Category Archives: Uncategorized

Speech by Jim Wallace, Edinburgh, 11th September, 2014

Speech by Jim Wallace, Scottish Liberal Democrat Referendum Rally

Edinburgh, 11th September, 2014 

imagesAs an 11 year old in my final year of primary school, I was fascinated by the 1966 General Election and used to wait outside the school gates to get the autographs of the candidates arriving for their election meetings. Recognising this political interest, my father decided to take me to a meeting. It was the Liberal candidate, Roy Semple’s eve of poll meeting. As I recall my father saying, “It will be safe, there won’t be many people there.”

One vivid memory of that evening was the learning of the Liberal Party’s commitment to a strong Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom. I thought it was a good idea then – and it still is today.

Six years later, I joined the Scottish Liberal Party, having read Russell Johnston’s pamphlet ‘To be a Liberal’. And one of the real privileges of my life was to lead the party I joined, aged 17, into the Scottish Parliament, which distinguished predecessors had campaigned for, and which we, as a party through the Constitutional Convention, had done so much to shape. And not only into Parliament, but into government too. So today, on the 17th anniversary of the 1997 referendum, let’s reflect on what we’ve achieved.

Last November I was invited to address a class of first year law students at Aberdeen University. Before going in, the head of the Law School took me aside and said, “Just to be aware. Most of your audience can’t remember a Scotland without a Scottish Parliament.” That a new generation of young Scots takes the Parliament’s existence for granted is a welcome affirmation that we have achieved the permanent legacy of a transfer of power that has brought government closer to the people of Scotland.

But when we talk of powers, we must remind ourselves that powers were not and are not ends in themselves. As a Liberal Democrat, I believe that power should be exercised as close to the people as is consistent with effective and efficient government. That’s why, for  example, the Constitutional Convention had a special section on Scotland’s Islands communities and why we have been engaging with the Islands Councils in their “Our Islands, Our Future’ initiative.

Powers are also the means to deliver the kind of social change and reforms suited to Scotland needs and aspirations. It is through the exercise of power that we can support individuals and families, help businesses and build a fairer society – that is what we sought to achieve  in government.

Remember the first Act of the Parliament which plugged a legal loophole which had led to a man who’d pled guilty to killing a neighbour being released from the State Hospital. Most commentators agreed that Westminster couldn’t and  wouldn’t have acted so expeditiously.

We then legislated to implement a Scottish Law Commission report to simplify the law relating to adults who lacked capacity to enter into legal transactions.

There followed legislation to give communities the right to buy land and individuals the right to responsible access over land, to establish national Parks, We introduced free bus travel for older people, free eye and dental checks and the abolition of tuition fees.

Perhaps most significantly was the ban on smoking in public places. England later followed the trail we had blazed.

And we did all as part of Team Scotland.

Devolution has given us the power to design Scottish solutions to the unique circumstances we face – and to do so benefitting from the strength and stability that we take from being part of the UK: security in defence; security for our pensioners; sharing risk among a population of over 60 million; the economic security and stability from being part of the world’s most successful political,monetary and social union.

It is not a static settlement. It is a home rule settlement which has shown itself to be flexible in meeting Scotland’s needs and opportunities from the early devolution of powers which allow Scottish Ministers to develop our renewable energy resources; through the subsequent transfer of powers which paved the way for renewing Scotland’s rail infrastructure and enacting a more liberal freedom of information regime.

Nor did the journey finish with the 1998 Act. The Calman Commission proposed new powers and the Scotland Act 2012, the responsibility of Mike Moore, increases significantly the Parliament’s powers of borrowing and taxation greatly enhances the accountability of Scottish Ministers and MSPs.

And our journey has continued with the proposals of the Steel Commission and Campbell Commission and the clear commitment of all three UK parties to more powers for the Scottish Parliament especially in relation to tax and welfare. Even Gordon Brown is talking about federalism – a measure of just how far we’ve come! And just as the Convention proposals were delivered after the 1997 election, and the Calman proposals in the first session after the 2010 election, so too will the guarantees given this week.

ut more important than the extent of the powers is the use of the powers. And I briefly want to look at two issues on powers and the operation of the Parliament to nail myths pedalled by the ‘Yes’ side in this referendum campaign.

