Monday 27 February 2023

A fairytale that has absolutely nothing to do with Scotland. Part 2

Part 1

When Queen Nancy, who preferred now to be known as former King Nathan left to go into exile she hoped to be known as the King Over the Water where he/she would plot rebellion and hope for a comeback. Nathan was helped by the Gaulish ambassador Saphotrix. Nathan hoped that he could please Saphotrix more now that he was Nathan rather than before when he had been Nancy. Saphotrix had become so frustrated that she had been led into temptation and unfaithfulness until Nancy had been able to iron out the infidelity.

Meanwhile Paul who was now Paula had remained regent and still controlled which prince or princess would succeed Queen Nancy/King Nathan. It was necessary that Paula remain in charge and in control in case too much was found out about Queen Nancy’s reign.

The initial favourite was Princess Cordelia Fairchild. But when she was asked to tell about what she loves the most she finds herself exiled for telling the truth while her ugly sisters Goneril and Regan are left to fight for the kingdom alone because they told what their audience wants to hear.

Goneril confusingly while prone to wear eyeliner and skirts does not wear a veil but is allowed to sit with the men and avoid hiding her hair because she is in disguise and in fact is Prince Hārūn ibn ʿImrān who despite a tendency to worshipping golden calves has travelled far to bring the kingdom to the promised land.

Regan’s hopes begin to turn to ash as she puts forward a scheme for secession that is called Undisciplined Desperate Insurrection (UDI). But former King Alan now exiled in Albania, has been stricken in Strichen since his voluntary abdication which unfortunately was rewarded by Queen Nancy gathering rather serious accusations about the way he ruled over the courtiers and courtesans of the palace.

Queen Nancy had been able to find 10 courtiers who remembered all about what King Alan had done in the carriages and during late night meetings in bed chambers let alone what had gone on behind the arras. But King Alan said to himself if you think the story about King Winestone of the Holy Wood is going to apply to me too you are mistaken.

Alan wanted revenge and it was he that was behind the challenge of Regan. She had first begun the insurrection guided by Alan against Queen Nancy when she had refused to say that a Queen could become a King. She hoped that one day the Albanians could be brought back to the kingdom. This too is what Icarus of Bath hoped for. He hadn’t been allowed even to be a courtier let alone a contender despite all his efforts and popularity. There would be a second jousting tournament this year just so long as Alan Icarus and Regan didn’t get too close to the sun.

Goneril aka Prince Hārūn continued to attack Princess Cordelia for cruel attack on Kings who wanted to become Queens and Kings who wanted to sleep with other Kings, but Hārūn was never asked by the scribes about his own beliefs.

Hārūn thought that what he believed in private could be completely different from what he believed in public and it was completely OK to deceive everyone about his private beliefs by pretending that they were the same as his public beliefs.

He said he was all in favour of Nancy becoming Nathan and all in favour of Queens marrying Queens and that anyone who disagreed including Cordelia would be prosecuted for a hate crime. But Hārūn would not be prosecuted even though in truth what he believed would be rather less popular in the kingdom than what Cordelia believed, because no one would know and he wouldn’t tell.

If keeping secret his innermost beliefs was the way to become King, or was that Queen, then that would be justified.

Meanwhile those parts of the kingdom who wanted to maintain unity with their friends and neighbours on their same small island watched the contest with interest.

Many liked and sympathised with Cordelia and objected to her treatment for telling the truth. But they also thought she was bright and competent and hoped she would not become Queen.

Few had heard of Regan and considered her plans would rapidly bring back King Alan and all that went with him. Courtiers and courtesans would have to be guarded lest Alan were given a second chance to recreate his celebrated harem where the only escape was to keep telling stories until his enthusiasm was curbed.

But Pro unity people cheered on Hārūn because he had never achieved anything and frequently fell on his face.

‘There goes a true-bred Hārūn,' said Effie, as the prince departed, 'for they are ever fair and false.'

Part 3

Saturday 25 February 2023

A fairytale that has absolutely nothing to do with Scotland


Once upon a time there was a Queen called Nancy and her husband Paul. The trouble is that Nancy wanted to be King, and Paul wanted to be a Queen. So, Nancy came up with an idea that would give both of them what they wanted. Paul would become Paula and then she could love boys in a way she had never loved Nancy and Nancy would become Nathan and then she could love girls in a way that she had never loved Paul.

It would all be very simple for both Nancy and Paul. They wouldn’t need to go to the doctor. They’d just have to promise to either always wear dresses or always wear trousers and after three months they would get a certificate that now they were Queens and Kings respectively.

There was also a long-term friend of Queen Nancy. Agnes Grey supported their political ideals as did her brother Barry Simmonds. Both brother and sister were very rich, although their backgrounds were humble. They had worked hard and were hoping to enjoy a deserved quiet retirement.

But Agnes did not like the idea that Nancy could become Nathan after just 3 months without a doctor’s involvement. She reminded Nancy that she had given her many donations. But Nancy didn’t listen and was unwilling to turn down the chance of becoming Nathan. Agnes was angry.

A short time afterwards Agnes found herself being accused of the most bizarre crime imaginable. She had always done a lot of charity work both at home and abroad, but suddenly she was being accused of the very crime that she had spent decades trying to prevent.

This was a cold way indeed to begin the year. She phoned Nancy to see if anything could be done to clear up the misunderstanding and to remove the obviously false charge on her reputation. But Nancy was still angry with Agnes and refused to do anything to help.

This Queenly refusal or should it be Kingly refusal had worked well when King Alan the Usurper had tried to topple her. He too had pleaded for help, but Nancy had very nearly got him sent to jail and despite his escape from a prison sentence Nancy’s reputation had remained intact even when an inquiry came close to proving she had lied. Nancy would see off Agnes just as easily.

But Agnes was better at business than Nancy and she knew a forensic accountant who had the skill to look into all the outgoings and ingoings of the realm. He discovered who paid what and when who spent what and when and discovered that Paul and Nancy were economical not merely with the truth but with their donations.

Nancy’s kingdom wanted to leave a bigger kingdom of which it was a part. There had been jousting contest to determine the result, but Nancy had lost. She wanted a second joust and had asked the kingdom for funds to put on the tournament.

