August 29, 2014

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive: BBC Scotland and the Labour Party

bbc scotland tangled web

Welcome to The Family; the BBC Scotland family aka the Labour Party.

The Family resides in Glasgow and is presided over by Ken McQuarrie.

Ken MacQuarrie’s Head of News at BBC Scotland is John, John Boothman. John is married to Susan, Susan is Susan Deacon. Susan is a former Labour MSP and Health Minister at Holyrood.

Ken’s Head of Online News is Tom, Tom Connor. Tom and John are said to have offered media training to Labour Party wannabe politicians. Tom’s department operates BBC Scotland blogs; infamous for their ban on public comments, unlike any other part of the UK.

Another Tom is Tom McCabe. Tom is a member of the Scottish Labour Party and used to be an MSP. Tom also used to be the partner of Lorraine, Lorraine Davidson. Lorraine’s career has swung between the Labour Party and the BBC. She used to be a spin-doctor – with the Labour Party or was it the BBC? Not too sure on that one. Lorraine became a weel-kent voice on BBC Scotland frequently ushered in to air her views on all the big issues of the day. Lorraine is now married to David. David is David Martin and he’s a Labour Party MEP.

David Martin is friends with Catriona, Catriona Renton. Catriona loves politics which is good because that’s what she covers as a BBC Scotland reporter. Catriona was a Labour councillor in Glasgow with ambitions to become an MSP but sadly didn’t get elected in 2003. Catriona is a friendly sort of lady with Facebook chums the likes of Jackie Baillie ( herself a very friendly lady who is also chums with Gary Robertson and Alan Clements hubby of Kirsty Wark ), Yousuf Hamid, Tom Harris, Mike Dailly, Frank McAvetty, John Robertson, John Park, Steven Purcell, Dave Watson – is there Labour person Catriona isn’t chummy with?

I don’t know if Catriona knows Raymond, Raymond Buchanan that is. Raymond used to work for BBC Scotland until the little matter of his mis-representing what was said by an Irish Minister, Lucinda Creighton, on EU membership of an independent Scotland along with another little matter of a so-called ‘leaked SNP document’ suggesting Scotland’s reliance on English consumers to cover the cost of Scottish energy  encouraged Raymond to make a strategic withdrawal. Whichever – Raymond has retreated to the Outer Hebrides from where he loves to tweet about politics and, well you can make up your own mind where Raymond’s heart lies.

Raymond’s brother-in-law is Brian, Brian Wilson. Brian used to be a Labour MP, you know the one put in charge of Labour Vote No Campaign in 1979 in the devolution referendum campaign. Brian loves and promotes nuclear power, and why wouldn’t he for he was a non-executive director of Amec Nuclear Holdings.  Brian is no stranger to BBC Scotland which likes nothing better than to canvass his views on everything from tweed to nukes.

Then there’s Ken or rather was Ken. Ken Macintosh, like many before and since, has found his career slipped seamlessly between the Labour Party and the BBC. Currently Ken is a Labour MSP with an eye on leadership if only Ed Miliband could remember who he is.

Ed Miliband lives in London where lots of Scots migrate to from wee Scotland to enhance their careers, and why not. You’ll be familiar with Andrew, Andrew Marr. Andrew decided his future lay in London. And one day BBC London noticed North Britain was jumping up and down trying to draw attention to itself. Now BBC London was not in the habit of encouraging such self-promotion but decided some canny handling of independence matters was required. It looked around and spotted the lovely Andrew who despite all evidence to the contrary turned out to be Scottish! Andrew, they realised, was the perfect person to embody Scotland; to go out and explore this backwater in the north and enlighten the good people of Britain why it was the whingeing Scots were whingeing. And Andrew obliged because he’s that kinda guy. He’s also the kinda guy who discovered the Labour Party suited him nicely while a student. And Andrew is married to Jackie. Jackie is a journalist, oh and broadcaster, which takes her into the BBC quite a lot. Jackie is the daughter of the late Jack Ashley. Jack was a Labour MP which might be why Jackie specialises in the Labour Party, according to Wikipedia, though I’m not sure what that means. And she supported Gordon Brown’s government, so it says. Think you might be on your own there Jackie.

boothman labour and bbc

Now for all I know Jackie and Andrew might be friends with James, James Naughtie. James or Jim as he’s sometimes known  also found himself taking the road south to find fame and fortune. And behold the BBC discovered that Jim is also a Scot and who better to add some gravitas to the wretched Good Morning Scotland and demonstrate how to tackle the issues making the natives restless.  And if you’re waiting for an argument from me on that one you will wait a while. I don’t know much about James except he hails from the very lovely Milltown of Rothiemay and my friend Graeme and one-time journalist says he used to think him one of the better reporters. So that’s Jim – cleancut and non-affiliated unless you think his comment of ‘if we win the election’ when interviewing Labour’s Ed Balls during the 2005 General Election suggests anything. But hey, it’s an easy slip to make as many at the BBC will tell you.

