. I mention that because being eight timezones away from Brexit gives a sense of perspective as we enter what could be the most crucial moments of the saga, between now and Christmas.
First published in The National, 10 November 2017.Read more
MANY of the issues the Brexiteers now face are because they are attempting to deliver the impossible. Voters were promised things that were not possible – so how is it that the Tories ended up supporting a referendum with no clear vision for the future in either a Remain or Leave scenario? Having got here, why is that those in charge of the party seem to be so distant from reality and those amongst them so spineless?
The answer lies in a long and illustrious history of the Tory leadership appeasing the hard Brexiteers.
First published in The National, 01 November 2017.Read more
YOU cannot have failed to notice that the pitch and tone of the Brexit discussions has got sharper lately, and the industrial-scale misinformation campaign has stepped up a notch to claim that the lack of progress is down to those ghastly Europeans.
Well it ain’t – don’t be fooled. The Brexiteers lied and lied and lied, and promised a number of things they can’t deliver in the real world, and now as the penny is dropping they are desperate for someone to blame. My concern is that too many people will just sing along with the band, and the “why are they punishing us?” stuff will gain credence.
First published in The National, 19 October 2017.Read more
I FELT and still do feel heartsick watching the events unfold in Catalonia. I also feel let down and dispirited by the response of the international community. Never has it been more clear that states do not have permanent friends or values, they only have permanent interests. Realpolitik is a cold, ugly thing to see in action.
First published in The National, 06 October 2017Read more
THERESA May’s official visit to Canada this Monday was a fiasco. Hastily organised on the premise of the UN summit in New York, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was polite enough to host his UK counterpart, yet no agreement on trade was reached.
First published in The National, 20 September 2017Read more
IF you voted Leave on the promise of more powers for Holyrood and a stronger Scottish Parliament, I’m sorry to say you’ve been had.
As I write this, I find myself deflated by a vote in the House of Commons. You’d think I would know better by now. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill has been in principle agreed by the House of Commons, and now moves on to the detailed consideration in the Commons and Lords. This despite a clear majority of Scots rejecting Brexit across every local authority in the land, and an even clearer majority of Scotland’s representatives in the Mother of Parliaments rejecting it too.
First published in The National, 13 September 2017Read more
I’ve been struck in various meetings lately that there seems to be a bit of hopelessness setting in to discussions on Brexit, especially amongst those who are not involved in politics. The feeling seems to be that “it’s going to happen, it’s going to be bad and I need to work out my own escape route, what a mess”. I’m being asked what my own plans are when, well, you know, it happens.
Well I disagree. I don’t think anything about Brexit is inevitable, because the people supposedly in charge of it don’t know what they want, those opposed to it can’t agree on an alternative and we in Scotland don’t want it at all and voted clearly and decisively to reject it. I’m in a luckier position than many MEPs in that my constituency, the whole of Scotland, voted to remain in every counting region, from Shetland to Stranraer. My instructions are to keep us in, and properly ventilate each and every possible alternative.
First published in The National, 6 September 2017Read more
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.
First published in The National, 30 August 2017Read more
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.
First published in The National, 2 August 2017Read more