600,000 ducats had been raised, but unfortunately one day Paul came to Nancy and told her that he didn’t know what had happened to the ducats. Maybe they had been spent on last year’s grand ball, perhaps they had been spent on red dresses or perhaps on sex change operations. He really couldn’t say.

But now the forensic accountant employed by Agnes, who may or may not have been her brother Barry had proved that the Flounder dynasty was indeed floundering.

By this stage it was the second month of the year and the Grand Inquisitor Ishmael Lockwood paid Nancy a visit.

He interviewed Nancy and cautioned her to tell the truth. He presented his evidence and Nancy realised she would never become Nathan instead she hoped merely to avoid the fate she had tried to arrange for the usurper Alan.

If you resign tomorrow said the Grand Inquisitor, I will retire in the next few months too. But you must go. Tell the scribes anything you want about being tired or wanting to spend more time with your family, not that you have a family of course, but abdicate and we will try to ignore the 600,000 ducats.

And so it came to pass that Agnes Grey showed herself to be much more than a mere governess, more skilled than any nurse and better at the business of destroying the Flounder dynasty than Nancy/Nathan could ever have guessed.

Agnes was vindicated. She was good. She was true. She had committed no crimes. But the Flounder dynasty died without issue and the idea of a second jousting tournament died with them. And so

We all lived happily ever after.


Part 2

And then there were three


SNP members have a choice between 3 candidates. Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan.

Enough has been written about Kate Forbes. She is by far the brightest and most dangerous opponent. I hope she loses, therefore. She will. Despite remaining popular with the public, she cannot possibly become First Minister as some SNP MSPs would not vote for her. She is essentially a Christian fundamentalist whose views are to the right of most Scottish Conservatives. But the vast majority of SNP MSPs are left wing progressives. We can assume that Forbes will not win (good) and if she has any sense will not remain an MSP for long.

I first heard of Ash Regan when she opposed the Gender Recognition Bill and resigned as Community Safety Minister (whatever that is) because of her opposition. This required both courage and good sense. What SNP progressives including Sturgeon don’t get is that allowing people with male bodies into women’s spaces is hugely unpopular with most voters. The common-sense view that men cannot become women is held almost universally outside universities and Holyrood.

Ditching some of Sturgeon’s progressive policies might increase support for the SNP, but again how could Regan lead a party where vast numbers of MPs and MSPs think that she is a TERF transphobe?

But while Regan has a common-sense view about transgender, she has an ultra-fundamentalist view on Scottish independence. I’m not sure if they came up with it independently or if they shared notes, but Regan’s view is that put forward by the site Wings over Scotland.

I know that lots of Pro UK people think that Wings is a charlatan, but I read him more than any other Scottish nationalist commentator. He is by far the best informed both about the inner workings of the SNP and Alba. He is obviously in close contact with insiders.

The Wings scheme goes something like this. Every Holyrood election and General Election becomes a vote on Scottish independence. If independence supporting parties ever get 50% plus one vote, they will begin negotiations on separation from the UK. Regan endorses this.

There are a number of problems with this, but perhaps the biggest can be illustrated with an example. After losing an authorised, legal referendum in September 2014, in May 2015 the SNP won fractionally less than 50% and the Scottish Greens won 1.3%. This means that independence parties won just over 51%. So according to Wing/Regan they should have immediately begun negotiations on independence less than a year after decisively losing a referendum on that very question. Sorry, that is preposterous.

The UK Government has no moral, legal or democratic duty to respond to First Minister Regan after winning such a vote by negotiating with her. The only legal route to independence is a legal referendum agreed by Westminster. The Wings/Regan scheme amounts to UDI without negotiations and without being recognised either by the former UK or the international community.

The idea that the UN or the EU is going to come riding to the rescue of the Scottish homesteaders in their circle of wagons is to ignore that each permanent member of the UN Security Council is in favour of the territorial integrity of the state and the EU did not come to the rescue of Catalonia not least because it does not want to encourage secession movements within its members.

Regan could indeed declare UDI. She needs a simple majority in Holyrood. I don’t think the UK would do anything to stop her. But it would mean an immediate loss of Treasury funds and the new Scottish Government being unable to borrow with perhaps a financial crisis along the lines of Sri Lanka.

Regan is a Scottish nationalist fundamentalist whose idea of how to achieve independence is not merely mad it is dangerous. Which leaves us with Humza Yousaf.

Mr Yousaf has a lot of ministerial experience, but things have not always gone to plan. While Transport Minister he was caught driving without correct insurance cover. He made a mistake. It could have happened to any of us, but it is reasonable to expect a transport minister to do rather better.

While Justice Secretary Mr Yousaf introduced a Hate Crime Bill, which he said would abolish the crime of blasphemy, but it did so by really extending the crime to all religions. It also extended the concept of a hate crime to what people might say in their own homes in private. So, if I said something that Mr Yousaf might find hurtful in my kitchen, in theory he might be able to prosecute me for a hate crime if the person I was talking to told him about it.

The fundamental problem with the modern concept of hate crime is that it depends on the perception of the supposed victim rather than the truth. If someone reports me because they perceive my actions to have been homophobic, my actions automatically are homophobic even if I didn’t even know the person was gay.

We all have a duty to not attack others verbally or physically because they are Muslim, gay, or trans, but free speech requires that I can think and write what I please about these people. Otherwise, we get the situation where Kate Forbes faces disciplinary action from her own party and possibly a conviction from a law passed by her fellow candidate for committing a hate crime.

Mr Yousaf has now moved onto Health Secretary. He inherited a very difficult situation after Covid. But it is fair to say that his work thus far in terms of outcomes has not seen an improvement in Scottish healthcare. Rather it is considerably worse now than when he began.

I would very much like to see Mr Yousaf become First Minister. I think he would do a poor job at that too. I also don’t think he would be popular. He once harangued the Scottish Parliament about various jobs being held by people who were white. But well over 90% of Scots are white, so why should that be surprising. What’s more we are now in a situation where the leader of Scottish Labour is of South Asian descent, the London Mayor too and the Prime Minister. If Mr Yousaf becomes First Minister of Scotland, he can hardly complain of unequal opportunities. The UK will have shown itself to be by far the best place in Europe for people from ethnic minorities to reach the too top in politics. I can’t think of any black or brown leaders anywhere else. Can you Mr Yousaf?