I have been angered by the lies and deceit in the Yes side’s claims on the NHS. The NHS is fully devolved, so let’s look at figures published today by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which puts a spotlight on the SNP’s stewardship of the NHS in office. Between 2009-10 and 2015-16, spending on the NHS in England will have risen by 4% in real terms. Even with the benefit of full Barnett consequential funding, NHS spending in Scotland will fall by 1% over the same period. The Scottish Government’s priorities under the SNP has been to offer less protection to the NHS than the UK coalition government.

Make no mistake, the Prime Minister cannot privatise the NHS in Scotland. Only the First Minister can do that.

And secondly, can I draw attention to a piece in yesterday’s Guardian where the former Scottish Tory leader reveals the extent to which the SNP minority government between 2007 and 2011, was in cahoots with the Tories. Annabel Goldie says, “The bottom line is that when Alex Salmond needed the Tories, he couldn’t get enough of our help.”

So let’s nail the myth that voting ‘Yes’ will keep the Tories out of government in Scotland. During the three years before David Cameron went through the front door of 10, Downing Street, the Tories had been shaping the government of Scotland through the back door of Bute House – all courtesy of Alex Salmond and the SNP.

But let me finish on a kinder note towards the Scottish Government and quote favourably from their White Paper on the positive case – for a “No” vote.

Such has been the success of the United Kingdom that the Yes campaign wants to keep so much of it:

  • The monarchy
  • The currency
  • The Bank of England
  • The National Lottery
  • The NHS Blood Transfusion & Transplant service
  • The Royal Mint
  • Research Councils
  • Air Accident Investigation Branch
  • Maritime Accident Investigation Branch
  • Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
  • Green Investment Bank
  • Met Office
  • Hydrographic Office
  • UK Benefits System
  • DVLA
  • and Strictly Come Dancing

No wonder one journalist asked Alex Salmond whether he’d like to retire to Bournemouth!

Through years of campaigning, the Constitutional Convention, the Calman Commission, the Coalition Government’s 2012 Act, Liberal Democrats have done more to bring powers home to Scotland than the Nationalists have ever done.

Building on the the Steel & Campbell Commissions we will play our part, after a No vote in delivering more powers.

So vote NO next Thursday for Home Rule for Scotland within our United Kingdom.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Synopsis for Novel : Referendum Scheming – A tale of political intrigue

saltire_union_jack_stirling855n

I often use the plane journey to and from my Orkney home to think about the plot for my current novel but today my mind, like that of many others, is taken up with the forthcoming referendum on Scottish Independence.  I began to speculate on the plot of the referendum story and here is the synopsis for a putative publisher

Story opens in 2011 when despite a voting system designed not to produce a majority, the SNP, led by Alex Salmond, manage to do just that.  They have the power to achieve their aims! Compromises with other parties are no longer necessary. 

Alex, a former economist, is a skilled and wily politician.  He has promised a referendum on independence, but he knows this is a much more complicated matter than it would first appear. There is the matter of currency for a start. However, he also knows he won’t win because the majority in the country is against independence.

He needs a blueprint for running an independent country. It has been their party policy for 80 years, but unfortunately no one has yet  thought  out the mechanics. However, that doesn’t matter because he will announce things as he thinks them up and rubbish anyone who contradicts him.

Scroll forward to 2014. The previous three years have seen a slow movement towards independence. This is good news. The narrower the defeat the better. Alex,keeps to his plan. The Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games don’t cause as much movement as hoped, but they have plans to woo disaffected Labour voters with talk of universal social justice and nuclear disarmament.

By late August, the gap is really narrow. Alex  is extremely  pleased as this gives him huge bargaining powers after the No vote. Devo Max is a certainty and there are no economic consequences for him to deal with. He will remain the people’s champion.

In early September, two weeks out from polling day disaster strikes. YES is ahead! As an economist, understands how currencies, businesses and investments work in the real world. He is unbelievably worried he might now have to preside over the lack of investment, the haemorrhaging of money and businesses to England, the brain drain, the loss of medical research facilities, the costs of setting up all the embassies and a DVLA and a passport office all sorts of other things that he has promised and will not have the funds to deliver. 

