Politics on the hill, an Edinburgh View


A video about this blog made by Phantom Power Productions is available here.

March 11, 2017.

Climbing Arthur's Seat on an overcast March day, thinking about politics, I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon is going to call a second independence referendum; if Theresa May is going to trigger Article 50 next week. Holyrood Park is busy - the route to the top is thronged and I hear snatches of conversation in many languages: French, then Polish, French again. A group of fit-looking German men files onto the path above me. It seems to me, returning after an absence of a few months, that Edinburgh increasingly feels like a European capital.

Behind me an English student is entertaining a visitor: “This is ten minutes from campus.” They are arguing about whether the rock paths laid on the hillside to protect it from erosion could be considered natural. “Is an anthill natural?  Ants modify their environment.”

Read more: Politics on the hill, an Edinburgh View

US Democrats should learn the lessons of Scotland's Independence Referendum

If the Democrats win the US election convincingly, they should learn the lessons of the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014.

It seems to me now, looking back, that the Brexit campaign was lost on the morning of September 19, 2014. That was when victory was declared for the side which fought to keep Scotland within the UK. It was the morning when triumphant Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne walked onto the steps of Downing Street - and stabbed the Labour Party who had fought alongside them in the back.

The ‘No’ campaign was fought and won largely by the Labour Party. The Tories, who had little support in Scotland, largely stayed out of it. The party political speech that Cameron gave that morning with an eye on the next General Election was the start of the unravelling of the coalition that could have swung the ‘Remain’ vote.

Read more: US Democrats should learn the lessons of Scotland's Independence Referendum

Has England Lost Its Way?

'Yon shadow mile o' spire and vane'. Edinburgh, photo Rob Bruce.

“I do not know much about gods, but I think that the river is a strong, brown god.” I always think of TS Eliot’s line about the Thames whenever I cross it.

The surface of the water is calm. You get no sense from looking at it of the political earthquake that is shaking the UK. That’s the difference between a political earthquake and a real one. You can’t see it, but that doesn't mean it isn’t happening or that its effects are unimportant.

After some time away, I am back in the UK, making the familiar journey from London to Edinburgh by train, the morning after a party.

Read more: Has England Lost Its Way?

US Election: Some Hard Lessons from Brexit for the Democrats.

Brexit continues to lie untouched in the dog’s breakfast bowl, no more appetising in the cold light of day than it was when things started to smell bad on the night of June 23. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, Brexit over easy on rye, nobody's quite sure what they ordered. The Scots aren’t planning to shut up and eat what someone else requested on their behalf, that’s clear. Alex Salmond said recently there will be a new independence referendum in 2018.

The US is facing a similar binary choice with one indigestible option on the menu: here are some lessons from a still-suffering Remain supporter.

Read more: US Election: Some Hard Lessons from Brexit for the Democrats.

Go on yersel, England. Scotland is sticking with the lady in red.

The Scottish Parliament at night: Photo by Rob Bruce

It was all wrong on the day of the poll, like a scene from Shakespeare, unseasonal thunderstorms, flooding, owls hooting in the afternoon. ‘Is that a dagger that I see before me?” someone tweeted when Boris Johnson praised David Cameron. “Beware the march of IDS,” said another. Guardian columnist Nick Cohen compared Michael Gove and Boris Johnson to Regan and Goneril, the bitchy daughters in King Lear. Joyce McMillan the next morning in the Scotsman quoted Rome and Juliet: "A glooming peace this morrow with it brings." Then the UK’s EU commissioner Lord Hill resigned with Lady Macbeth’s last words: “what’s done cannot be undone”.

Read more: Go on yersel, England. Scotland is sticking with the lady in red.