Welcome back to Scotland Jim and a warm welcome too to Laura and Sarah. Don’t pay any attention to those harping on about what it’s costing – big bucks (the new Scottish currency I’m told) but just hold on, they’re worth it. Don’t you agree?


Laura is the lovely Laura Kuenssberg, daughter of Nicholas. You know – that Nicholas -one of the donors to Wendy Alexander’s campaign that went so badly wrong. You must remember all those donations of £995 that meant donors could remain anonymous. Got it now? Okay, so Nicholas, father of Laura was one of those people lending support to wee Wendy.

Wendy, once even led Scottish Labour at Holyrood but perhaps her greatest claim to fame is being the sister of Douglas, Douglas Alexander. Douglas is a Labour MP and often asked to appear on political shows, which is as it should be. Douglas is a canny politician knowing not to say too much and he has never been accused of dodgy practice over campaign funding and certainly hasn’t uttered Wendy’s catchphrase of ‘Bring it on’ which only brought on her own downfall which I’m sure Laura’s father Nicholas Kuenssberg would have been sorry to witness.

Wendy is married to Brian, Brian Ashcroft. Brian is Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute. The Fraser of Allander Institute is often cited on BBC Scotland as an independent think-tank which coincidentally issues lots of warnings about the weakness of the Scottish economy. Oh well everyone’s entitled to their opinion – although not all have access to them being aired by the BBC but life’s not fair is it Wendy?


A friend of Wendy’s is Sarah. That is the Honourable Sarah Smith, daughter of the late John, one-time leader of the Labour Party who also  found the invitation north impossible to refuse. Sarah had a lovely wedding not so long ago which she shared with her friends the Alexander twins and their father who married Sarah (as minister officiating not, well you know). Other guests included the great and the good (it’s a phrase okay) from the Labour Party. Sarah’s sister is the daughter-in-law of the Right Honourable the Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC and of the Labour Party. Do you think he says that every time he answers the phone? Sarah’s political shows on BBC Scotland have not been well-received but that’s no reason for her not to keep trying. Go Sarah go!

Which all proves nothing very much at all other than  it’s not what you know that matters as much as who you know.

August 27, 2014

Voting YES is a positive action

Voting YES is a positive action. It means you believe in yourself. This is about building up Scotland for the future. You can make it happen.

We can do it!

Join us. You’re welcome.


August 25, 2014

Er, took the words right our of my mouth : Malediction Upon The Naws from Steven McBrien


Malediction Upon The Naws

Dear No Voters,

I think it’s finally time for me to say this. I’ve been mealy-mouthed and temperate for a while, but I’m actually going to come out and say it now, because I no more respect your right to defend the United Kingdom than I do your right to defend elitism or religious bigotry, or anything else that is patently, blatantly wrong.

