Category - Scotland

The United Kingdom Nearly Died for Margaret Thatcher’s Sins

The Scots got sick and tired of Thatcherite policies imposed from London.

The American Prospect, By Robert Kuttner, September 23

Why on earth did the Scots, largely quiescent as part of Great Britain for three centuries, suddenly become the mouse that roared?

It wasn’t because they became besotted watching re-runs of Braveheart or Rob Roy, or even because they coveted more of a share of North Sea oil revenues. No, the Scots got sick and tired of Thatcherite policies imposed from London.

Thanks to the partial form of federalism known as “devolution” provided by the Labour government of Tony Blair in 1997, Scotland got to keep such progressive policies as free higher education and an intact national health service, while the rest of the U.K. partly privatized the health service and began compelling young people to go into debt to finance college like their American cousins.

But as long as progressive Scotland, with just one Conservative M.P. sent to the national parliament at Westminster, remained part of Great Britain, its own policies were in jeopardy. So the near-miss referendum was one part revived Scottish pride, one part observation that a dozen small nations are members of the European Union and do just fine, and one very big part revulsion against Tory policies—most recently those of the hapless current prime minister, David Cameron.

Pope considering response to alleged ‘inappropriate acts’ by UK cardinal

Vatican confirms priests’ written allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien have been received and issue is in pontiff’s hands

The Guardian, By Severin Carrell, Catherine Deveney, John Hooper and Sam Jones, February 24

Pope Benedict XVI is considering how to respond after being told about allegations that the UK’s most senior Catholic has been accused of “inappropriate acts” against fellow priests.

The Vatican confirmed the pope had seen allegations made by priests against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Scottish Catholic church, by three serving priests and a former priest in his diocese which date back to 1980.

The claims – which are denied by the cardinal and remain unproven – add to a series of controversies over senior figures in the church and within the Vatican that will overshadow Benedict’s final days as pontiff and the first weeks of his successor.


Hours after the allegations were published, O’Brien decided not to give Mass at his cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday morning, where he had been due to celebrate Pope Benedict’s eight years in office. He cited legal advice.

UK’s top cardinal accused of ‘inappropriate acts’ by priests

Three priests and former priest report Cardinal Keith O’Brien to Vatican over claims stretching back 33 years

The Observer, By Catherine Deveney, February 23

Three priests and a former priest in Scotland have reported the most senior Catholic clergyman in Britain, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years.

The four, from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, have complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain, and demanded O’Brien’s immediate resignation. A spokesman for the cardinal said that the claims were contested.

O’Brien, who is due to retire next month, has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex marriages would be “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved”. Last year he was named “bigot of the year” by the gay rights charity Stonewall.

Tantalising Tuesday

‘sede vacante’ continues…
Yum but Oh dear.
Grand Mistresses of the Amazon
Young men who look like a Muslim should not fly
Thailand says Al-Qaeda & Salafist terrorist groups may attack US consulate
“Mr Beans” £910,000.00 F1 rebuild
Scottish independence will need international jurisprudence 9 years ago
meet al Ikhbariya
Obama rebukes North Korea over test

Tonight I attended our Shrove Tuesday Mass, in the congregation were Japanese, Croatians, Australians, English, Scottish, Cambodians, Congolese, Americans and Canadians. We prayed for Benedict as he prepares for retirement, and then guffawed loudly when we went outside and burnt last years palms to make the ash for tomorrow. The smoke was not white 😀

Gratuitous youtube
Not Pope Forever … stay tuned…

Cameron Sets 2017 date for rump-British referendum on EU exit


From the Guardian:

David Cameron will on Wednesday set a deadline to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017 as he hardens his position on the issue that has bedevilled Tory leaders for a quarter of a century.

To the delight of Eurosceptics, the prime minister will throw down the gauntlet to his fellow EU leaders to agree to a revision of Britain’s membership terms within two and a half years of the next general election or risk triggering a British exit.

In his long-awaited speech on Europe, which has been repeatedly delayed since the autumn, Cameron will pledge no rest until he wins because democratic consent for the EU in Britain is “wafer thin”.

The prime minister will say: “The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament.

And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.