But, to the First Minister’s relief, the UK parties  promise  big discussions  about  all sorts of new powers to happen immediately after a NO vote. This is what he has wanted all along.  Now he only has to work out how to cause 5% of the population to change their mind.

He gets Christine Grahame, one of his loyal MSPs, to make a ridiculous statement that the wobble in the pound following the opinion poll was not due to the threat of Independence but was the fault of President Obama. He knows people don’t like it when he is smug and patronising, so he starts to be just these things in radio and TV interviews. 

One week to go…… 

Now, here are the two possible scenarios…

Scenario 1: A few gaffes, a few leaked documents saying that there are doubts about how, as a government, they will cope with economic fall-out  which will, of course, be denied but the seeds of doubt will be sown. A narrow defeat by 2 percentage points is achieved. The First Minister is still the hero of the people and he promises next time, they will succeed. 

Scenario 2: Unfortunately Alex has miscalculated.  The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in. Those whose hearts he has won with talk of social justice and a nuclear-free society where everyone learns to play a musical instrument, hate the rest of the UK and its politicians so much that none of them are willing to be swayed towards NO. A narrow victory for YES results  and the First Minister’s political career like most political careers, ends in disaster several months on when the realities are finally understood by the electorate.

You choose the ending which appeals to you most. 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Perspective for the Union

On Wednesday evening the Church of Scotland held a ‘Respectful Dialogue’ . I reproduce Jim Wallace’s speech advocating the benefits of remaining within the UK. If the references to Christianity are not your thing, please try to keep reading to the end.

download

 

“Respectful Dialogue – A ‘NO’ Vote Perspective”

 

Moderator –

I very much welcome this opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the most important political decision of our lifetimes, which takes place in just over two weeks’ time… and to do so in a measured and respectful way.

It was once said of Disraeli, that he could live with Gladstone producing the ace of trumps from up his sleeve; he just couldn’t abide Gladstone’s presumptuousness that it was God who had put it there. There is a salutary lesson there for all engaged in political debate or dialogue. I respect the many people of faith who have come to an opposite conclusion from me on the referendum issue. And I welcome the Kirk’s neutral stance on the issue, which allows a dialogue, such as this, to be facilitated, as well as enabling it to play a role of reconciliation in the aftermath of the vote.

I don’t intend to get bogged down in some of the more familiar ripostes, claims and counter-claims of the debate. Nor do I intend to make much reference to figures and pounds – although you can’t wholly ignore them, if the commonwealth of the people is a key concern.

Tonight is an opportunity to express a very personal view.

I was brought up in a Christian family, where Christian values were unashamedly promoted.

Undoubtedly, my Christian commitment has marched hand in hand with a political commitment. My Christian beliefs motivate a thirst for social justice, an urgent concern for the stewardship of God’s creation; and respect for the innate dignity of every individual who, as I try to remember, is made in the image of God. Indeed it is the quest to champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals –whatever their creed, colour, nationality, gender, sexual orientation – that led me to espouse liberal politics.

And in the context of this referendum debate, it is a belief that the state exists to serve the individual and not individuals to serve the state. The state or nation is not, for me, the defining political entity. That is why I am not a nationalist.

And if government is there to serve the people, it makes sense to look where government can work most effectively to deliver on behalf of the people. That is why I long campaigned for a strong Scottish Parliament within a United Kingdom – as well as recognising the merit of some decisions being taken at a European level and the need to breathe new life into local democracy across Scotland.

I sometimes think that the existence of a strong Scottish Parliament has been the forgotten dimension in this debate. I campaigned for it; worked for it in the Constitutional Convention and had the privilege of being in that first democratically elected Scottish Parliament and Government.

The powers of the Parliament give us the means to deliver the kind of social change and reforms suited to Scotland needs and aspirations. It is through the exercise of these powers that we can support individuals and families, help businesses and build a fairer society – aspiring to realise the vision which congregations identified in ‘Imagining Scotland’s Future’.

In fifteen years, we have overhauled mental health legislation, given communities the right to buy land and individuals the right to responsible access over land; established National Parks; introduced free bus travel for older people, free eye and dental checks and the abolition of tuition fees, to name but a few.

Perhaps most significantly, particularly in public health terms was the ban on smoking in public places. We blazed the trail and the rest of Britain followed.