If you are planning to vote No to the chance of governing yourselves, if you think that all women and all men are equal only if it benefits your wallet, if you believe in even attempting to defend privilege by birth, if you believe in sitting back and watching while the Tories systematically dismantle the NHS, if you give any kind of credit to the pledges of a Labour party and a Liberal party who jumped into bed with the Tories in roughly the time it takes the average human being to blink, if you believe nuclear weapons can be in any way justified, and that it’s fine to tell the rest of the world they can’t have them, but you of course can, if you think that once the yoke of paying for the upkeep of this obscene armoury is removed, we somehow won’t be a million times better off both financially and ethically, if you think that you will no longer be British because, despite being born on the island that for millennia has been called “Britannia”, you are not part of the pathetic remnants of a long-dead empire that still covers part of Ireland and which insists that people on the island of Ireland identify themselves as “British”, if you believe that a Westminster-centred media is telling you the truth about how wealthy your country really is, if you believe any of this laughable, fear-motivated propaganda campaign that would have made Josef Goebbels goggle in disbelief, if you believe Ireland can have open borders with the UK but Scotland can’t, if you want to justify Scotland repeatedly refusing Tories only for them to get into power to make laws for you and your children anyway, if you take seriously the words of three political parties who have betrayed you time and time again, if you think that a Conservative or UKIP-dominated government will have any kind of mandate to offer you more powers when you have already refused more powers and are rendered politically impotent after a NO vote, and even as there is growing opinion down south that Scotland must “pay a heavy price” irregardless of whether it votes NO or not, if you think Scotland won’t be totally crucified in the event of a NO victory next month, if you wave a flag that claims to speak for Britain but doesn’t even mention Wales, despite retaining the red saltire of a country whose citizens fought and died to break away from the UK nearly a century ago, if you want your kids to be subjects and not citizens, of a monarch who is somehow allowed to be called Elizabeth II even when your entire country didn’t even have an Elizabeth I, if you think that your hatred of one person should affect the future of five million people, if you think this referendum is all Alex Salmond’s doing when the people of Scotland gave him the mandate to hold it in the first place, and a huge percentage of Scots openly give up their free time to actively support it on a daily basis, if you listen to a Let’s Stay Together campaign that sends you letters signed by bleating millionaires, and which is fronted by the son-in-law of the Duke of Westminster, one of the richest men in Europe and a Scottish landowner who stands to lose millions in Land Tax in the event of a YES vote, if you think that a Scottish parliament that was specifically designed by its Labour founders to resist an SNP government is “democratic”, if you think the powers of that parliament can’t be revoked in a heartbeat, if you believe campaign literature that constantly quotes the Tory-founded and wildly pro-business IFS, if you think the Financial Times was joking about Westminster deliberately lying about our oil bonanza, if you think Forbes Magazine was merely kidding when it stated that no-one can stop us from using the pound, if you think Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey can use the pound but Scotland somehow can’t, if you think that other countries who welcomed independence wouldn’t have given their right arms for the oil we have when they were starting out, if you think we won’t become a trade and exports and renewable energy powerhouse in spite of our almost-perfect situation and geographical location to do just that, if you think little countries can’t do it when the Top Ten Richest Countries in Europe and the Top Ten Richest Countries in the World are undeniable testaments to the contrary year after year, if you believe that getting a democratic say in what actually happens to your own country is anything but a good thing, if you imagine that the socialist movement once known as the Labour Party still actually exists despite having had its heart ripped out by a war criminal twenty years ago, if you think a nation of world-famous inventors, entrepreneurs and engineers can’t govern themselves when the rest of planet Earth can, if you imagine that a nation of five million people and a nation of fifty-six million people can be united fairly on anything other than a federal basis, if you believe in an honours system that increasingly seems to resemble the Sex Offenders register, if you think that foreign wars in which our young men and women have been, can be and will be sent to needlessly die in dust-covered countries thousands of miles away are justified, if you think a political system in which only two sitting prime ministers have ever even set foot on the Shetland Islands, 34 years apart, can be defended, if you hand your pay packets into your neighbours, for them to give you a “percentage” of it back, if you voluntarily keep your neighbours’ stockpile of weapons in your own house, if you believe you are not entitled to the pound your forefathers sweated, worked and died for over three hundred years for, if you think that, even if we somehow had to give up the pound we won’t have to give up, we couldn’t deal with a currency change when we’ve all spent decades trying to persuade people to accept Scottish notes in England anyway, if you believe the words of people who tell you constantly that you can’t do it, if you think a massive inferiority complex is good for you, if you call an entire nation with a world-famous culture and identity wanting to govern itself “separatism”, if you don’t do things because you’re just too scared to do them, if you support unilateral military action over the international law a hundred million people died to gift to you, if you vote for a relationship that is so unbalanced and unfair that you are actually threatened and intimidated for even entertaining the thought of upping sticks and leaving it, if you think you are somehow economically better off with a financial capital that is hundreds of miles away in another country, if you believe in a union borne out of corruption and intimidation, and against the wills of the people of England and Scotland, if you uphold the rights of financial terrorists to do as they please while the poorest in society suffer for it and bail them out with their own money, if you think that these ridiculous bailouts are even necessary in the first place after seeing Iceland telling the corporate criminals to get lost and now reaping the rewards by prospering as the eighth richest country in Europe, even while we get treated to more and more foodbanks, library closures and hospitals shutting down, if you are seriously planning to defend before the entire planet an unelected upper chamber with 92 hereditary peers, whose archaic rules have been out of date for centuries and whose 775 members earn £300 a day just for turning up, if you believe that a political system which denies office to Catholics is anything other than totally abhorrent, if you treat the most negative, fear-driven and insulting political campaign in modern history with anything other than the total contempt it so richly deserves, if you think that an entire nation rising to its feet before the world, only to whimper “Sorry! We can’t do it!” before sitting mutely and meekly back down again will somehow not become a global laughingstock, if you honestly think you won’t spend the rest of your lives woefully trying to defend yourselves to the people who come after you and who demand to know why, if you live your lives obeying the instincts of fear and cheerless pessimism over the instincts of hope and possibility, if you are planning to defend any or all of this bullshit while the world watches you doing it, then I don’t question your political beliefs, I don’t question your motivations and I don’t even question your consciences. I actually question your fucking sanity.

