Tuesday 24 March: HOW DID WE COME TO THIS?

And still it goes on. There is no end to the speculation and wonder at how Scotland came to this point – even in Scotland, let alone the sheer incomprehension and the panic it engenders down south. Here’s what we think this week…

Among those seeking an answer…

Ian Bell in Saturday’s Herald“In their confusion, they suggest that anyone who fails to vote Labour or Tory (or even Lib Dem) has made an illegitimate choice. Recent tantrums in the London press bear this out. When arguments fail, xenophobia will do … the second referendum, when it comes, will have this question in common with the first: why do so many Scots want self-determination? Because, in its political behaviour, Scotland bears no resemblance to the other parts of these islands. That, too, is a matter of choice”.

Hugo Rifkind in the Spectator  [one of those having Bell’s tantrums] – “It’s not a burning passion to go left that has led the SNP to champion independence. Rather, it is a burning passion for independence which has led the SNP to go left. So why would they go into coalition with Labour?”  Discuss.

Martin Kettle in Friday’s Guardian [ditto] – “The SNP’s attitude to Labour is the same as Lenin’s advice to Communists about whether to support the Labour party in the 1920s – to support it the way the rope supports the hanging man…Labour’s best chance of forming a government is with Labour MPs. Those who argue otherwise are, in another Leninist phrase, the nationalists’ useful idiots”.

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian on the research into genetic origins in Britain – “The Saxon/English kings tried for centuries to conquer and hold these peoples in a “first British empire”. They failed to assimilate them, and now their sovereignty over them grows weaker by the decade. Ireland went in 1921 and Scotland remains in doubt. Even Wales and Cornwall are restive. Politics cannot defy tribal sensibilities.

For the English to understand the origins of those with whom they share the British Isles is not an antiquarian foible. It is a constitutional necessity”.

Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times [£] – there will be no coalition of any kind. Forget the prospect raised by the Tories of a Labour-SNP coalition: the hatred between those parties is of a level that makes even the least enthusiastic among the Conservative-Liberal Democrat forced marriage look like besotted lovers”.



SNP membership this weekend topped 100,000.

At least that should guarantee good sales for the referendum diary of defeated FM Salmond. But if you’re short of a bob or two just now, Jamie Ross of BuzzFeed News has picked out the 12 best bits, so you can impress canvassers when they come chapping – as with those numbers, they surely will.



Beginners start here. It’s the first week of Spring and here’s the sound of everyone’s favourite psephologist – Professor John Curtice – revving up for May 7th on Bloomberg Business. Enjoy!



Kevin McKenna in the Guardian  takes a not-so-gentle swipe at the “middle-class, politically engaged people with good hearts and a bit of time on their hands”.

“Many of us deployed the word “engaged” regularly. Isn’t it great that the country was “engaged” during the referendum? Wasn’t it brilliant to see so many previously disengaged people now become “engaged”? Behold all these people reaching out and “engaging”. If the revolution does happen, a lot of us in Scotland are going to miss it, because we’ll all be engaging with each other in yurts and pods.”  You get the gist. Read on…



Somewhere deep in the bowels of Central Office a desperate Tory spin doctor thought this YouTube video was a good idea. Ed Miliband’s clearly been to Holland and Barrett. And a chanter?  We know it’s austerity all round, but surely they could have found a full set of pipes?

James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday wrote about preparing David Cameron to meet the leaders of the other parties at his first practice after Wednesday’s Budget. All went well says Forsyth, as they found stand-ins for Ed and Nigel, Leanne and Natalie. But Nicola? Clearly she has no match among the Tory women and the short straw went to Andrew Dunlop – “Cameron’s point man on Scotland.”

Meanwhile Bruce Anderson in the Sunday Telegraph seems to be letting his SNP phobia get the better of him – the new cunning plan for saving the Union seems to be breaking it into even smaller bits by federalising Scotland…


Journalist Ruth Wishart in the Observer explained her own journey from Labour to SNP – “It seems to me that Labour has failed to hold the line against a whole series of rightward-leaning innovations in health, education, defence policy, macroeconomics and, most acutely, in welfare”. The party’s decision to stand with the Tories in Better Together was the last straw – “For many erstwhile Labour supporters this wasn’t so much supping with the devil as throwing him a house-warming party”.

Mark Leftly in the Independent on Sunday reported Scottish MPs Chairman, Michael McCann’s categorical  denial that Labour will do a deal ‘at any level’ with the SNP, which neatly rules out confidence and supply; former FM Salmond clearly isn’t listening – “If you hold the balance, you hold the power” he said on Sunday’s  Andrew Marr Show.

Iain Macwhirter in his blog says [not for the first time] Nicola Sturgeon has made a huge mistake by ruling out a pact with the Tories, thus handing Miliband an extraordinary advantage.