There is for me a mystery at the heart of Mr Yousaf’s candidacy. He is Scottish born in Scotland and has the right to support whatever political principles he chooses, but why Scottish independence? I can understand that Kate Forbes and Ash Regan were probably brought up to think of themselves as Scottish and not British. Perhaps their parents told them about the dream of Scottish independence.

But Mr Yousaf’s parents while choosing to come to Scotland might equally well have chosen to go to Bradford or Birmingham. In the latter case would Mr Yousaf have been an English nationalist or support the secession of Yorkshire? If he had been born in Belfast, would he have joined the DUP or instead chosen Sinn Féin? If he had been born in South Carolina in a previous generation, would he have been a Confederate?

Why does Mr Yousaf think that he is Scottish and not British and if he doesn’t think this why does he want to separate one group of British people in Scotland from the rest?

The mystery at the heart of Mr Yousaf’s candidacy is that the SNP is in essence a nativist almost universally white organisation, which depends on appealing to a long ago past with the desire to restore what was lost in 1707. Mr Yousaf has a perfect right to lead such an independence movement. But why would he want to? It’s like Frederick Douglass leading the Confederacy.

But I will cheer on Mr Yousaf as he leads the charge on the third day at Gettysburg. Frankly I hope he does become First Minister.


Wednesday 22 February 2023

Roald Dahl and the reincarnation of Thomas Bowdler


When Thomas Bowdler published the Family Shakespeare in 1807, he little realised that his name would eventually be turned into a verb, to bowdlerise. His edits and rewrites removed such puns as Hamlet asking Ophelia “Do you think I talk of country matters?” But even by 1836 when the first instance of bowdlerise occurs, such censorship and rewriting was viewed with distaste and Bowdler considered faintly ludicrous.

If even the Victorians, while supposedly screening piano legs and covering the naughty bits of classical statues with fig leaves, preferred to read Shakespeare unexpurgated, we may suppose that if given the chance they would likewise have preferred to read the original versions of Roald Dahl’s novels rather than those that of gone through the meat grinder of a sensitivity reader straight out of an English Literature class at university.

This is the essence of the problem. We have due to the malign influence of schools and universities entered a new Victorian era of censorship and prudery that makes the Victorians look like libertines. After all they rejected Bowdler while we reembrace him.

If you read Middlemarch, and you should, it is obvious that some topics will not be mentioned, or scenes shown. There are no bedroom scenes involving married couples let alone unmarried ones. There is no mention of homosexuality. There are no black people. There is no atheism nor even obvious agnosticism. But there is also no censorship. Instead, there is a depiction of a few people living in a small town that provides an insight into human nature, morality and love that is unsurpassed in English. The idea that some modern Bowdler may one day read George Eliot as he reads Dahl and strike out words and passages that might offend a modern reader fills me both with dread and disgust. But it will happen if this nonsense is not stopped.

When I went to Cambridge I went to a place where thought was free and largely non-political. If you studied philosophy or literature or theology or history you were encouraged to think for yourself, above all say something outrageous if you could justify it with reason.

This was the key difference between what I met in some other universities where what was valued was close reading of texts, with summaries and little comment but vast numbers of footnotes showing you had read lots of books.

What has happened in the years since is that originality of thought has been devalued. There are limits. There are places you may not go. Try arguing against Black Lives Matter. Try doubting that a man can become a woman. Try suggesting that it is a contradiction to suppose that a man can marry a man. You will be ostracised. You will fail your course. You will lose your job.

So, what is left is dull summary and scholarship and propaganda. For undergraduates there is no original thought left just towing the party line. This is what decolonising the curriculum involved. It bowdlerises thought. It is sterile, because it limits in a way that the Victorians were not limited.

What is the purpose of education? It is not to learn things. The things that you learn apart from in a few subjects are completely useless to your later life. It matters not one little bit if you are an accountant if you have read Hamlet. If you are a lawyer, you do not need to know about Battle of Waterloo.

What matters in education is to be taught how to think. That way you can then solve problems for yourself, and you then have learned how to learn so that you no longer need a teacher. If you are sufficiently intelligent you then may have the ability to come up with original thought and innovative solutions.

This was the purpose of learning about philosophy, history, literature and theology. It wasn’t the knowledge these subjects gave you it was that they taught you to think for yourself.

But decolonising the curriculum and the tendency to bowdlerise means you cannot think for yourself. You don’t dare question the need to decolonise anything. If you do you will fail. You don’t dare question the modern orthodoxy on trans, or homosexuality or race. It makes whole subject areas pointless.

Instead of reading George Eliot, you have to read something second rate because the author is black, or gay or left-wing. Instead of insight into humanity you only discover a political point of view that you are not allowed to criticise. Try suggesting that the result of decolonising the curriculum is that you have to read bad novels.

When your mind has gone through a school system that values orthodoxy and then a university system that doesn’t let you question what you have been taught, you end up with a worse mind than you had when you began the whole process aged five. At least a five-year-old can think for itself and can come up with unusual, even strange bits of imagination.

The result of university education is conformism far worse than Victorian times. Eliot knew that there were things she could not write about, but beyond that she was not censored. If Roald Dahl were trying to write today, he would be rejected because he is a white man and he has to be decolonised. If by some miracle he was published, he would have all that was original about him bowdlerised and made as dull and stupid as the sensitivity reader. I’d rather read the Family Shakespeare.


Monday 20 February 2023

Humza Yousaf must also answer questions about religion


Whoever the SNP elects as its next First Minister it will be in a worse position than it was before Sturgeon left. Ordinary voters know little or nothing about the potential candidates, while Sturgeon was a household name.

From a Pro UK position my first thought is to hope that the SNP elects the worst possible leader who has least chance of leading Scotland to independence. My guess is that would have to be Humza Yousaf.

Angus Robertson would be competent. Ash Regan at least stood up against Sturgeon on the trans issue, but still thinks that she can turn any election into a referendum on independence.