There have been many misconceptions in this debate; the biggest one, however, is that it is we YES voters who somehow have to defend our arguments. We don’t. We don’t have to defend them. You’re the ones who should be defending your beliefs. If you don’t believe in basic human rights, if you don’t believe in democracy, if you choose to uphold privilege and royalty over equality and justice, then it’s time for you to start defending your beliefs, because I for one will never, ever, ever stop attacking them. Whether you “win” in September, or whether you lose, I will attack your beliefs before the eyes of the world, and I will go on attacking them relentlessly and pitilessly, either for the rest of your life, or for the rest of mine. I will attack them when you wake up, I will attack them when you go to bed, I will attack them in your dreams and I will attack them in your nightmares, I will attack them in writing and I will attack them in voice, I will attack them at Christmas and I will attack them on your birthday, I will attack them from the streets and I will attack them from my home, I will attack them in the spring and I will attack them in the fall, I will attack them with glee and I will attack them with rage, I will attack them in print and I will attack them in public, I will attack them until I die and I will ensure that others will go on attacking them after I’m gone, I will attack them and attack them and go on attacking them until you cover your ears and snivel in wretched despair. I will tell the entire world what you believed, and exactly what you tried to deny to your own posterity; I will holler it to the heavens until I have no voice left to screech with, I will set it down in print so that every single one of the unborn billions that come after us can marvel at it. I will tear your pathetic excuses for arguments all the new ones they could ever have torn and I will pour scorn upon you and your miserable beliefs until the breath leaves my body. Do you understand what that means? Do you?

It means that you’ve already lost.

Yours derisively,


August 23, 2014, 1:23pm

August 19, 2014

The Wee Blue Book for those of you still not convinced Scotland’s good enough to get our independence back

Over the past couple of years a lot of misinformation and lies have been printed and broadcast relating to Scotland’s position within the UK – and prospects as an independent nation.

It’s hard to fight against the might of the media and the determination of those prepared to lie, lie and lie again – let’s call them politicians.

The referendum vote is bigger than each of us as individuals: it is about what is best for the citizens of Scotland now and into the future. People living in Scotland have an incredible opportunity to make a difference when they mark their cross on 18 September. This is so important. Don’t think small. Think bold and think big. For once in your life the cross you mark WILL make a difference.

We’ve seen the reality of accepting the current set-up – we know life here should be better than it is . On 18th September we can start on that great journey.

For those with questions you can click on the Wee Blue Book link at the bottom of this blog for help with the following topics. 

Wee Blue Book

The case for independence in five points

This book has been designed to take no more than a couple of hours to read. We’ll be making our arguments in detail and with lots of sources and references. But the basic case for independence is a lot simpler than that, and it boils down to just five key points.

1 Scotland is a country, and like any other country it deserves to get the governments it votes for. As part of the UK, that happens well under half of the time. We don’t affect the outcome of UK elections, so the rest of the UK doesn’t need our help – so why keep subjecting ourselves to governments we rejected at the ballot box?

2 Scotland will be wealthier as an independent country than it will inside the UK. Even before you discuss possible savings from policy changes (like more sensible defence spending), Scotland subsidises the UK by billions of pounds every year, according to Westminster’s own figures. The longer we stay in the UK, the poorer we’ll get.

You’ll never get a UK government minister or a No campaign figure to actually say straight-out that Scotland is subsidised by the rest of the UK – give it a try if you like. Instead they’ll try to confuse the matter and change the subject by talking about things like spending and debt (see the Questions section of Chapter 2) in order to make you believe it’s true without having to directly lie to you.