“He knows the SNP will go into post-election negotiations with precisely zero negotiating clout. Indeed, Labour doesn’t need to form any coalition with the SNP at all because they have ruled out voting with the Conservatives.

“The SNP will not be king-makers in a hung parliament, they will be vassals: wholly-owned property of the Labour leadership. Nicola Sturgeon’s red lines are purely hypothetical because Ed can reject them all and say: OK, and are you going to do about it”



We’ve given up trying to work out what’s going on with the debates. Just give us the dates and we’re off out for several wee drams till it passes. If you’re still interested, here’s Glen Owen in the Mail on Sunday on Cameron’s latest attempt to put one over on Miliband.



The Smith Commission is fast becoming a prime example of not pleasing any of the people any of the time. Westminster’s Public Affairs Committee has seen the resulting draft Bill and declared it, according to BBC reports , to be ‘a bit of a guddle’.

In a report the PAC says it ‘falls short of being a credible Bill’, and doesn’t meet the Smith brief, plus the attempt to enshrine a permanent Holyrood into law is both ‘legally vacuous and ‘potentially contradictory’.

And in an interview with yesterday’s Holyrood magazine, the eminent Professor David Bell of Stirling University warns the UK funding arrangements resulting from the rushed implementation of Smith’s proposals  are ‘descending into chaos’ and threatening  ‘widespread confusion’.

“If the coalition’s present plans for devolving financial powers are taken forward after the election”,  says the professor, “the number of people who will be able to understand how revenues are raised and funding allocated among the component parts of the UK will drop below the already tiny number who fully understand the Barnett formula.”   Hands up, all those….

And it isn’t just Scotland, as this report from BBC Wales shows.  Prime Minister Cameron wants to make partial devolved funding dependent on a referendum. The LibDems want income tax varying powers delivered without strings.



Police Scotland is at it again. Now Paul Hutcheon in the Sunday Herald says they’re taking and recording the phone numbers of people they stop and search.  And since they appear to be doing that whether or not they have reason to suspect criminal activity…

Course, you can object. Handing your mobile no. over is an optional extra says Hutcheon.  However, faced with a couple of black-suited plods armed with goodness knows what, not many of us will choose to exercise that option.

In England consensual searches are banned, and you only have to give your personal details if you are arrested. Perhaps it’s time ‘progressive’ Scotland followed suit.



Green MSP Alison Johnstone thinks you should be able to; last week she introduced an addendum to the Community Empowerment Bill to give fans the right to buy – and lo and behold, the Local Government Committee though it was a good idea and adopted it into the Bill coming before Holyrood.

The Scottish Football Association has other thoughts. According to Martin Hannan in The National, FIFA could regard it as political interference – which of course, never happens in the beautiful game – and the SFA could be suspended. No more Scotland in the World Cup. Imagine…



We are fast discovering that IT is not all it’s cracked up to be.  If only the procurement people in the Scottish government thought the same.  Nancy Nicolson in Thursday’s Farmer’s Weekly told of the struggle our farming community is having with the online rural payments system.  It’s a multi-million pound system, naturally. They all are.

Ewan Pate in The Courier quotes a figure of £500,000 a month paid to ‘computer specialists’ CGI. But it isn’t just Scotland – Pate says in England the Rural Payments Agency has resorted to handing out paper SAF forms to farmers.

Difficult to use and subject to frequent ‘maintenance’ breaks are two of the charges levelled against the website. NFU Scotland is tearing its collective hair out. There is a chance, according to Gemma Mackenzie in the P&J, that a bit more time to complete SAF forms may be allowed. Clearly times aren’t already hard enough for farming …



You don’t know where it’s been.  One minute you’re quietly fishing off the Butt of Lewis, the next you’re on a roller-coaster ride as something strange happens to your nets and you’re battling to keep them away from the propeller. According to the Daily Mail’s report, whatever it was headed towards international waters, taking the trawler with it.

Trawlerman Angus MacLeod told Saturday’s Daily Record he thought it could only have been a submarine.  The MoD says if so, it wasn’t one of ours. So was it a Russian trailing the Trident- carrying Vanguard sub just out of Faslane? Angus is facing £10,000 worth of repairs and would dearly like to know where to send the bill…



France gets tough on solar panels. According to Friday’s Guardian Rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, under a law approved on Thursday.

“Green roofs have an isolating effect, helping reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer. They also retain rainwater, thus helping reduce problems with runoff, while favouring biodiversity and giving birds a place to nest in the urban jungle, ecologists say.”

And even better, acres of good agricultural land are not being swallowed up …



There have been unpalatable suggestions emerging since Saturday that Scotland may have rolled over and allowed Ireland to rack up points to keep English hands off the championship cup. As if.

Besides, as any fule kno who has followed Scotland over the past few dismal years …



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