We have a dynamic settlement. For example, power was extended to run our railways and to develop our renewable energy resources. The 2012 Scotland Act increases significantly powers of taxation and borrowing.

Yes, it can be improved. But devolution has given us the power to design Scottish solutions to the unique circumstances we face – and to do so whilst benefitting from the strength and stability that we take from being part of the UK: security in defence; security for our pensioners; sharing risk among a population of over 60 million; the economic security and stability from being part of the world’s most successful political and monetary union. As well as benefitting and contributing to a social union.

Professor Jim Gallagher, in one of the Stevenson Lectures at Glasgow University this year, observed,

 

“Because the whole point of a welfare state is that people’s individual circumstances determine their entitlements, it’s not their geography that matters, but their age, or health status, or unemployment.

 

 

In this referendum debate, we have heard many claims that an independent Scotland would somehow be more socially just. That Scotland should have different – and inevitably – so the claim goes -better – social entitlements from England.

 

I believe there are two substantial flaws with this argument – a practical financial one and a moral one.

 

On the financial side, the referendum debate has been dominated by arguments about whether Scotland would be more or less wealthy.  Some people tell the pollsters that they would change their vote depending on whether they were 500 pounds a year better or worse off.  Even if not literally true, it suggests that money matters.

 

Those on my side of the argument rightly and fairly point to the economic risks of independence, be it in terms of trade, or public spending.  Independent analysts say these are very real.  But for the moment, let us accept – which I don’t – that Scotland would be better off in the longer term; transitional pain and disruption is inevitable. And I’m in little doubt that it is the less well-off who would feel the effects of that. Those of us who are concerned about the poor should therefore be very concerned about economic disruption.

 

But in addition to the practical financial consequences, I believe there is a straightforward moral argument which goes to the heart of the idea of a social union. To withdraw from the common welfare provision, which we’ve created in these islands, you have to believe that people in Glasgow, for example, are more deserving of our common support than people in Gateshead or Glamorgan. And that if we have resources, we keep them for ourselves rather than pool them and contribute to their pensions or benefits.

And on health care, Ministers from the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments and Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of the Scottish Government on the 60th anniversary of the NHS, signed a common declaration – never revoked – which committed the respective governments to affirm that:

  • The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all
  • Access to its services is based on clinical need not an individual’s ability to pay

 

That is the shared British commitment within which the Scottish Parliament has full power (and has had since 1999) to determine how the service is delivered.

A further example of how our current settlement does deliver the best of both worlds: full power and flexibility to devise Scottish solutions for Scottish circumstances and affirming our social solidarity; rather than limiting our social concern and putting at risk our citizen’s social rights through the constitutional and financial consequences of a smaller separate state.

There is one further reflection I’d like to share and it is that of the UK as a force for good in the world. 

But before developing that theme, let me address the argument that getting rid of Trident is a compelling reason for voting ‘Yes’. When espoused by friends whom I respect, it should give pause for thought. But what I can’t fathom is how the removal of nuclear warheads and submarines several hundred miles down the coast on the same land mass makes the world, in any respect, a safer place?

Nuclear relocation is not nuclear disarmament – nor even nuclear reduction. There will not be one single nuclear warhead less as a result.

The reduction in warheads achieved under the last Labour Government, and continued in the present UK government’s Strategic Defence & Security Review could only continue in future, without those of us in Scotland, who do care about disarmament issues having a voice in government nor even a choice at the ballot box.

Nor would we any longer be the second largest donor of international aid in the world (aid administered from East Kilbride in Scotland). By 2015, the UK Department will have helped immunise 55 million children against preventable disease, helped to save the lives of 50,000 women in childbirth and a quarter of a million new-born babies. 60 million people will have access to clean, safe water, thanks to the UK. 

Together we campaigned against slavery in the eighteenth century; and drafted the European Convention on Human Rights in the 1950s. 

In very recent times the UK’s “Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative” –was the core theme of our presidency of the G8 in 2013 – leading to a new UN Security Council Resolution and UN General Assembly Declaration on sexual violence within conflict; and as a United Kingdom, we were one of the foremost nations promoting the UN Arms Trade Treaty which was finally adopted last year.