Think about it this way – if Scotland was actually being subsidised by the rest of the UK, don’t you think the No camp would be shouting that fact from the rooftops every minute of every day?

3 Scotland’s future is bright. Oil will last for decades yet, and we sit on the brink of a renewables bounty that could make the entire historic output of the North Sea pale into insignificance. But the UK can’t be trusted to manage it – Scotland is the only country in the world ever to discover oil and get poorer, and unlike almost every other oil-rich nation, Westminster put nothing aside for a rainy day. It also hid Scotland’s wealth from its people for 30 years.

4 We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Threats that Scotland will be ejected (even temporarily) from the EU are hollow, impossible to ever put into practice. The same applies to border controls. Nobody can stop us from using the pound. No country poses a military threat to Scotland, and the only reason terrorists might attack us is because we’re part of the UK. We’ll still get to watch the BBC.

5 People are sensible. At the moment, the No campaign has a vested interest in making things sound like they’d be as difficult as possible for an independent Scotland. But the day after a Yes vote, the opposite instantly becomes true – it’s then in everyone’s interest to sort everything out as quickly and cleanly as possible.

If you accept that the EU would want Scotland as a member – and it would – then nobody gains from making that process slow and complicated and awkward.

If you accept that the rUK and an independent Scotland would still be major trading partners and allies – which they would – then nobody gains from a hostile, drawn-out negotiation process.

All parties will seek the best deal, of course, but businesses and people alike want life to continue with as little disruption and upheaval as humanly possible. Nobody wins from a negative approach, and no government will cut its nose off to spite its face.

Wee Blue Book

Wee Blue Book

August 13, 2014

Are we going up or going down folks? Sorry I didn’t catch what you said.

August 6, 2014

Keep it Simple Aberdeen. Simply a Square.

Marischal College

Keep it simple Aberdeen City Council.

You started this by talking about a civic square – Marischal Square.

Now deliver on your word.

Nothing more. Nothing less. A wonderful large and photogenic

Marischal Square.

Thanks for voting folks. Result of the poll, completely unscientific and none the worse for that, is 97% for an open square and 3% for the proposed Muse development.

It doesn’t prove anything other than people who are interested in Aberdeen’s architecture and how the city develops who read this blog are overwhelmingly against putting crass commercialism before preserving the little piece of magnificence there is in the city.

I hope Aberdeen City Council takes notice but I’ve been around long enough to know that other factors influence its members and permanent staff that have nothing to do with doing the decent and aesthetic considerations.




July 30, 2014

Revenge of the Dolphin: If you’re a mother or a ned or a drunken student in Aberdeen this is for you



This is one of 50 dolphins around Aberdeen, all different and painted by a host of artists as part of Wild in Art sculptures to raise money for children’s charities.

However not all has gone to plan as you will discover if you click on the link below which will take you to a Facebook page.

Warning: ripe language. Enjoy. :)


July 26, 2014

I-i-i-n-n-n-d-d-d-e-e-p-p-e-e-n-n-d aaah! Separation – a reply to John McTernan in Prospect Magazine

I’m more amused than captivated by the views on Scottish independence of people who don’t live here. Lots of celebrities have spoken up on one side or the other although I suspect they know more about the intricacies of astrophysics than they do about Scotland.

John McTernan likes to air his opinion on the referendum. Don’t know if he counts as a celeb but, like them, I doubt he’s got his finger on Scotland’s pulse but he thinks he does and so feels entitled to record his impressions in Prospect Magazine 24 July 2104 in an article entitled ‘Why Patriotic Scots will be voting No.’


I suppose the response to that is some will and some won’t. Then again never fully trust anyone who evokes ‘patriotism’ as a justification for preserving Scotland as a subjugated region within a UK that is inevitably dominated by its much larger neighbour. Not even when that person refers to the nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid to  demonstrate just how much he LOVES us.  Just what is it you LOVE about Scotland John? and all those celebs who are clueless about the place.

John McTernan sticks to  #naw’s  standard terminology – ‘separation’ never independence possibly because they know that independence is positive and progressive and worth aiming for. But no, it’s as if they can’t quite get their tongues round the term ‘independence’ – i-i-i-n-n-n-d-d-d-e-e-ppppppppppppppp – no can’t do it – separation – that’s a whole lot easier – more negative, bad vibes, scareyyyyyyyy.