The sort of confrontational position that many SNP hardliners take is not going to lead them anywhere. The only sensible way Scotland can achieve independence is with the cooperation of the former UK Government. Using an election as a de facto referendum leading to immediate negotiations on independence simply invites the UK Government to ignore it or to refuse to cooperate treating any attempt to leave as UDI. The majority of Scots will not vote for this.

Sturgeon tried battering down the door to independence with anger, but there was nothing she could do when the UK said No. That remains the case, still more so after the recent Supreme Court Case.

A sensible SNP leader would recognise that there is neither going to be a second referendum any time soon nor any sort of short cut to independence by means of a General Election or Holyrood Election. Scotland is not up for a revolt.

Sturgeon chose confrontation with Westminster and got nowhere. But what if an SNP leader chose cooperation. There is one that just might do that. Kate Forbes. She could set out a vision of the trying to improve both the Scottish and UK economies by working closely with Westminster. She could try to wean Scotland off dependence on the Barnett Formula and could work towards Scotland being self-sufficient while benefitting from being part of the UK’s internal market.

After some decades of cooperation and economic success Scotland might be in a position where independence was possible while maintaining a very close relationship with the former UK. Alternatively, the SNP might accept that the close relationship with the UK was worth keeping and come up with an arrangement that satisfied both Governments.

If I were SNP leader, I would give up any chance of independence for twenty years. See it as a long-term goal. The short-term goal would then be to improve the Scottish economy and public services. The SNP could then cooperate with other parties in both Westminster and Holyrood in the common goal of improving both the UK and Scotland. At the moment this sort of cooperation is impossible because the SNP is always demanding separation. But if it could make that a long-term goal rather than an immediate goal constitutional issues would no longer matter at elections and the division in Scotland might heal.

I don’t know Kate Forbes at all, but it just might be the case that she would be interested in cooperation in a way that Sturgeon was not. I think she could be a formidable leader of the SNP, brighter than Sturgeon, kinder and more moral. Part of me therefore hopes she loses. But another part wonders if she might be able to heal the wounds in Scotland and work together with the UK Government for the benefit of both.

The main obstacle to Forbes becoming First Minister appears to be that she has rather right-wing views on economics and socially conservative views due to her membership of the Free Church of Scotland.

But while Forbes will be questioned on her Christianity. It is quite certain that Humza Yousaf will not be questioned on his Muslim views. This is grossly unfair and discriminatory.

When Tim Farron was asked about whether he thought gay sex was sinful, no one asked Muslim MPs what they thought about moral and religious issues connected with Islam. No one asked Rishi Sunak about Hinduism. Do you believe God is an elephant? Are you a polytheist? Is the caste system correct?

I don’t know whether Humza Yousaf is an active Muslim or not, but perhaps the media could as him the following questions.

1 Do you think homosexuality is forbidden by Islam?

2 Do you think Muslims should be allowed to change their religion?

3 Can Muslim men become women?

4 Would you prefer Scotland was a Muslim country?

5 Is it wrong for people to drink alcohol & eat pork?

6 Should women everywhere be free not to wear scarves or veils?

7 Do you regret the existence of the state of Israel?

8 Do you regret that Islam did not spread to Europe?

9 Would you prefer it if Islam were the only religion.

10 Are women equal to men in Islam?


To be fair I would like to ask Kate Forbes the following ten questions.


1 Is there anything in Christianity that suggests states ought to split?

2 Was the world created in 7 days?

3 Did this happen around 4000 BC?

4 Do you believe in the theory of evolution?

5 Should everything be shut on Sundays?

6 Do you believe everyone is predestined to salvation or damnation?

7 Are you one of the elect?

8 Do Catholics and Muslims go to heaven?

9 Would you attend the funeral of a Catholic?

10 Would it have been better if the Church of Scotland had not split?


Kate Forbes would no doubt have to answer questions on homosexuality and trans issues, but I think my questions are more interesting ones.

I obviously disagree with Forbes on independence, and it might be better from the Pro UK point of view if she failed to become leader. But it might be better if a nice, kind Christian liked by nearly everyone did lead the SNP. She might have the wisdom to see independence as a long-term goal. She might even be able to find a path which gives Scots most of what they want in terms of independence while maintaining what they like about living in the UK.

Most of us in Scotland want to keep the pound, the BBC and the armed forces. We want to live and work anywhere in the UK and benefit from public services. Independence supporters want these things too. No one wants closed borders.

Impatience will get the SNP nowhere and will certainly not get them a form of independence that maintains friendly relations with the former UK. But a long-term strategy of working together with the UK to give each side of the constitutional divide some of what they want might just heal the rift.

If you offer me keeping the UK intact, I will accept any other concession to Scottish nationalism.

Jesus was the mediator and the redeemer. Perhaps Forbes might find a way to get much of what she desires without dividing the UK. Perhaps she could find a way of mediating the desires of Scots who feel British and those who feel only Scottish. Sturgeon could not because she could only appeal to one side. Perhaps Forbes could do better and benefit all of us.

Saturday 18 February 2023

If only there were a deposit on Lorna Slater, so we could return her


For a long time, I was sceptical about climate change. What I mean by that is I viewed the climate as something that had always changed. A simple knowledge of history and fossils tells us that Britain was once tropical. It then had an ice age. Greenland genuinely was green when Erik the Red first saw it. A Norse settlement thrived until the Little Ice Age in the Middle Ages led to its demise. In Shakespeare’s time people skated on the Thames, but even prior to the industrial revolution this was no longer possible.

I concluded that climate had always changed, and it obviously had nothing to do with Erik the Red nor Shakespeare, so why did it have something to do with me?

An additional reason for my scepticism was that I perceived climate science as politically biased. It was treated more like a religion where there were true believers and deniers. There was a huge amount of propaganda particularly on the BBC and zealots kept making end of the world is nigh statements that turned out to be false. I can remember being told over 30 years ago that in five years something dreadful would happen, but it didn’t. I remember being told that if we didn’t change our ways the world would get hotter, but it equally well might get colder because of the loss of the Gulf Stream. It sounded like heads I win tails you lose rather more than objective science.

I don’t know what changed me. Perhaps it was the propaganda. Perhaps it was the sense that winters in Scotland were much milder than when I was a child and summers much hotter. I became less sceptical.