I don’t doubt that Scotland, from outside the UK, would seek to play a small part in these endeavours. But it would be small – and we should not underestimate the extent to which the remaining UK’s ability to promote justice in the world would be diminished. 

So pause, and think of islands and peninsulas around the world, scarred by years of division; whilst here, over the last 300 years, we have built a great democracy together, based on a culture of human rights and the rule of law. We have built the NHS and the Welfare State. We have resisted invasion and conquest, nor did we fall for the totalitarian ideologies which blighted the last century. And yet among those achievements, England still exists, Scotland still exists. We have each retained our identities – in Scotland we retain our legal and religious institutions, and our international profile. We have evolved, and will continue to develop, a system of governance in which we have the best of both worlds.

That is surely something worth campaigning for.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Perspective for the Union

On Wednesday evening the Church of Scotland held a ‘Respectful Dialogue’ . I reproduce Jim Wallace’s speech advocating the benefits of remaining within the UK. If the references to Christianity are not your thing, please try to keep reading to the end.

download

 

“Respectful Dialogue – A ‘NO’ Vote Perspective”

 

Moderator –

I very much welcome this opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the most important political decision of our lifetimes, which takes place in just over two weeks’ time… and to do so in a measured and respectful way.

It was once said of Disraeli, that he could live with Gladstone producing the ace of trumps from up his sleeve; he just couldn’t abide Gladstone’s presumptuousness that it was God who had put it there. There is a salutary lesson there for all engaged in political debate or dialogue. I respect the many people of faith who have come to an opposite conclusion from me on the referendum issue. And I welcome the Kirk’s neutral stance on the issue, which allows a dialogue, such as this, to be facilitated, as well as enabling it to play a role of reconciliation in the aftermath of the vote.

I don’t intend to get bogged down in some of the more familiar ripostes, claims and counter-claims of the debate. Nor do I intend to make much reference to figures and pounds – although you can’t wholly ignore them, if the commonwealth of the people is a key concern.

Tonight is an opportunity to express a very personal view.

I was brought up in a Christian family, where Christian values were unashamedly promoted.

Undoubtedly, my Christian commitment has marched hand in hand with a political commitment. My Christian beliefs motivate a thirst for social justice, an urgent concern for the stewardship of God’s creation; and respect for the innate dignity of every individual who, as I try to remember, is made in the image of God. Indeed it is the quest to champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals –whatever their creed, colour, nationality, gender, sexual orientation – that led me to espouse liberal politics.

And in the context of this referendum debate, it is a belief that the state exists to serve the individual and not individuals to serve the state. The state or nation is not, for me, the defining political entity. That is why I am not a nationalist.

And if government is there to serve the people, it makes sense to look where government can work most effectively to deliver on behalf of the people. That is why I long campaigned for a strong Scottish Parliament within a United Kingdom – as well as recognising the merit of some decisions being taken at a European level and the need to breathe new life into local democracy across Scotland.

I sometimes think that the existence of a strong Scottish Parliament has been the forgotten dimension in this debate. I campaigned for it; worked for it in the Constitutional Convention and had the privilege of being in that first democratically elected Scottish Parliament and Government.

The powers of the Parliament give us the means to deliver the kind of social change and reforms suited to Scotland needs and aspirations. It is through the exercise of these powers that we can support individuals and families, help businesses and build a fairer society – aspiring to realise the vision which congregations identified in ‘Imagining Scotland’s Future’.

In fifteen years, we have overhauled mental health legislation, given communities the right to buy land and individuals the right to responsible access over land; established National Parks; introduced free bus travel for older people, free eye and dental checks and the abolition of tuition fees, to name but a few.

Perhaps most significantly, particularly in public health terms was the ban on smoking in public places. We blazed the trail and the rest of Britain followed.

We have a dynamic settlement. For example, power was extended to run our railways and to develop our renewable energy resources. The 2012 Scotland Act increases significantly powers of taxation and borrowing.

Yes, it can be improved. But devolution has given us the power to design Scottish solutions to the unique circumstances we face – and to do so whilst benefitting from the strength and stability that we take from being part of the UK: security in defence; security for our pensioners; sharing risk among a population of over 60 million; the economic security and stability from being part of the world’s most successful political and monetary union. As well as benefitting and contributing to a social union.

