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A Buzz Round The Media with Honey McBee

… a twice or thrice weekly look at the stories exciting the media and blogs in, and about, Scotland - a quirky angle, a personal take, items you may have missed.

 In the mainstream…

Much space has been devoted to analysing Nicola Sturgeon’s new role(s) since the FM’s reshuffle. If you missed any of it in the maelstrom, catch up now…

Iain McWhirter in the Herald summed it up as the reshuffle was announced - “Now it gets interesting… here is the message loud and clear, in case you hadn't got it yet: "Vote Yes to keep Tory hands off Scotland… the phoney war is over".  He returns to his theme in a double-page spread for the Sunday Herald – “Sturgeon is now the minister for National Destiny; her place in history assured as the woman who won – or perhaps lost – the battle for Scotland”

Kevin McKenna in the Observer remarks on Sturgeon’s new ‘demeanour’ – down to the cut of her suits, feminists please note - There is colour in her face now and often the insinuation of a wry smile. This is her time; she knows it and she is enjoying it.”  Steady on, Mr McKenna.

Lesley Riddoch in the Scotsman saw an opportunity for both Alex Neil and Sturgeon, with all their previous experience, to end the silo mentality of Scotland’s public sector groups. Health, housing and environment must all work together to contribute to peoples’ well-being, not work in isolation. Riddoch urges both to “think long-term, break the rules and share budgets” As usual, no punches are pulled – “…places are dying – largely because of remote, wrong-sized governance while Scotland’s communities are bursting with talent, capacity, problem-solving energy, history and resources”.

Alan Cochrane in Thursday’s Telegraph wasn’t sure what to make of Sturgeon’s seat at the negotiating table in place of retiring SNP business manager Bruce Crawford, who “rubbed along” with the man on the other side, David Mundell.  Rubbing along is not what Sturgeon does.  In Friday’s Scotsman, Joyce McMillan sent an outstanding letter of encouragement – “I wish you luck, because you will need it. Not so much, though, as you will need courage, imagination and vision; without which the people perish, and their political leaders with them”.

Ian Bell in Friday’s Herald highlighted Johann Lamont’s dilemma - First she wanted to say that Salmond's reshuffle was of no consequence, less a rearranging of Titanic deckchairs than "swapping the mopheads on the Vital Spark". Then she tried to say that shifting Nicola Sturgeon to a constitutional brief was bad news for the NHS. Not so long ago, you might remember, Sturgeon was supposed to be the bad news afflicting the NHS”.  

Alf Young in Saturday’s Scotsman took an in-depth look at the Parti Quebecois from which Sturgeon may expect moral support.  PQ leader Pauline Marois is re-asserting her “firm conviction that Quebec needs to become a sovereign country” as the party begins to win seats again...

Parallels with Scotland abound.   In one bizarre link, gunshots fired at a PQ victory party appear to have been fired by a kilt-wearing backwoodsman known to his neighbours as ‘Scottish’.  In another, the Sunday Herald reports that the Quebecois ice hockey team is seeking international recognition “inspired by Scotland’s sporting representation… If they can't have a referendum on independence, they have to try everything else to acquire all the trappings of independence short of independence itself. This is a nation-building exercise."

Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday takes a broader view, concentrating on the sparring between the First Minister and the Chancellor with Jim McColl’s intervention thrown in for good measure. Hamish McDonell in the Independent thinks Mr Osborne may have touched a raw nerve.

The definitive blog was, as ever, Alan Trench’s Devolution Matters (recommended for those with a constitutional bent), both for the reshuffle and the legislative programme, which has been somewhat overlooked in favour of the juicier story available.

Bob Smith’s excellent artistic take on both reshuffles for the Scottish Review is here.

Other cabinet changes are available, as the BBC likes to say, and you can catch up here


And on the fringes of consciousness…

Saturday’s For Argyll blog carried an interesting look at the ‘connivance’ between the Scottish government and wind farm developers, the ‘Stalinist’ tendencies it sees being employed to get round local objections and the dilemma facing Fergus Ewing, the ‘Minister for Tightrope Walking’, responsible for both tourism and renewables. Worth the read. 

