THE STATE WE’RE IN: HONEY McBEE’S BUZZ ROUND THE MEDIA

It’s TUESDAY 31 MAY – and in the words of Private Eye’s Glenda Slag, “Aren’tcha sick of it? If you’re like us, then the answer’s yes, probably, so this week we turned away from the hokey-kokey of June 23 towards home, and were not disappointed…

 

Two MUST READ views of Scotland – one past and one that might, if we’re not careful, come to be.

First, from Kenneth Roy in last week’s Scottish Review, lamenting the departure of Alex Neil and Mike Russell from Sturgeon’s Cabinet and with them, the human face of the first SNP administration that is no longer there, says Roy, amongst “a diminished and pliant coterie”.As always, Ken’s a great read.

Second, from Kevin McKenna in the Observer, on the report by Dr Jonathan Sher for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recommending that people who smoke, drink or take drugs should be encouraged not to have children – “Dr Sher’s instincts are good”, says McKenna, “especially when he says that society could do more to help women prior to conception by offering dietary advice or help with depression and abuse. Unfortunately, he is working in a country where entire neighbourhoods are touched by the consequences of violence, depression, abuse, unemployment and low wages … augmented by the policy of local and central government to round up the most vulnerable, stick them into concrete deserts and forget about them”. From there ‘tis but a short step via banning Buckfast to the much-criticised ‘named person’ [£] and its ‘Dodgy Parent Register’; you get the drift.

 

MIND THE GAP.

Ten years ago Fraser Nelson, now editor of the Spectator [ in an essay for Scotland’s Ten Tomorrows, Continuum, 2006] compared two Glasgow schools, Govan High and Hutcheson Grammar. “Both are in the same city but a world apart… the political and educational establishment in Scotland remains in denial about education inequality… the reason why Castlemilk children do not go to Hutcheson Grammar is not money: the teaching cost are comparable. Nor is it because Castlemilk children are unintelligent. They are directed to sink schools by the political prejudices of Scotland’s left-leaning political elite”

Now it seems we have, after two SNP administrations, woken up. Here’s Gillian Bowditch in the Sunday Times [£] “the problems are pressing… ultimately teachers are going to have to work harder to deliver the quality Swinney claims he demands… he is to his predecessor  what a Rolls-Royce is to a Reliant Robin.”

And there’s more bad news last week for poorer students – getting a university place is harder despite the absence of fees and despite the SNP’s 2014 Commission on widening access.  On Friday, Kirsteen Paterson of the National and Chris Marshall in the Scotsman both reported on Access in Scotland from the Sutton Trust and Edinburgh University. David Torrance in the Herald described the government’s attitude as ‘through the looking glass’ – it means someone from the First Minister’s background, he says, is less likely to be able to study Law at Glasgow University than they were 30 years ago…

Seems even with cross-party support, we have a long way to go.

 

WHERE ANGELS FEAR…

We make no apology for citing a second article from last week’s Scottish Review, this time from Gerry Hassan, who plunges headfirst into the ‘empathy gap’ between Rangers football club and the rest of our football-mad country. Hassan obviously finds the passion fitba’ engenders difficult to understand, and thinks something must be done to bridge the gap of understanding – “ultimately it is only a sport”. Alas, Gerry, we can’t help feeling that when the other 99% of the country shares Bill Shankly’s view, you’re on an uphill struggle …

Meanwhile, David Leask in the Sunday Herald reported on the offshore firms investing in some of our major clubs – naming Celtic, Rangers, Dundee and Dumbarton. There is, of course, the potential for tax avoidance – not illegal of course, but a hot potato nonetheless – made worse by the secrecy surrounding the deals.

One would have thought that with all the attention HMRC have been paying clubs in recent years, they would be keen to avoid further ambiguity. As the paper’s leader puts it -“football already has an offside rule. It now needs an offshore rule too. ”

 

AND BRIEFLY…

The First Minister’s constituency of Govanhill has been in the spotlight. Here’s Peter Ross in the Sunday Times [£] with good, as well as bad, news – and the reaction on Twitter.

Do you still count yourself a Christian? If so, you’re in a fast declining minority. Judith Duffy in the Sunday Herald looked at the changing face of religion in Scotland.

If you’ve missed the stooshie over the threatened deportation of the Brain family, catch up here. We were first alerted to their plight by For Argyll. Here’s the MSP’s letter to the Home Office and here’s ITV’s Stephen Daisley on what he thinks the First Minister should do. Which could open a new can of worms.

 

FURTHER AFIELD…

Don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone:  Paradise in this case being a democratic free press and the parking lot being what CAPX editor Iain Martin calls the ‘anti-social media’.  Our co-editor John McGurk has oft bewailed the apparent decline of Martin’s [and his] old paper The Scotsman; how to come to a modus vivendi with the internet and Facebook is the challenge newspapers face says Martin, or people will only hear “views and conspiracy theories which confirm their prejudices. Compromise is a key ingredient in a civilised society, yet constant exposure to the myth that it is always bad, and that there are simple populist solutions to every question, and that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot, leads to Trump, Le Pen and a threat to civilisation and free thought

Your right to say so: How far are we prepared to go to defend free speech?  Sabine Beppler-Spahl in Friday’s Spiked reported on Germany’s ‘incitement of the people’ actVolksverhetzung – designed back in the day to deal with neo-Nazis, but now being applied in a much more general way. Perhaps we should be worried…

Across the Pond:  Kathy Gyngell – a self-styled ‘unreconstructed woman’ – in Saturday’s Conservative Woman learns to love the prospect of President Donald Trump as “an unexpected smack right between the eyes of the sisterhood, puncturing their pomposity…the sisterhood say he is terrifying. Yes, they – so used to do the terrifying – are terrified. Here’s a man who point blank refuses to play their game … he’s in line to be the next US President … he is funny and good with the wise cracks and has a slow paced gravelly voice like Ronald Reagan.”  Only one opinion of course – as we know, not everyone is as enamoured.

{PS. Sisters, if Trump makes your blood boil, Rod Liddell’s [£] little go at women’s football in this week’s Sunday Times will really have you reaching for the statins…]

When America sneezes: We were alerted by Quartz Daily to this very interesting report by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic on the decline of dynamism in American cities, attributing this to the high cost of housing forcing families and entrepreneurs to move out. It’s long but rewarding; stick with it if you can.

There’s a lesson in this for the UK – we know about London, but only yesterday the Edinburgh Evening News reported rising prices in North Berwick due to even higher prices in the centre of our own capital.

 

AND FINALLY…

It’s hackneyed. But with all the serious stuff above, we reckon you’re ready for some cats. So here’s Six Tips for Feeling More Alert in the Morning. Altogether now, aaaw. [thanks, Nick – Ed]

 

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