The hypocrisy inherent in suggesting that Britain should get out of the EU because there’s a “democracy deficiency” in being even partly ruled from abroad while saying that Scotland shouldn’t take the same exit in respect to being ruled from London never ceases to amaze me. For the Unionists. the story is always that Scotland – alone of all nations – cannot afford to be a nation alone without the guiding economic hand of London (yeah, the one that has so badly failed).

Take a look back at November 2011 when Conservative Chancellor George Osborne claimed that the prospect of an independence referendum was damaging the Scottish economy.

On the bright side, nationalist Englishmen twisting themselves in knots trying to simultaneously defend a rump-UK exit from the EU and say Scotland has no good reasons to exit the British Union will only be a source of limitless material for the Scottish independence campaign.

P.S. No, “devo-max” is not a credible option for Scotland – maybe Cameron should suggest it to his tory Colonel Blimpish brethren for the rump UK in Europe. That could be his political swan song.

Scottish Independence: How Unionist Kevin McKenna Learned to Love It

Scottish Independence

Unionist Kevin McKenna has (almost) seen the light — and is speaking gospel — re: Scottish independence:

Last year, over coffee in Glasgow, I was discussing the strategy of the Better Together camp with a prominent Labour politician. I suggested to him that Labour’s problem in Scotland is that they had to develop a narrative that says good things about the union rather than simply parrot the predictable and scientifically questionable surveys of purple-faced and gin-soaked CBI types that claim we’ll be a developing country if we become independent.

One year later and, despite Douglas Alexander’s best efforts, Labour has still failed to sell the union on its own merits. Events since then may even have rendered the task impossible. Unionists, me included, have talked loftily about dangers of break-up and separation in a world that is thirsting for continuity and stability.

Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world’s most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.


Labour in the UK long ago gave up any pretence at being the party of the marginalised and the vulnerable. Instead, it throws rotten fruit at the SNP when it says what Labour should be sayingAlex Salmond last week painted a handsome picture of what a new Scottish constitution following independence would look like. Every Scot, he said, would have a right to a home and free education. There will be no nuclear weapons. And we’ll decide who we’re fighting and who we’re not. Until Blair, Mandelson, Balls and Miliband hijacked the party, that was what I thought Labour stood for. Now they simply boo and hiss with the Tories and say it can’t be done.

Earlier this month, the UK Treasury declared that, following a period of intense and prolonged analysis of the economic numbers, each of us would be £1 a year worse off in an independent Scotland. Put another way, for £1 a year you will never have to endure the economic privations of a Conservative government ever again. You will not be penalised for being poor or old and nor will you suffer the pain of watching your young boys being killed in illegal wars or occupations.


With each passing week, it becomes more difficult to support a union that doesn’t really exist anyway. Morally, it may soon become indefensible to remain in a state that rewards corruption and promotes inequality when you have an opportunity to leave it behind.

A Racist Libel

In case you were wondering, over in Scotland the grassroots campaign for a “No to Independence” vote is getting ugly, and racist. Horribly, Labour Party stalwarts are leading the nastiest attacks, fearing that Independence will destroy their power in Scotland. Wings Over Scotland has the details, and an excellent comments thread.

The folks at Wings are capable of doing actual journalism as well as op-eds, as they recently proved by doing what no-one in the British media had thought to do over the question of an independent Scotland’s membership in the EU. Well worth a bookmark if you’re following the Independence debate.

Hogmanay Party Jukebox

In Scotland we call New Year’s “Hogmanay” and it is the occasion for the world’s biggest annual party. If you sober up before the 2nd, you’re doing it wrong. I’d like you all to join me in hoisting a glass or two of “the cratur” – scotch to you – as we toast the new year of 2013 and kick of an Agonist musical party. You know the drill – post a link to your YouTube of your favorite new Year’s party music and your drunken editors will try to imbed the video without crashing the whole site.

And now let’s get this party started. Something bittersweet and personal…

…and a footstomper from the vaults.

The traditional Scottish Hogmanay toast fits the Agonist readership well. “Here’s tae us, wha’s like us? Damn few, and they’re a’ deid!”

Happy New Year, folks.

From Dunblane to Newtown, Yellow Roses And More

Reuters went to Dunblane, the affluent and sleepy Scottish town that awoke on a horrid day in 1996 to its own massacre of tiny children:

On March 13, 1996, a gunman walked into the gymnasium of a primary school in the close-knit cathedral town and shot dead 16 children and their teacher before turning the gun on himself.