In the end I decided that burning fossil fuels was a bad idea whatever I believed about climate change and who was responsible. So, I began to think about the issue again.

It was obvious to me that whatever the UK did, let alone Scotland, would make no difference at all if the Chinese and the Indians and every other developing country continued to burn fossil fuels at the rate they are doing. Even if every one of us drove an electric car and there were windmills on every hillside and we recycled everything it would not make any meaningful contribution to climate change. We were as powerless as Erik the Red and Shakespeare.

What would make a difference? The development of alternative power sources which were safe, clean and always available.  The ultimate safe clean energy is fusion power, the power that the sun uses. Recent developments by scientists in Oxfordshire suggest we might be as close as ten years away.

It is in this context that Scottish Greens/SNP bottle return scheme is pointless. Even if it worked perfectly, it would save minimal amounts of energy. But it will work disastrously.

Lorna Slater wants each of us to have to pay 20 p extra for a bottle or a can of drink. Each bottle or can would have a barcode and we would have to scan it to get the money back. But it is obvious that a French bottle of wine will not be sent back to France to be reused. It will either be recycled, broken up to make new green bottles, or it will go into landfill. None of the bottles or cans collected by Slater’s scheme will be reused. The manufacturers of wine and beer and cola are not interested in reusing the bottles. It is too expensive to clean them and drive them back to the plant. But then what’s the point?

At the moment most councils already recycle bottles and cans. How many more will be recycled due to Slater’s scheme? We don’t know. But even if many more bottles and cans are recycled, they still won’t be reused, they will just be melted down into their elements and new bottles and cans will be made. The energy saving is at best marginal.

But how many unnecessary car journeys will be made in order to get all those deposits back? Remember its’s not going to be just 20 p. If you buy one of those boxes of beer cans sold in the supermarket, each can will cost an extra 20 p. It will rapidly mount up. At that point you are going to have to queue while everyone else scans in their beer cans and bottles.

Worse still not every manufacturer of beer and wine and soft drinks will want to go to the bother and expense of changing the label of their product just for Scotland. I don’t know anywhere in Scotland that can grow grapes, so we are rather reliant on other warmer places to give us wine. Well, if the wine producers are not interested in doing what Slater tells them we could end up with only Blue Nun and Black Tower like it was the 1970s.

I don’t see the point of returning bottles unless they are reused like milk bottles, but if there is to be a scheme why not at least wait until a UK wide scheme is set up in 2025. But no. Scottish nationalists always have to be different, no matter the consequences.

Recycling in general is not going to solve the problem of climate change. Why then must we do it? I think it has nothing whatsoever to do with saving the planet. Its purpose is propaganda and to make people feel that they are making a difference even if they are not.

Almost every street in Britain lost its railings during the Second World War. The vast majority were never used, and rumour has it they were eventually dumped in the sea. But people felt they were doing their bit and making a sacrifice. It’s the same point with recycling. You have to sort your rubbish into different bins. Some zealots do it religiously, the rest of us do it because we must. But the activity forces us to feel that we are making a slight difference to the climate it constantly reminds us of the Green message.

This is why Lorna Slater wants you to go through the extra expense and hassle of paying 20 p more for each can and bottle. It will tell you each time about how important it is that you think of the environment every time you buy wine or beer. After that all these bottles and cans like the railings can metaphorically be chucked in the sea. Literally most of them will be sent to a dump in the third world or into landfill. It just isn’t economic to clean cans and bottles and reuse the materials to make new ones.

I remain sceptical about the Greens, but I look forward to a time not far off when there will be cheap abundant energy that does not pollute. It will mean we will no longer be reliant on places like Saudi Arabia and Russia. When that day arrives, it may well benefit the planet and help to keep our climate as we would like it to be. But not one bottle returned and not one Lorna Slater or similar will have contributed anything. Rather scientists funded by capitalism driving to work in petrol cars and drinking bottles and cans without deposits will have changed everything.


Friday 17 February 2023



The key to continuing to defeat your opponent is never to underestimate him. This is the main danger for the pro UK side of the argument in Scotland. Sturgeon is gone, but if there were a General Election tomorrow or a Holyrood election the SNP would still win a large majority of the seats. This may change in time, but it will take a while.

A proportion of Scots want independence, not because it would make Scotland more prosperous, but just because it would bring back the land that was lost, Robert the Bruce and the Jacobites all rolled into one. These people are as eager for another go as they were before Sturgeon resigned.

The patient SNP strategy would be to rule Scotland as well as possible and gradually try to improve support for independence to consistently being more than 60%. Given that they are 12% behind this week and need to be 20% and more ahead this is a task requiring patience and perhaps decades.

But Scottish nationalists are not patient, for which reason mad as it seems, and even though the SNP has called off its special conference there is still a chance that a new leader will respond to Sturgeon’s demise with something like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, otherwise known as a de facto referendum at the next General Election or still more suicidal at an early Holyrood election. Banzai.

Attacking Pearl Harbor was a sign of desperation. Some battleships that were already obsolete were sunk, but the carriers survived. When the US got over the shock it still had the strength to destroy the Japanese navy at Midway in 1942 and the war in the Pacific was already over a little more than 6 months after it started.

If the SNP go full Tora Tora Tora, it too will suffer a strategic defeat from which it will never recover. Edimbourg mon amour.

If the SNP ever declares that an election is a de facto referendum the British Government can simply reply no it is not. The SNP strategy requires both the Scottish electorate and the British Government to accept that a referendum is taking place.

If the UK Government says, we will not negotiate with you no matter the result of the election, the SNP could find itself with a victory just like at Pearl Harbor that was really a strategic defeat. Tsar Alexandr refused to negotiate with Napoleon when he captured Moscow, which left Napoleon with only one choice, retreat. His army was destroyed gradually and then almost completely at the river Berezina a few weeks later.

The Supreme Court has told us that legally Scotland is merely a region (called a country) of a sovereign nation state called the UK. It has no legal right to a referendum no matter what, no more than the formerly independent parts of Germany, Spain and France. So, the SNP doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on if it tries to force the issue.

