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
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.
First published in The National, 26 July 2017Read more
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.
First published in The National, 19 July 2017Read more
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.
First published in The National, 12 July 2017Read more
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.
First published in The Sunday Herald, 9 July 2017Read more
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.
First published in The National, 5 July 2017Read more
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.
First published in The Sunday Herald, 2 July 2017Read more
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.
First published in The National, 30 June 2017Read more