Few residents want to talk about the terrible events that for years made Dunblane synonymous with tragedy, but reminders abound, made all the more poignant by the onset of Christmas.

At the far end of the cemetery on the edge of town, toys, fairies and portraits of smiling children decorate the graves of many of the victims, while small windmills spin in the winter breeze under grey skies.

A miniature Christmas tree stands next to one grave and a bunch of pink roses covered in dew drops rests on the spot where their teacher, Gwen Mayor, 45, is buried.

“The memories are flooding back. It must be hell for the parents. We said prayers for them in my church,” said Harry McEwan, 71, who has lived in the town for 30 years. “Dunblane has so much in common with what has happened in Newtown.”

The Dunblane massacre shocked the world and started a public campaign that led to Britain adopting some of the strictest gun controls in the world.

The Newtown shooting has already prompted calls for new U.S. gun restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons. President Barack Obama said things must change to prevent more killings.

In Britain, the scale of revulsion over Dunblane’s three-minute rampage led within two years to new laws that effectively banned civilians from owning handguns. Ministers also promised to improve school security.

The Dunblane shootings were particularly shocking for a country where the police are not routinely armed and gun crime is relatively unusual. Of the 636 murders in England and Wales in 2010/11, 60 were shootings. Last year, firearms were used in 0.3 percent of all recorded crimes.

I’ll just repeat here what I wrote in July after the Colorado movie theater massacre. I’m depressed at how relevant it still is.

Let me tell you, if you’ve never been at the site of such a massacre, I was in Dunblane two days afterwards. I went to university a few miles away and had several friends living in the small town, including one couple who’s apartment overlooked the scene. The emergency services were still clearing up, the media were everywhere and I spent several hours with two good friends who had heard and seen things no-one should be asked to witness. Which is more important to you – the words written in a very different age or young lives right now?

Look, my homeland of Scotland is supposed to be the most violent country in Europe. Even so, there were 93 homicides in the entire country of 5.2 million last year. people were outraged because that was a 30% increase on the year before! The place I consider my home city in the U.S. – San Antonio, Texas – by contrast had 97 homicides for 1.3 million people. Don’t tell me that the U.S. being the most heavily armed nation on earth doesn’t have anything to do with that, with 90 guns in private ownership for every 100 people – ahead of even Yemen and Iraq.

Massacres are the price America pays for easy gun ownership and massive arms stockpiles in private hands. Americans need to decide whether that price is acceptable.

More from Dunblane:

Dunblane has tried to move on. The sports hall where the shooting took place has been demolished and the school has been refurbished. However, the U.S. shooting has brought back painful memories.

“A dark cloud came over us,” said lifelong Dunblane resident Nancy, who declined to give her surname. “The heaviness, the sorrow. Just disbelief and shock. Our hearts go out to the people of Newtown. It’s still very painful and when something happens elsewhere it sort of bubbles up to the surface.”

At the memorial garden which replaced the demolished gymnasium, a note attached to yellow roses remembers “All the lost angels of Dunblane”.

Let us all fervently hope that yellow roses are not all Newtown has to remember its dead babies by. Serious legislation is needed too.

On that, though, I’m still cynical. TPM reports:

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that working to reduce gun violence is a “complex problem that requires many solutions.” Carney added that the White House does not have specific proposals to put forward at this time to reduce gun violence.

That’s the whole thing.


How the world of Eton sees Scotland and Scottish Independence

by Gerry Hassan

(Originally posted by openDemocracy, republished under a Creative Commons license)

The name of Eton resonates down through English tradition and privilege: from the Dave ‘n’ Boris show to the wider return of the old Etonians across public life.

It has produced nineteen British Prime Ministers and a host of Scottish and British iconoclasts and radicals from Tam Dalyell and Neal Ascherson to John Maynard Keynes and George Orwell.