Actually John it’s not separation at all: not physically and not politically – it is independence – there’s a world of difference. By not daring to engage with the term you fail. They all fail.

John McTernan is right to say the numbers supporting independence have been relatively stable over the years but something has changed here though possibly looking from the outside he wouldn’t recognise it.  What’s changed is that more people are not just quite enthusiastic about Scotland taking responsibility for itself – pursuing policies which chime with the different mindset there is here to England’s – but also because there’s an opportunity to see the long cherished hope realised .

I’m one of those. I never used to care much about independence and I don’t know what changed me, perhaps studying History at University where I came to realise that Scotland’s position in  world affairs was rarely acknowledged – as part of the UK Scotland is invisible both within and outwith these islands. The UK is too often solely England but never solely Scotland. It’s not as though anything has changed. Yes the media have discovered Scotland and for the past year or so we’ve been bombarded with Scotland this and Scotland that but it is all part of the #bettertogether smokescreen aimed at persuading voters into believing we are fully integrated part of the UK. It will all vanish like snow off a dyke after the referendum and everyone will return to normal with Scotland shut back into its box.

John asks ‘why’? Why go for independence.  He asks it with reference to the Scottish Enlightenment – as in Hume and Smith asked ‘why’ a lot in their pursuance of enlightenment so it is reasonable to apply the same approach to the referendum. And yes it is.

But in John McTernan’s citing of Hume, a giant of the Enlightenment, he takes no cognisance that this giant of a thinker was flawed as a man, as in his disagreement with Beattie over the issue of slavery.

When Beattie asked why slavery? Hume responded along the lines of why not? Why not because black people, in his view, were not quite human so he couldn’t see Beattie’s difficulty with the issue.

So, John when you ask why ? – realise the answer may not be what you expect. It is a reasonable question but only if you’re open to the response why not?  What you are saying is really why bother?

My response is that a Yes vote resulting in Scotland regaining its independence will be better for Scotland in every aspect of Scottish life – politically, socially, economically, culturally, for our health and for our well-being AND – of equal importance perhaps that  other places will benefit as well.  Why? Because in Scotland it is inevitable there will be support for a more socially democratic regime than we get/expect from future UK governments where austerity and private capital is the driver.

Privatisation has all but eradicated the NHS in England. This is the consequence of England voting for conservative policies from Tories, Lib Dems, and Labour. All of them support this drive towards the market that is so damaging to the once sacrosanct publicly run health care system that put people before profits and spreadsheets. That this hasn’t happened in Scotland speaks volumes. Support for the above parties has fallen here because there’s no appetite for their rightwing policies – for the pursuit of austerity at any cost, for adopting the market at the expense of public safeguards.

John weakens his case when citing Gordon Brown for the man once highly regarded in this country no longer holds the nations’ respect: he is the voice of rightwing social democracy happy to go along with illegal wars and unrestrained capital.  Under Brown and Blair the spivs got richer and economic inequality increased. Where is the equality involved in illegal wars supported by Brown and Blair? Where is the equality in the doubling of the 10% tax rate for the poorest in the UK? Where is the equality in the introduction of the bedroom tax? That’s what we got and will get with Labour. Never mind the soundbites this is the reality of electing UK Labour in the future. A change in government will give us what we have now with knobs on. Brown wanted to free capital and see where that’s landed us. Labour relies on our short-term memories and a compliant media. Scots have long memories, John.

‘The United Kingdom is a massive engine for redistribution and social justice. We tax the wealth of London, a great world city, and distribute it across the country.’

The idea that London’s wealth is redistributed around the country is certainly quixotic. According to John McTernan London is supporting the rest of the country which is strange because to the rest of us London is a pampered and subsidised parasite that is hugely damaging to the economic and cultural life of those regions and countries making up the rest of the UK.

Astronomic sums are spent in London. Compare the funding it gets in all manner of ways compared to what is spent elsewhere.  Suggesting London’s wealth filters down to the rest of us is bogus even quixotic and certainly claptrap.

Why should Scotland NOT regain its independence? It is logical for a country that is marginalised by its size in this uneven and unequal Union to want to advance itself: to get the government its people chooses that will allow it to broaden and build its economic base and fund social policies that are in tune with the majority of its population.