But it’s an ill wind

What price music in Scottish schools? Too much, apparently, as councils overcharge pupils for tuition. The BBC names and shames Aberdeen (£523,000 in ‘additional revenue’), Highland (£435,000) and Moray (£118,000), but most other councils are imposing charges– and some charge pupils for sitting SQA exams.  

Scotland on Sunday continues its campaign for free lessons – backed by Nicola Benedetti and Dame Evelyn Glennie.  The government is reviewing the legality of the charges. When the benefits of putting musical instruments in the hands of primary pupils have been so evidently demonstrated, not least by Stirling’s Big Noise, it seems odd that so many local authorities are pulling in the opposite direction.

The season when we give most to charities is almost upon us.  Dani Garavelli in Scotland on Sunday picked up on Save the Children’s latest appeal, not for the Third World, but for children in the UK.  She is sceptical – the appeal for £10 towards a washing machine and £50 for a high chair is, she says, ‘naïve’; if buying poor families white goods alleviated poverty it would have been eradicated long since.

Even more sceptical – in fact, downright critical – was Anthony Daniels in Saturday’s Telegraph.  His look at where Save the Children’s money actually goes should give us pause for thought before we put money in the tin. Not, he argues, where we – and its volunteers - would think. That there is poverty is not in dispute – the Sunday Herald reports on Glasgow’s South East Food Bank – the number of Scots seeking food aid has doubled in the past two years.

As every Scottish traveller knows all roads – or air corridors – seem to lead to Heathrow. Our business leaders say a third runway there is important for Scotland. The surest way to bury something nasty and potentially destabilising is to announce a commission, as the PM has done with Ed Miliband’s agreement, according to the FT.

Last week The Guardian was already selling tickets for the anticipated clash between George Osborne (pro) and Boris Johnson (agin – but pro Boris Island in the Thames) Chris Harlow of the Adam Smith Institute wonders whether taxpayers should be expected to contribute.  A Private third runway  perhaps – or maybe a new private airport altogether? 

Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca cola is not the most drunk fizzy. Now that Barrs and Britvic look likely to merge  this item on the Adam Smith Institute blog from Pete Spence assumes greater interest.  He flags up a motion “tucked away on page 23” of the LIbDem conference agenda, which proposes looking into the taxation of fizzy drinks. Hello, Nanny State – “Once again, the political classes have found an issue where they feel other people just don’t know best, and need the government to fix it”.  

Meanwhile, the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven,  creator of that other Scottish delight, the deep-fried Mars Bar, has taken a battering from the mighty chocolate maker, which apparently thinks its original bar (only 260 calories a pop) is healthy eating,  and is seeking a disclaimer on the chippie’s menu that our version is in no way endorsed by them.  

Alan Trench in Devolution Matters blog  looks at the UK government reshuffle in the Northern Ireland Office, where (highly thought of and now at DEFRA) Owen Paterson has been replaced by Theresa Villiers. This, says Trench, probably spells the end of any chance that Corporation Tax rates might be lowered in Belfast.   Since our own government has kept a watchful eye on the idea, this may come as a blow. Two steps backwards…

If you live on, or have links with the islands, you might be concerned by the news in For Argyll this week that Calmac’s Chief Exec Archie Robertson has resigned.  Mr Robertson apparently “fought a determined rearguard action” in defence of Northlink’s service when the government surprisingly awarded the contract to Serco.

For Argyll maintains that SNP ministers are putting undue pressure on Calmac over all ferry services: The approach … has raised fears that the Scottish Government is determined to privatise CalMac and will structure the tendering process accordingly. That is why these developments are so serious and why there needs to be clarity before the process develops further.” Attempts were made at the STUC conference to assuage fears that the western services would be unbundled, but uncertainties about future tendering remain.


And finally…

1. What cost taxpayers £75,000 but cannot be photographed? (Pssst - the Sunday Mail has pics)


2. What’s the best use Holyrood can make of £6.5million of taxpayers’ money?  School building? New hospital wards? Flood prevention? (cheers, residents of deluged Comrie in Perthshire)   Bet your money wasn’t on a new security entrance for the Parliament building. No, ours neither.