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Tuesday 5 February : a Buzz round the Media with Honey McBee

Should we differ to agree? 

So now at last we have a question for 2014. Has it made one jot of difference to the understanding of intent for the man on the Glasgow bus?  Probably not, but if the cognoscenti think it fairer, and the Dear Leader concedes their point, that’s good enough for us, although by adding the word ‘again’ at the end of the question, he could really put the cat back among the pigeons.

Iain McWhirter in last Thursday’s Herald thought it not quite the defeat for the SNP that the Unionist claimed it to be.  He suspects the original wording “was drafted precisely so that the Electoral Commission would have something to take out to justify its intervention and confirm its independence”.   Writing in the Sunday Herald, McWhirter looked ahead to what happens on the day after the referendum - “Scottish Electoral Commissioner John McCormick caused a parliamentary row by suggesting Unionists and Nationalists should get together and make a "joint statement" on what a Yes vote would mean in practice. You might as well ask Professor Richard Dawkins and Cardinal Keith O'Brien to agree on what happens in the afterlife.”  So far, this promise of things to come is just about all we have from Westminster. However, McWhirter thinks there is no reason to believe that in disengagement negotiations, England would act belligerently, and what happens to Scotland afterwards is really, he says, up to us.

To save those who are interested a labyrinthine trawl though the Electoral Commission’s website, the full 47 page report on the advice given on the wording of the question is here ; the Scottish Government’s reaction is here.

Meanwhile, Scotland on Sunday gave one of the country’s leading entrepreneurs, Jim McColl, a platform to explain his vision for independence and why Scotland needs it, with comment from political editor Eddie Barnes.

And another spanner in the referendum works – just to add to the gaiety of nations, the spectre of single voter registration is amongst us. We Scots are obviously too confused to deal with this one…


Just how far North is North?  

The second half of the route for HS2 was announced last week, so now the North has started complaining about the despoliation, loss of agricultural land, and housing blight it will bring, just as the south has done since the project was first mooted. 

But what exactly do we mean by North? Ian Bell in the Herald  last Wednesday had a good idea what it means to him… “Watching TV at the weekend, I caught Nick Clegg declaring that the HS2 high-speed rail link would “heal the north-south divide”. Not for the first time in this life, I wondered what happens to geography when you sit in a London studio”

Cities of the North of England, says Bell, already have better communications than we do. Britain is being divided into core and periphery with Scotland and Wales out of the loop. So much, says Bell, for a project supposedly “in the national interest. “ What is being defined by the London Government as a major infrastructure project designed to benefit an entire country – "vital for Britain", says David Cameron – is not coming our way for a generation at least, if at all.”


Keep up at the back there. ..

Borgen came to town on Sunday…  Political junkies who have nothing better to do on Saturday nights (Scot-buzz included) flocked to Edinburgh’s Filmhouse for a screening of the finale to the second series. And the series’ star turned out in tartan. Nicola Sturgeon was at hand, dreaming of becoming a real-life Birgitte Nyborg. The Observer’s Kevin McKenna says heaven forbids there should ever be a Scottish version.  Denmark of course, already has its own female Statesminister – Helle Thorning-Schmidt.   Plenty of analysis on why we watch it – and all the other Danish and Scandinavian thrillers that have come across the North Sea:  Lesley  Riddoch in the Scotsman’s opinion pages says it has brought about social change. It shows that men can also care about issues that are traditionally seen as feminine – Borgen demonstrates you don’t have to be a woman to worry about the exclusion of trained and talented women from the workforce. You don’t have to be a mother to back affordable childcare. And you don’t need to be a woman to see the potential of a character like Premier Birgitte Nyborg.”    If this is all Greek to you, make the acquiring of the box sets a priority before close of play tonight. 


Let them drink Irn Bru.

At the risk of enraging the health lobby – particularly strong in Scotland because of our dicing with things we know are bad for us (yes, unless we are babes in arms, we do know) - we offer this piece from the director of the Adam Smith Institute last week, on the wisdom of taxing fizzy drinks. We make no comment, other than experience tells us that his observations about bureaucracy are spot on…. 

Tim Black in last week’s Spiked didn’t think much of the idea either –“if the tax really did succeed in discouraging people from buying fizzy pop, by pricing them out of consumption, then tax revenues would fall. A sin-tax contains, therefore, contradictory objectives”.

Raymond Weir, contributing to last week’s Scottish Review, had a similar train of thought.  Commenting on the Shadow Health Secretary’s opinion that parents needed help with making healthier choices for their children, Mr Weir said, I'm not sure how Mr Burnham defines 'help', but I know that he spells it l-e-g-i-s-l-a-t-i-o-n”.

And, while we’re on the subject of tax, if you ever thought the Conservatives were the party of lower taxes, take a look at the latest research from the TaxPayers’ Alliance – no less than 299 tax rises are planned to come into force before 2015, or have already been implemented by the Coalition government since it came to power in 2010. 


And finally...

So, farewell then, Chris Huhne.  Millionaire, property magnate, LibDem leader manqué, windmill advocate and now perverter of the course of justice.  The LibDems need a by-election like the proverbial hole in the head, but there’s no contest when it comes to a holiday at Her Majesty’s pleasure to look forward to. Already rumours that it might become Farage territory are in circulation. 

Still, we wish you well. If it’s possible to come back after 500 years under a Leicester Council car park, there’s hope for you yet.