No-one is  saying everything will be great from day one. But the mistakes Scotland make will be ones of our own making and the solutions will be too.  We want nothing to do with your austerity cuts shouldered by the poor that are inflicted on us by Tories and Lib Dems with Labour lurking in the background thumping its fist asking ‘how hard do you want it?’

If Yes supporters gloss over potential hurdles then No voters are equally glib – desperately erecting hurdles more ludicrous by the day. There is never acknowledgement that aspects of Scottish life could be improved through independence. By overstating their case No voters show themselves to be petty-minded, vindictive, carping, sniping, ungenerous and yes, dishonest.

McTernan’s nasty little aside in his summing up is an example of this abusive and bullying behaviour that the UK media is happy to ignore while frothing at the mouth whenever a supporter of Yes goes too far.

Scotland doesn’t need to be patronised. It doesn’t need London’s cash. It doesn’t need the reactionary politics that are becoming so harmful in England. Scotland needs to move forward into the future with confidence. We have the means to become hugely successful participants on the world stage. Our people have made great things happen all over the globe there’s no reason we can’t do the same for ourselves. Anything less makes no sense whatsoever.

July 22, 2014

What happens when a Palestinian youth looks for his family in a bombed house in Gaza

A Palestinian youth looks for relatives in the rubble that was their home. But there is no pity in Gaza.

Shooting unarmed civilians is a war crime. Some countries and individuals however are above the law.

Warning: violence

And his family find him: New York Times

Tags: , ,
July 19, 2014

The land where the white thistles grow


Cirsium vulgare

Cirsium vulgare

One day a year or two back a local farmer stopped me with a wave of his hand and a smile.

‘You’re the woman that takes photographs,’ he said.

I could hardly deny it as my camera was dangling from my fingers.

‘I’ve been trying to speak to you for ages,’ he added, ‘have you ever seen a white thistle?’

I squinted at him and shook my head then remembered having noticed white multi-headed thistles which I now know are Cirsium arvense.

Cirsium arvense creeping thistle

Cirsium arvense creeping thistle

‘No,’ came his dismissive reply, ‘the proper thistles, the big anes, I have them growing over there,’ and he pointed to the track leading to his house.

As it happened it was late in the season and there were none for me to see but I vowed to check them out the following year and capture the unusual blooms with my camera. In the meantime I urged my friendly farmer to get in touch with someone, anyone – perhaps at the university – who might know about white thistles.

The farmer was Leslie Angus and he was keen to share his most unusual thistles with the world but he was a busy man with better things to do with his time.

As luck would have it the following summer none of the white thistles flowered so I had to content myself photographing the common but pretty purple ones. The year after that I was chatting to Mr Angus and mentioned that they hadn’t flowered again but he put me right – they had but in a different site and as I hadn’t been out so often during the poor summer our paths hadn’t crossed and I had missed another opportunity to see them.

This summer things were very different. The weather was lovely and the conditions for walking were benign.

Mr Angus met me one day in a state of excitement. ‘I was hoping to catch you, they’re flowering.’

He led me into one of his parks and we made our way past a herd of curious cattle to the place where the white thistles grow.

They were magnificent. He hadn’t imagined them nor had he been pulling my leg. There they were; bold, striking and very, very white.

white thistles Aberdeenshire

white thistles Aberdeenshire

I took a few pictures and went home to investigate incidences of white thistles but then I happened to glance at a restaurant review in a local newspaper and was astonished at one of life’s coincidences; a photograph of a table arrangement included a single white thistle. On closer inspection it didn’t look quite right. I phoned the restaurant and its bemused owner informed me his thistles were indeed artificial.

Artificial white thistles seem to be quite popular; they are used as buttonholes for weddings as any glance at Google images will confirm. It so happens that Carole, Mr Angus’ daughter, has her own florist business and this summer one lucky groom actually sported a genuine white thistle in his buttonhole at his wedding.

White thistles do exist.  The aforementioned Cirsium arvense frequently display white blooms and worldwide different varieties of thistle include several whites but they are rare among Cirsium vulgare, the spear thistle – the one we see at roadsides and around edges of fields.

Thistles in the wrong place can be the bane of farmers’ lives. They are tenacious once they get into the soil and a pest to weed out.  Not that Mr Angus minds. He appreciates their exquisite rarity. While the purples are grand the spectacle of one or two whites among them makes them even more special.