A more risky strategy but perhaps with the potential for greater reward would be to respond to an SNP de facto referendum by treating it as a potential unilateral declaration of independence. You can have your de facto referendum. If you get 50% plus one vote you will immediately on the day after the election, be independent. There will be no negotiations whatsoever. There will be no transition period. All fiscal transfers from the Treasury will cease immediately and we will close the border. No dual nationality will be allowed. The former UK will not recognise Scotland, will not cooperate with it and will advise all other countries that it has illegally broken away from the UK.

It is always difficult to judge how a Scottish electorate might respond to such an offer. It might choose to bring ruin on itself by voting for the SNP, but the ruin would be such that Scotland would be back in the UK after a few days. But my guess is that any such tough tactics if properly communicated and properly understood would destroy the independence movement more even than the Japanese fleet at Midway.

Scots might be tempted by independence, but few of us are tempted by poverty and destitution. In the end most independence supporters are only interested if independence leaves life much as it is. The former UK could wreck Scotland merely by not cooperating. This above all is the limit beyond which the SNP cannot push.

But none of these things are likely to happen. The SNP is leaderless, rudderless and without a plan. Going for an all or nothing attack after the departure of Sturgeon would be mere folly. Other things being equal if Sturgeon had thought she could win a de facto referendum in the next two years, she would have stayed. Her leaving, assuming no other reason, suggests she knew that she could not win one. SNP MPs and MSPs know this too.

Despite controlling education and most of the bodies that influence public opinion the SNP is still stuck on 45%. It cannot risk a de facto referendum because there is a much greater chance that it would fall short than surpass 50%. Falling short would equal your second referendum, which really equals you never get another go. But in the unlikely event that 50% was surpassed, still less likely now that Sturgeon is gone, there would be nothing legally nor morally that would force the UK Government to negotiate independence. The SNP risks all for nothing. Banzai again.

The SNP both hates the UK but depends on the British Government playing fair. But we know now from the Supreme Court that Scotland has no legal right to secede in international law. So, who or what is going to force the issue. The SNP can attempt to revolt. It can have demonstrations in the streets and strikes, but all this leads to is a unilateral declaration of independence, which if the British Government failed to cooperate would lead the Scottish economy into immediate meltdown and likely no money coming out of the cash machines and our credit cards not working.

Negotiated independence is possible, but only if support for independence is massively higher than it is at present. Work towards this dear SNP and you may still win, but attack too early and we will sink your fleet and see you all at the bottom of the ocean.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

The chance for independence has gone with her


Why are many Pro UK people celebrating today? Obviously because Nicola Sturgeon has resigned. What does this tell us about Nicola Sturgeon as a political opponent? It obviously tells us that she was formidable, shrewd and a great campaigner. Why else would we be pleased that she has gone?

I’ve never disliked Sturgeon personally. I don’t know her. I doubt very much that we would be friends if we did meet as we disagree about everything, but still, that is no reason to dislike a person personally.

I disliked the political leader Nicola Sturgeon, because I disagreed with her primarily about Scottish independence. But not only that. I disliked the cult of personality that began to arise around her. I disliked how she and Salmond before her had divided Scotland. I disliked how somehow, she could escape judgement no matter her involvement in, for example, the Salmond scandal and how she evaded responsibility for her policies that did not work, her ferries that did not sail and her health service that kept getting worse.

I disliked how Sturgeon blamed Westminster for everything while at the same time taking credit for Westminster polices such as developing a vaccine that were far more responsible than Sturgeon’s TV appearances for getting us through the pandemic.

So yes, I disliked Sturgeon’s policies and political persona. But there are some Pro UK people who are so blinded by their hatred of Sturgeon that they cannot recognise her strength as an opponent.

But what Salmond started, and Sturgeon continued was an incredible transformation. I can remember when the SNP got a handful of seats at Westminster. I can equally well remember growing up in a Scotland where independence was a non-issue.

Salmond first won control over Holyrood and then obtained what the SNP had been campaigning for since it began, a legal referendum on independence. Salmond frightened the life out David Cameron and came within ten points of winning. Sturgeon built on this historic achievement by winning all but 3 of the Scottish seats at Westminster in 2015. This was quite simply unimaginable even 5 years earlier.

Since then, Sturgeon’s SNP has won easily every election it took part in. If that is not a formidable opponent, I would like to know what formidable means.

So, it is as if the Confederacy has first lost Stonewall Salmond Jackson. He stood like a Stonewall against the Union forces. Now it is as if the separatists have just lost J.E.B. Sturgeon Stuart the greatest cavalry commander of them all. We may hate everything the separatists stand for, but we have to recognise the talent of their generals otherwise how can we explain that we have been defeated so often.

There is of course an element in the Scottish electorate who would vote SNP even if it were led by the corpse of Dolly the Sheep, but it is too easy to explain SNP success in this way.

Salmond was a truly great politician. In my view the best Scottish politician since the war. Sturgeon was nowhere near his equal, but if she had not been a nationalist, she could have been a far better leader of the Labour Party than Keir Starmer.

Sturgeon is the only Scottish politician working today who is a household name in Scotland and she is the only Scottish politician who can make international headlines when she resigns and is known and largely respected in England.

But this is really the problem for the SNP. At least the Confederacy had R.E. Lee to lead when Stuart and Jackson were killed. The SNP has no one even close to the stature of Sturgeon and Salmond to take over.

The Pro UK cupboard is bare. We have Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and Alex Cole-Hamilton with perhaps Ruth Davidson lending a hand, but the first three are hardly famous even in Scotland let alone elsewhere. Who would lead a Pro UK campaign in indyref2? Goodness knows. Let’s hope it never happens.

But the SNP cupboard is now equally bare? Angus Robertson is a half German born in London whose greatest claim to fame was something to do with Salmond misbehaving at an airport and his failing to notice. Kate Forbes is just returning from maternity leave and her free kirk views may get her into trouble with the woke crowd. It is as unlikely that Humza Yousaf will lead Scotland to independence as it would have been if Mohammad Ali Jinnah had been called Archie MacPherson.

None of the potential candidates to replace Sturgeon are well known even in Scotland. They are as unknown as their Pro UK opponents.  But every secession movement in history has had great leaders. The lack of one stops the SNP in its tracks.

