Aside from a computer on the desk, my local betting shop has a traditional look, complete with newspaper racing pages sellotaped to the wooden walls, stubby pencils and drawn blinds. As I entered, a man with a lived-in face and an unlit roll-up cigarette protruding from the corner of his mouth was exchanging a slip of paper for some ten pound notes.
March, 2015 I first heard the song "Call it Alba" at an African evening at my children's primary school. The choir sang it to visitors from a school in Tanzania and I wasn't the only one blinking back the tears as they belted out the chorus: "I belong to the land I live in, and the land is in the deepest part of me." The song allowed the children to express love for their country of Scotland but in a simple style, free from the hubris these things often contain. It seemed inclusive too, offering a sense of belonging to everyone who lives here. I couldn't think of another patriotic song that would have worked in that context and which would have made me feel so proud.
After Almost Losing the Union, Does David Cameron Deserve Another Term?
A major part of the Conservative’s election campaign has been to question whether Ed Miliband is up to the job. But what about David Cameron?
He is already the Prime Minister who almost lost the Union, and he is not being all that careful with it now as he sows the wind of Scottish Nationalism in an attempt to frighten English voters.
Looking back, the careless flourish with which he signed off on a referendum with Alex Salmond in 2012 looks at best naive, at worst complacent. With hindsight, Cameron’s decision to fly to Scotland to sign it handed a great publicity opportunity to the Nationalists.
Sexual desire, the search for happiness, dealing with death and living as a member of a minority are just some of the topics Muslim theologian Mona Siddiqui discusses in her new book - part handbook to life, part autobiography: “My Way”, which she will discuss at Glasgow’s “Aye Write” festival this April.
The view of the eclipse from Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat was magical. Many observers were ill-prepared without anything much to view it with but in the event, a partial veil of scudding clouds made it possible to see the crescent sun at its moment of occlusion. The sunshine dimmed to a twilight, the land was shadowed and chilly. The birds fell silent but watchers on the hillside let out a few ragged whoops.
As I watched, I felt so sorry for the children at my son’s High School that I could have wept. The school had ordered some eclipse glasses; there was a waiting list and those who did not have them were to be refused permission to go into the playground due to fears they would stare too long at the sun and damage their eyes.
Scotland’s Pal-ocracy Makes England Look Like a Beacon of Democracy
Where civil liberties are concerned, Scotland makes England look like a beacon of democracy. Scotland does not have strong independent bodies defending individual freedom. There is less emphasis on this in its education and culture than south of the border. I recently mentioned to a young friend studying Higher History that this year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. “Who’s she?” he replied. Since then, I have asked a number of others including students at Scottish universities and have yet to find one who has ever heard of this historic document which guarantees the rights and liberties of the citizen against autocracy. They have all heard of the Declaration of Arbroath but only the ‘Braveheart’ section about the yoke of the English oppressor.
In 1742, philosopher David Hume wrote: “It is a very comfortable reflection to the lovers of liberty that this peculiar privilege of Britain is of a kind that cannot easily be wrested from us and must last as long as our government remains in any degree free and independent.”
But an independent-minded observer of Scotland must conclude that civil liberties are in retreat here since the advent of a Scottish Parliament. We appear to be losing some of the recourse that citizens of Britain have historically possessed.