Escutcheon of Gordon Fencibles

The thistle has been Scotland’s flower emblem for nearly 1000 years from the reign of Alexander III when its jabbiness was supposed to have caused barefoot Norse invaders so much pain when they trod on them they cried out and alerted the Scottish guard. The thistle became the symbol of the House of Stuart, the oldest Scottish chivalric medal is the Order of the Thistle and where would Scottish regiments be without a thistle to decorate their bonnets? The plant has given its name to sports clubs and is the motif for a host of organisations and businesses including the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Carnegie Mellon University and the Perelman School of Medicine, Pennsylvania in recognition of their Scottish roots.

white thistle, Aberdeenshire

Scotland’s national flower is the thistle but which one is a moot point. Some say it is the aforementioned Cirsium vulgare while others declare it Onopordum acanthium, the woolly or cotton thistle, but there are doubts over how long that species has grown in Scotland. The same caution applies to Carduus lanceolatus and what of the dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule or the musk thistle Carduus nutans? How about the melancholy thistle Cirsium heterophyllum or Carduus benedictus, Lady’s Thistle?  Carlina vulgaris is a member of the same family and has pale flowers but it hardly fits the bill. The list of thistles goes on and really whichever was the original emblem doesn’t matter too much. There are possibly as many opinions on the flower that represents Scotland as there are thistles varieties.

In his reflective epic poem, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, Hugh MacDiarmid’s Scotland is the thistle whichever one he had in mind – ‘The thistle’s like mysel’ and so the object of his musings on the state of Scotland:-

The thistle rises and forever will,

Getherin’ the generations under’t.

This is the monument o’ a’ they were,

And a’ they hoped and wondered.

Thistles grow thick and fast in this country and despite their designation as weeds they have traditionally proved useful as fodder for animals when chopped up although they are not grazed by them which is just as well or I might never have got to see those white ones in Mr Angus’ cattle park.  Bees and insects love them for their nectar; Mr Angus has noticed that in mixed clumps of purple and white thistles bees are especially attracted to the white ones.  Once flowering is past and seeds have set on those silky filaments green and gold finches move in to devour the tiny seeds.  And we should not forget that the thistle has been used in herbal medicine, possibly for as long as plants and people have lived side-by-side.

Pliny recommended thistles as a remedy for baldness and bad breath and as an effective carminative but he mentioned only purple ones so we may infer from this that whites were as rare as hen’s teeth in 1st century Rome as they are in 21st century Scotland. Culpeper in his Complete Herbal however does mention white thistles – but cotton ones which as we know do produce white heads more readily.

Go into any pharmacy or health store and you will find milk thistle, silybum marianum, extract offered as an effective remedy for constipation and for strengthening the liver. Its use was banned by the Olympic committee – for athletes and not spectators I am assuming.  Thistle is an ingredient in several contemporary medicines. It is said to be an antidote to Deathcap and Fly Agaric fungi poisoning.  Thistle down was once used by the poor to stuff pillows which suggest there used to be many more thistles around in medieval Scotland than there are now.

Time to consult the experts. Dr Heather McHaffie of the Scottish Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has never come across a white spear thistle but compares incidences of whites to an albino ‘without the pink eyes!’ Such a shame. White spear thistles are rare and very attractive but just imagine them with pink eyes.  They’d be queuing up at Mr Angus’ gate.

Cirsium vulgare

Professor Ian Alexander of Aberdeen University has seen whites in both Cirsium vulgare and the more common Cirsium arvense, the creeping thistle. This latter thistle, as its name suggests, spreads vegetatively by rhizomes and that is perhaps why white flowers are so much more common among them. He explained that where a white plant sets seed – the result of cross-pollination from different flowers – then more white thistles could populate the area.  This would fit in with Mr Angus’ experience of the thistles growing in the same spot, although not necessarily producing white flowers every year.  Mr Angus suspected the white form originated from a garden variety stocked in a former near-by nursery but as Professor Alexander said, cross pollination will produce the white form from time to time – Dr McHaffie’s albinos minus pink eyes.

While we might venerate the thistle on the one hand its incidence as a weed condemns it on the other. Saskatchewan in Canada is atypical in that there the plant is encouraged for its medicinal properties and value as animal food but the bonnie Cirsium vulgare is included in the Global Invasive Species Database making it a persecuted plant. However I would imagine that there are people who would love to provide a corner of their garden for that rare beauty the white spear thistle.


Lorna Dey (first published Leopard Magazine November/December 2013)


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