There is now zero chance that any sort of de facto referendum will take place this year at Holyrood as suggested by Angus MacNeil. The SNP doesn’t have the support to push for it and now it doesn’t have anyone to lead the campaign. The same goes for the next General Election and probably the next Holyrood election after that. Beyond that is merely the long grass.

I would expect support for the SNP to fall somewhat at the next General Election and for support for independence to fall to the early 40s late 30s. It needs to be more than 60% for a good while to put any pressure on a British Government.

 A sensible SNP leader would rule out another independence referendum until certain economic conditions had been fulfilled sometime in the distant future and then work to make devolution work in cooperation with Westminster rather than as an internal foe.

At this point the constitutional issue may go back to what it was like for most of the 300 years that Scotland has been part of the UK. Scots will continue to have a separate national identity but will be broadly content to be part of the UK.

Sturgeon’s achievement is that it is hard to think of another woman politician since the war who has reached her level of fame except Thatcher. Sturgeon won an almost impossible number of seats for the SNP at a number of elections. It is more of an achievement than Theresa May, let alone Liz Truss.

But Sturgeon fell short of the only achievement that mattered to her, achieving Scottish independence. Her success itself meant that no British Government would grant her one. The risk was too high. This left her with no where to go except fringe issues such as men becoming women, which would have baffled her own parents let alone Robert the Bruce. This was Sturgeon’s great flaw. She had the anger and passion to lead Scotland to independence, but she did not have the arguments and in the end did not have the intellect.


Sunday 12 February 2023

The Sturgeon sacrifice


Why has Nicola Sturgeon apparently sacrificed Scottish independence on the alter of trans rights as if the cause dearest to her heart was her Isaac and she was willing to prove to the God of woke that she would obey his command. Only this time there was no ram at the last minute to save the day.

The importance of Isaac in Biblical history would hardly have been the same if he were originally born a girl and only later decided he was a man. In that case he could hardly have been the grandfather of the twelve tribes of Israel. Abraham’s failure to sacrifice him turns crucially on Isaac’s having a male body that could father children. God knew this, but apparently Nicola Sturgeon did not.

It is too early to know what damage to the SNP’s cause will be done by putting rapists in women’s prisons. Scots have forgiven her in the past for apparently attempting to put her predecessor in prison and for lying about it. We vote according to whether we support independence or are Pro UK. Nothing else matters. But perhaps this time things are different.

Outside the walls of Holyrood, certain newspapers and academic establishments it would be hard to meet anyone who literally believes that trans women are women. We would play along if we had a trans colleague or met a trans person socially. No one wants to be rude. But most ordinary people think that sex and gender are the same thing and that it is something you are born with and cannot change. Until a few years ago this was simply common sense.

In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden there is a little girl who wants to be a boy. She is commiserated with but told clearly and distinctly that this is simply impossible. No doubt she grew up to be a wife and mother and in time forgot her tomboy ways. Now she may well have been put on pills and given surgery and if her parents objected, they would have their child taken away. This is how far we have come since 1952. It is like we live far east of Eden in the land of Nod.

It is not merely Nicola Sturgeon who has been tempted by the idea that women can become men, but it is she that has pushed the idea furthest in Britain. The UK Government has allowed people to change gender and even change the sex on their birth certificates, but it was relatively hard to do, you needed a doctor to agree and only a few thousand took advantage of the legislation.

We could all live with the odd case of a man getting surgery to become a woman and dressing in women’s clothes. Such people were few and it was necessary to be kind.

But then the issue exploded. Suddenly large numbers of girls were saying they were really boys. Boys who called themselves girls were winning swimming races. Male anatomy was appearing in changing rooms, and you could no longer find a women’s loo because they had all been made available to people with male anatomy. But it was not this that did for Sturgeon.

Even a few weeks ago it looked as if the trans rights side of the argument was winning. J.K. Rowling was fighting a heroic battle for common sense, but she was being attacked from all sides. Someone less famous than her working in a university or a publishing house or a newspaper would keep silent rather than risk the woke backlash.

But the logic of Sturgeon’s argument is that being a woman, or a man is subjective and anyone at any time can say I am now a woman and that person at this point really becomes a woman in just the same way as any other women. Sturgeon thought there needed to be no checks nor balances, no doctors, no anything, just sign a form and three months later you are a woman.

But what then are the trans rapists in women’s prisons in Scotland? Were they really women, in which case it must be wrong to send them to a prison for men, alternatively they were not really women because they had the anatomy to rape their fellow inmates. But if that is the case then Sturgeon’s whole mantra that trans women are women turns out to be false and her whole idea that people should be able to become women just by saying they want to look like dangerous nonsense. Most Scots think it is just that. Did you notice the tide turning? Not just here, but perhaps everywhere.

Women don’t want male anatomy in their changing rooms. They don’t want their daughters going to a guide camp in order to share a tent with someone with the body of a boy. It matters not one little bit if he/she thinks that he is a girl.

Above all else Scots do not want male criminals who are really chancers to be allowed into women’s prison’s just because they discover on conviction that if they say they are women they will get somewhere a bit more cushy. With regard to single sex spaces the vast majority of Scots think that what matters is anatomy, male or female, rather than subjective opinion, “I am a woman, because I feel like one” whether that opinion is sincere or not.

Sturgeon suffers from hubris. She thought she was politically invincible. She kept winning no matter the scandals, no matter the failed policies. But there is a deeper reason for Sturgeon going for broke on the trans issue.

Sturgeon wants Scottish independence, which by definition makes her a nationalist, but she is ashamed of being a nationalist because it has regressive connotations. She dislikes the name Scottish National Party. She would like to be an internationalist, but she can hardly be that while wanting to put an international border between Gretna and Berwick. If the parts of the UK cannot bear to live together how can international groupings like the EU or the UN?

To compensate for the regressive aspect at the heart of Scottish nationalism, let’s go back to 1707 or even 1314 when we beat the English at Bannockburn, Sturgeon has become ultra-woke on certain issues. She wants to follow those Democrats in the United States who were at the forefront of promoting the rather odd and very recent idea that men could become women just by wishing to.