Eton was an august setting for debating Scottish independence in the week of the Scottish and UK Government’s agreement on the single question referendum: yes or no on whether Scotland should exit the union. On the same day the Eton master Mike Grenier publicly warned of the dangers of parents micro-managing their children’s free time. Grenier advised that the ‘turbo-charged fathers’ and ‘tiger mothers’ that pay £30,000 per annum in fees should ‘embrace a little idleness’ with their children.  Read More

Numptie Alert

Apparently the most popular article at FP magazine right now is “The Battle For Britain“, in which Alex Massie, a right-leaning Scot who writes for The Spectator and dearly wishes he was English proves he’s a blethering hack by suggesting that the decline of the British Empire is what has fuelled Scottish cries for independence while failing to mention Margaret Thatcher at all.

numptie : 1) Scottish colloquialism, a stupid person, a figure of ridicule.

Guess where they’re pledging to help the poor more & to build out of recession

The middle class aren’t hurting nearly as much as the poor, not that you’d know it from the frequency of those two descriptions in US presidential debates. But hey, in the US the poor tend not to vote because they know neither party’s apparatchiks give a toss about them.

Not so in Scotland, where the ruling SNP are trying to help the poorest in society and use capital spending to build their way out of recession ( as Krugman, Roubini and Stiglitz all recommend).

DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced extra cash for housing and money to help 100,000 vulnerable people as she demanded the Chancellor change tack on the economy

Ms Sturgeon called on George Osborne to abandon austerity cuts and instead invest in capital infrastructure, saying: “We must build our way out of recession.”

To help do that in Scotland she announced £45 million would be spent building 1,200 new homes across Scotland.

In addition she revealed the Scottish Government would commit £9 million additional funding to help some of the country’s most needy.

That cash, she told the SNP annual conference in Perth, would provide “essential crisis support in these difficult times for 100,000 more of our most vulnerable people”.

The Deputy First Minister insisted: “The answer to Tory cuts is to control our own resources.

“Control of our own resources so we can get our economy growing.”

No-one has managed to cut their way out of this recession – it takes capital investment from government to get the economy moving again. Kudos to the SNP for having the courage to say so and take as much action as the strings imposed from London allow.

Scottish Leader Blasts London’s “Lord Snooties”

In a speech to the Scottish national party conference, party leader and First Minister of the devolved Scottish parliament hit out at the chinless wonders running all three main Westminister political parties, calling them “Lord Snooties” – a reference to an upper-class character in a British children’s comic.

The First Minister used his speech to the Scottish National Party’s annual conference in Perth to launch a furious attack on a Westminster Government hit by political woes in the past 24 hours.

Andrew Mitchell stood down as chief whip on Friday after admitting the row over his confrontation with police officers in Downing Street made his position untenable — although he continued to insist he had not called a policeman a “pleb”.

Meanwhile Chancellor George Osborne was forced to pay a £160 upgrade for his train ticket after he was caught sitting in first class with only a standard ticket.

To cheers from the audience Mr Salmond demanded: “Why on earth do we allow this incompetent bunch of Lord Snooties to be in positions of authority over our country?”

…”We face a Westminster government that is hell-bent on pulling our society apart at the seams,” Mr Salmond said.

“Austerity, a one-way street with tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.

“Billions to be spent on new nuclear weapons while families struggle to heat their homes.

“What kind of brave new world is this?”

In his keynote conference address the Fist Minster declared: “Westminster is beyond salvation.”

But he added: “Our social democratic Scotland can still be won.”

Salmond pointed out that while polls show support for an independent Scotland at between 30 and 40% (and rising), if the number who say they want even more devolution from London while staying part of the Union are counted, then “once again the majority of our fellow citizens are for change.” That’s a reference to the 1979 referendum, when a clear majority of Scots who voted said they were for devolution but Westminister decided that those who hadn’t voted would be counted as being against, and so devolution was withheld until Scots demands for a fairer vote were finally met in 1997.

Yesterday, in heated debates, the party conference decided by a close vote that an independent Scotland would look to retain NATO membership while banning all nuclear weapons from its soil. However, the Westminister government, in an unreasonable fit of pique at those uppity Scots, has indicated it would try to block Scottish membership of NATO. Surely Scotland is either an asset to the organisation or it is not, by virtue of geography, core values and ability to contribute according to its size, whether it is part of the Union or no – but if all that asset consists of is being a place to park English nukes then Scotland is better off out of NATO and out of a Union with a neighbour that only sees it as a dumping ground and better alternative target for London’s enemies missiles.