Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance on US TV station Comedy Central reminded me of something I occasionally find odd – why Holyrood hasn’t given birth to great satire – yet. Rab McNeil’s sketches for the Scotsman in the early years of our reconvened national parliament were a must – but these aside we’ve undoubtedly been lacking in the department. Spitting Image stands head and shoulders above any contenders for the ability to ridicule and supplant real politicians in people’s minds with their caricature equivalents. No-one will forget John Major’s grey man, Maggie Thatcher’s vegetables, Roy Hattersley’s spittle and David Steel’s stature problems. The thing with great satireRead More →

Scribbling words in the last hours of any election campaign most often lends your material a whiff of irrelevance in a very short space of time. With the polls in General Election 2015 closing in hours, I hesitate to tempt the Gods by surmising the outcome. In this General Election however we have seen the SNP deliver a campaign in Scotland, in fact across the UK, such as those we have always aspired to in elections past. No longer are we the only ones who hear the independence message.  The referendum and its information campaign put paid to that. A poll this weekend put expectedRead More →

Last week the Trussell Trust released figures on the numbers accessing their foodbank network in Scotland during December 2014. At well over 10,000 people – it was the highest ever number of individuals recorded in need of emergency food aid in one month in this country. In previous columns I’ve noted the acceleration of demand for basic food supplies – particularly affecting Glasgow and our major cities – but reflected broadly across the nation, as unacceptable in our advanced economy. Worse still, an alarming counter-foodbank agenda has spread in tandem with the outrage felt by many at the skyrocketing numbers. The counter agenda runs thusRead More →

Watching SNP conference this time from my living room instead of the auditorium offered a fascinating perspective on just how transformational the movement chasing Scotland’s independence has become. The Alex Salmond appreciation party seemed like a spontaneous eruption of goodwill, and it must have seemed remarkable to our opponents watching. I am not so certain had the result of the referendum been the other way round congratulations would have been dished out to their own campaign leaders. In many ways of course it brings the SNP to a crossroads. In a space of a few short weeks the party – which could have faced aRead More →

It would be a gross understatement to note a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since my last column. Any reader familiar with the Scottish independence debate – surely you all are by now – will be acquainted with the same sensation. The Editor and fellow columnists Grant and Alison have both written observant articles since 19 September, when the realisation dawned on us all the vote didn’t quite go the way we planned. Saying that, of course, the events which followed the ballot have been almost overwhelming – certainly for those of us in the pro-independence camp – but I suspect forRead More →

In three weeks Scotland’s history will be divided into two clear and distinct periods – pre and post #indyref With a Yes vote the relentless leafletting and canvassing will cease almost overnight and conversations in cafes, pubs, streets will no longer centre on what work we have been doing to convince waverers – but instead will centre on the kind of Scotland we want to live in. Scotland’s out of date system of governance will have been overturned and its people will finally have opened the door of Whitehall, demanding the right to democratically elected governments which we voted for. A Yes vote is nowRead More →

Anyone watching Channel 4’s recent Dispatches, usually a forum for investigative journalists heading out to uncover dodgy dealings or abusers of the vulnerable and weak, may have been dismayed on tuning in last week to see it entitled The Great British Break-Up. The dry territory of politics seldom offers anything worthy of juicy gossip columns unless it involves floating duck mansions or John Prescott’s late nights in the office. I actually came across the programme post-broadcast while looking up information on my alma mater, the University of Dundee. A little over two years ago I had flagged up to me something which was on theRead More →

If any of you managed to catch a glimpse of BBC Scotland’s efforts at capturing ‘What Women Want’ in the referendum debate this past week then perhaps like me disappointment would have been at the forefront of your mind.   It certainly was in mine following a great missed chance to expand on the role women have played in driving forward the progressive policy agenda in Scotland in the modern political era, going back over a century.  Much of what has created a distinct Scottish standard on almost every aspect of our lives has been led by females.  From the rent strikes to poll tax protests, fromRead More →

Frequently arising in the day job is a topic fellow Flag contributor Margaret Hamilton rightly touched upon in her 7th February piece – foodbanks.   Foodbanks have featured the news sporadically over the past year however the running dry of one food bank in Glasgow – where supply simply couldn’t meet demand, and a session of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee where charities and organisations lined up to drive home the message that not only were foodbanks more necessary than ever but that their abundance was due to UK government welfare reforms, has ensured extensive coverage.  To readers of third sector press this will not come asRead More →

Over the past few weeks I have started digging out books from my shelves on the First World War.  You know the one – it has its centenary in 2014, and the BBC have promised us four years of topical programmes across its genres to commemorate the whole brutal episode. The First World War can be said to be the catalyst which set me on my current course in life.  As a schoolboy less interested in studying and more interested in getting out of class, one teacher and one topic made me work – an inspiring history tutor and the ‘Great War.’  If ever aRead More →