What sort of Scotland?

Should Scotland be an Independent Country?  If we were asked that question in a school or college exam and we gave only the positive case for creating a new nation we would surely not expect to pass.  Yet we are being asked to vote YES on the basis of only the most optimistic forecasts – on the pound and pensions, on oil revenues, the economy and the constitution, on welfare, education and defence, on speedy entry into the EU.  All will be well according to the Scottish Government. (more…)

Add comment September 17th, 2014

Aye we can – but why?

“When Scotland is told you cannae dae that,  you know what our answer’s gonnae be.  We’re just, like, saying, ‘Aye we can.’”
There was an almost touching naivety about that smiling young face to camera on the news last night.  Or it would be touching if it wasn’t such a chillingly simplistic rejection of all the complexities, all the cavernous unknowns, implied in the momentous decision Scotland will be making on Thursday. (more…)

Add comment September 16th, 2014

Cry the divided country

If you are visiting this blog post for the second time you will notice that I have changed the heading. If you have just arrived, I should explain that the original heading said In a state of hysteria Scotland risks making an irreversible decision based on the fever of the moment. I apologise for careless use of an emotive word (you will see from comments below that I have been criticised for implying that everyone voting Yes is acting out of hysteria and in blind faith).  If you read my argument I hope you will see that is not what I intended, or said.  But I do not think I was wrong to express alarm at the mood of the country which seemed to me to reach fever pitch with yesterday’s demonstration outside the BBC.  Enough. Here is the post which has attracted more attention than most of my thoughts. It starts with a quote from an article in the Financial Times magazine. (more…)

17 comments September 12th, 2014

In memory of Kerry Napuk

I am very sad to report the death of a good friend, Kerry Napuk.  He was the inspiration for a community venture in Leith which survives as a testament to his vision, leadership and constant cajoling. This is one of those times when there is no clear dividing line between my private and public worlds so I am recording my memories of a remarkable man. (more…)

4 comments September 7th, 2014

Sometimes the facts get in the way of a good story

An odd story caught my eye yesterday. A photograph posted on Facebook claimed to prove that Jim Murphy, the Labour MP  for East Renfrewshire was ‘egged’ by his own ‘minder’. According to rumours flying round Facebook this was a set up intended to smear the Yes campaign whose tactics had forced him to abandon his soap box tour of Scotland campaigning for a No vote. (more…)

3 comments September 4th, 2014

What on Earthy is this?

Just for the record, I objected to ugly plans for a new development at Canonmills on the banks of Edinburgh’s Water of Leith. Midnight was the deadline but my email to the Planning Committee prompted an auto response…the planning department officer was now away for two weeks. So I posted it on the City Council Planning Portal and got a response telling me my ‘truncated comment’ had been lodged.  Online objecting is not quite as easy as it seems, but still worth doing.  Why do I care?  It goes back a long way. (more…)

Add comment August 8th, 2014

Swanwatching at Pond Cottage

Phew! Great relief as mother swan appears round a bend in the stream with four cygnets in tow. We had an anxious half hour after arriving at Pond Cottage when only the dad and two young ones appeared at the bank to be fed. It’s not easy being surrogate swan parents!


Add comment June 6th, 2014

Our excellent DIY Orient Express adventure

Why did we do it? There are quicker and easier ways to get from Edinburgh to Istanbul. You can fly direct from Edinburgh to Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in just about four and a half hours. But where’s the romance and adventure in that? (more…)

2 comments May 15th, 2014

Borders of the mind: the great distraction of nationalism

Raindrops smear a blurry, bleary view of the Borders. I’m on the train, hurtling through what is still (so far) UK countryside, crossing the invisible line that divides Scotland from England. A red mist gathers as I flick through the Guardian, headlines on every page proclaiming why the independence referendum is (to me) such a dangerous, indulgent distraction from the real issues.


Add comment May 1st, 2014

That jiggery-pokery thing called life: Poem of the Week 3

At first I find it hard to choose a poem from Judi Benson’s, Hole in the Wall.  She became Writer in Residence at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary just a year after the death of her husband, Ken Smith, and there are lines in this book which I find painful to read. (more…)

Add comment April 14th, 2014

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