A Scottish 'No' Voter Pleads: "England, Don't Let Us Down!"
This week in East Berlin wherever I went, I seemed to hear the sound of bagpipes. First, a man in a Glengarry playing the pibroch in the famous street Unter den Linden; then a Pole in a Celtic top playing an ancient set of pipes his grandfather had acquired in the Highlands.
Is the Curriculum for Excellence Dumbing Down Scottish Education?
What do we mean by a good education? It’s not the same as being intelligent of course. Many people have potential which has not been realised, and that is, in a nutshell “the attainment gap.”
An educated young person has skills they can take with them into the world. But should these include reasonable fluency in a modern language, an understanding of the sciences, maths, some knowledge of literature and history? Or, in this age of easy fact-finding on the internet does an educated person mean: a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor, as Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence has it?
The Scottish government is wrestling with the implementation of this curriculum, which was intended to build on the concept of the “democratic intellect”, a generalist approach favouring interdisciplinary study. But how is it working in practice?
There was an interesting article in online magazine Sceptical Scot last week by the principal of George Heriot’s in Edinburgh Cameron Wyllie in which he reported a doubling of of the number of parents trying to get their children into the school at Senior 3. There were 45 applicants to S3 at GH this year after a record high of 25 in 2015. He said that this picture was being replicated at other independent schools in the city. Not big numbers perhaps, but Senior Three is not a traditional entry point for Edinburgh’s independent schools. Places are as rare as hens’ diamante scarf pins. Adam Smith himself might have trouble getting into a Merchant Company school age 14.
Leithers Scunnered By Hand-Wringing Over Pitch Invasion
A Wee Piece of Hampden Here in Leith
To paraphrase the famously dull but accurate Times headline, “Small Earthquake in Chile; Not Many Dead”, the reports of the Scottish Cup Final last weekend could have read: “Small Riot at Hampden, Not Many Hurt.”
In fact they didn’t. The Sunday morning newsstands were devoted to 20 point outrage, with the Sunday Mail alone in having a positive headline “Glory, Glory”: although Monday’s Evening News aced it with “They Claimed It.” The TV and radio took the same approach with sports coverage jettisoned in favour of bad news reporting.
At the Holyrood Election Thursday: First Vote Labour, Second Vote Tory?
Whether Labour or the Conservatives takes second place on Thursday (May 5) is the talking point of the Scottish election. Betting company Paddy Power thinks Labour; Professor John Curtice says it could go either way.
Professor Curtice is probably right. He knows when to poll them, and he knows when not to call them - as “The Pollster”, a satirical version of the the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” dedicated to the Prof by Vic Rodrick and Annie Gunner Logan has it. (For reasons of copyright etcetera, the pair’s sharp-witted parodies are only ever heard live and if they announce dates for this year’s Fringe, grab a ticket.)
Whichever way the cookie crumbles, the opposition vote is likely to be split between Labour and the Tories. So is there scope for them to pool their resources in a new politics? Is it possible for Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson to work together on at least some issues to form a coherent opposition?
A couple of things have come up for me this week as the Scottish election campaign builds towards another seemingly inevitable SNP triumph.
Firstly, a friend, a committed ‘Yes’ voter and an SNP member said he was going to have to stay home on polling day. He could not bring himself to vote SNP this time, he said, because he is so appalled by the SNP’s inaction over MSP Sandra White’s behaviour.
The SNP MSP apologised for re-tweeting a grossly offensive anti-semitic cartoon posted by a Neo-Nazi she follows online and whose tweets she has reposted before. She said she posted the image “in error” and no disciplinary action has been taken against her. The implication for my friend was that a degree of anti-semitism is tolerable within the Scottish National Party.
Drinking, Feasting, Fighting, Wearing Bling - the Celts Come to Town
Detail from the Gundestrup Cauldron, circa 100BC, Denmark.
Images courtesy of the British Museum and the NMS
Celts could be weird and scary. They were mad for the drink and when they had it, you had to watch out for them: they saw things and became aggressive. They were radge fighters, absolutely mental, they dressed up to go into battle and they played great big war horns that made a sound that would scare the living daylights out of you. And they liked bling, loved it actually: gold, bronze, iron, glass, precious stones. They wore chunky jewellery decorated with abstract patterns and symbols. They were skilled at metalwork, leatherwork, pottery and weaving and if something precious was broken, they would mend it - a bronze flagon with a broken handle would get a different handle, or a hole would be fixed with a decorated patch, and made as good as new - better in fact. Oh and they loved parties and feasting; the women were great hosts and they were buried with their special pots and flagons, probably so they could use them for a big after-party on the other side.