Sturgeon thought it would be easy to make Scotland the most progressive part of the UK on trans rights. But the logical consequence of her view is that rapists ought to go to a woman’s prison because they really are women. It may not be enough to completely derail the SNP and its central cause, but it is a major setback. If Sturgeon goes, there is no one obvious to replace her nor lead the campaign for independence.

In time it may be seen that she has sacrificed that campaign on the issue of trans rights which is a trivial issue to most Scots including most Scottish nationalists. She thought she was invincible she was desperate to prove her progressive credentials precisely because she knows nationalism is not progressive. When she wielded the knife there was no God to rescue her and the knife cut deep into what she loved most, because instead of a ram in a thicket she found a nemesis instead.


Saturday 11 February 2023

The SNP is in the wilderness


A recent poll suggests that if a General Election were to be held now the Conservatives would slump to third place and the SNP would form the opposition. It would be an odd situation indeed.

How could the SNP legitimately oppose Government policy on UK wide issues when its primary goal in life is to leave the UK? More importantly the SNP would be opposing issues that are devolved in Scotland. Apart from UK wide issues Westminster acts partly as the English equivalent of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments. This means that that the Health Secretary, for example, is only responsible for the NHS in England. But how could the SNP legitimately oppose legislation on an English issue, when the Labour Government could not oppose the Scottish Government on the self-same issue?

Perhaps stranger still would be the fact that an SNP opposition would oppose a Labour Government on only one issue. Labour and the SNP have almost identical views on everything except Scottish independence. If Labour suggested we should spend more, the only SNP opposition would be that we should spend even more than that. If Labour gave in to strikers, the SNP would oppose by telling it to give in quicker and more generously.

But despite being perhaps in a position to oppose the British Government, the SNP would still be no closer to the promised land of Scottish independence and maybe further away.

The British electorate may feel inclined to kick the Conservatives when they are down so hard that they are in danger of going the way of the Whigs or the Liberal Democrats. There may be so many Labour MPs that there won’t be room on the Government benches. But support for Scottish independence is slipping and support for the SNP too.

There is little chance that the SNP will turn the next General Election into a de facto referendum, whatever that is. No one thinks it is a legitimate strategy and the SNP is looking ever less likely to get more than 50%. Labour can put in its manifesto that it won’t allow a second referendum and that will be it for another five years.

Sturgeon will be 53 this year. If she wants to do anything else than fail to lead Scotland to independence, she will have to do it soon. But that would surely mean that neither Moses Salmond, aged 68, nor Aaron Sturgeon will get out of the wilderness into the land of milk and honey.

Salmond correctly pointed out that thirty years of effort has been wasted over a policy that has nothing whatsoever to do with the SNP’s primary goal. The independence movement like the Israelites is quarrelling, divided and is frankly wandering and lost waiting for something to turn up like manna from heaven. Soon it will be leaderless too.

Salmond achieved the impossible when he guided the SNP from a fringe party to ruling Scotland and then obtaining a legal referendum. It was a historical achievement though marred by his involvement in a court case.

Sturgeon at one point was adored by Scottish nationalists perhaps even more than Salmond and approached the absurd position of being thought worthy of hagiography. But beyond the achievement of winning all but three of the seats in the 2015 General Election, Sturgeon has achieved nothing at all.

Scotland is run poorly. Education is worse than it was when I was a child. Healthcare is worse too. Sturgeon kept promising that next year there would be a referendum, but it is clear now that she will be long gone before this happens, if indeed it does.

The problem for the SNP is that there is no one obvious to replace Sturgeon. Angus Robertson is favourite, but we already know he is mediocre at best and will struggle to increase SNP support. Kate Forbes is clever and very nice, but I rather wonder if she might face the same problems as former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron when question as to whether homosexuality is a sin. Humza Yousaf might struggle with such questions too if anyone dared to ask them, but anyway his performance as a minister has hardly justified promotion to leader.

But in the end what matters in politics is the fundamentals. The Conservatives have failed because they have not taken advantage of Brexit and because Boris Johnson did not follow his initial instinct on lockdown. The economy is worse now than it was in 2019. What else matters?

Labour will fail because it still wants socialism to work, but socialism will never work. High taxes and high public spending will make any country poorer. So, by all means try again because the voters want more free things and to work less. But eventually the voters will vote for free markets and low taxes and low spending because they also want to be richer.

The SNP’s failure is that the model for independence that it put to us in 2014 became impossible after the UK left the EU. The close relationship between the former UK and Scotland only worked if both were in the EU, because then there would be no issue with trade, borders and standards. Scotland would have been like Austria to the former UK’s Germany. You hardly notice the border. Same money, same language, slightly different accent.

But Brexit changed everything. Sturgeon responded with anger, but she did not respond with convincing ideas and solutions. If Scots rejected a model of independence where the relationship between the former UK and Scotland was close, we would be still more likely to reject one that involved borders, trade barriers and the promise of a separate currency and in time the Euro.

Neither Sturgeon nor the independence movement have even addressed beyond wishful thinking how to solve the problem of your largest trading partner being in a different trading bloc. The only good solution is to reject EU membership and stick close to the former UK like Irish Free State did after independence. But this would depend on the former UK agreeing to maximum convergence and in the short term at least would make independence pointless as Scotland would have to follow the former UK on everything.

Joining the EU is a pointless activity if you believe in achieving sovereignty, because Scotland would be in the position of gallant little Belgium defying the Germans if it tried to really assert its independence in the EU like it frequently does in the UK. Scotland would be on a path to becoming a region governed by a Parliament in which it was outnumbered, which is just what the SNP object to now.

Around 45% support Scottish independence, but only if everything is exactly as they want it. The number would fall if it became clear we would lose the pound, fall further if it became clear that there would be a hard border between Gretna and Berwick and fall through the floor if a British Government ever told Scots you will have no right to live and work in the former UK if you choose to separate.

Sturgeon and the SNP are a bit less popular because of putting rapists in women’s prisons, but this will pass. But the fundamental failure to address the challenge of Brexit to Scottish independence will not pass. It is this failure that keeps the SNP in the wilderness, and it may take them rather more than 40 years to cross Sinai. It may take them forever. Neither Salmond nor Sturgeon will live to see an independent Scotland.