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
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.
First published in The National, 28 June 2017Read more
SINCE June 23 last year, it is safe to say we’ve had quite a ride. As the anniversary of the votes to remain within the EU, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and leave the EU, in England and Wales, looms, I think we are closer than ever to seeing that the circle cannot be squared and the penny has to drop.
First published in The National, 14th June 2017.Read more