Professor Jim Gallagher, in one of the Stevenson Lectures at Glasgow University this year, observed,

 

“Because the whole point of a welfare state is that people’s individual circumstances determine their entitlements, it’s not their geography that matters, but their age, or health status, or unemployment.

 

 

In this referendum debate, we have heard many claims that an independent Scotland would somehow be more socially just. That Scotland should have different – and inevitably – so the claim goes -better – social entitlements from England.

 

I believe there are two substantial flaws with this argument – a practical financial one and a moral one.

 

On the financial side, the referendum debate has been dominated by arguments about whether Scotland would be more or less wealthy.  Some people tell the pollsters that they would change their vote depending on whether they were 500 pounds a year better or worse off.  Even if not literally true, it suggests that money matters.

 

Those on my side of the argument rightly and fairly point to the economic risks of independence, be it in terms of trade, or public spending.  Independent analysts say these are very real.  But for the moment, let us accept – which I don’t – that Scotland would be better off in the longer term; transitional pain and disruption is inevitable. And I’m in little doubt that it is the less well-off who would feel the effects of that. Those of us who are concerned about the poor should therefore be very concerned about economic disruption.

 

But in addition to the practical financial consequences, I believe there is a straightforward moral argument which goes to the heart of the idea of a social union. To withdraw from the common welfare provision, which we’ve created in these islands, you have to believe that people in Glasgow, for example, are more deserving of our common support than people in Gateshead or Glamorgan. And that if we have resources, we keep them for ourselves rather than pool them and contribute to their pensions or benefits.

And on health care, Ministers from the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments and Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of the Scottish Government on the 60th anniversary of the NHS, signed a common declaration – never revoked – which committed the respective governments to affirm that:

  • The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all
  • Access to its services is based on clinical need not an individual’s ability to pay

 

That is the shared British commitment within which the Scottish Parliament has full power (and has had since 1999) to determine how the service is delivered.

A further example of how our current settlement does deliver the best of both worlds: full power and flexibility to devise Scottish solutions for Scottish circumstances and affirming our social solidarity; rather than limiting our social concern and putting at risk our citizen’s social rights through the constitutional and financial consequences of a smaller separate state.

There is one further reflection I’d like to share and it is that of the UK as a force for good in the world. 

But before developing that theme, let me address the argument that getting rid of Trident is a compelling reason for voting ‘Yes’. When espoused by friends whom I respect, it should give pause for thought. But what I can’t fathom is how the removal of nuclear warheads and submarines several hundred miles down the coast on the same land mass makes the world, in any respect, a safer place?

Nuclear relocation is not nuclear disarmament – nor even nuclear reduction. There will not be one single nuclear warhead less as a result.

The reduction in warheads achieved under the last Labour Government, and continued in the present UK government’s Strategic Defence & Security Review could only continue in future, without those of us in Scotland, who do care about disarmament issues having a voice in government nor even a choice at the ballot box.

Nor would we any longer be the second largest donor of international aid in the world (aid administered from East Kilbride in Scotland). By 2015, the UK Department will have helped immunise 55 million children against preventable disease, helped to save the lives of 50,000 women in childbirth and a quarter of a million new-born babies. 60 million people will have access to clean, safe water, thanks to the UK. 

Together we campaigned against slavery in the eighteenth century; and drafted the European Convention on Human Rights in the 1950s. 

In very recent times the UK’s “Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative” –was the core theme of our presidency of the G8 in 2013 – leading to a new UN Security Council Resolution and UN General Assembly Declaration on sexual violence within conflict; and as a United Kingdom, we were one of the foremost nations promoting the UN Arms Trade Treaty which was finally adopted last year.

I don’t doubt that Scotland, from outside the UK, would seek to play a small part in these endeavours. But it would be small – and we should not underestimate the extent to which the remaining UK’s ability to promote justice in the world would be diminished. 

So pause, and think of islands and peninsulas around the world, scarred by years of division; whilst here, over the last 300 years, we have built a great democracy together, based on a culture of human rights and the rule of law. We have built the NHS and the Welfare State. We have resisted invasion and conquest, nor did we fall for the totalitarian ideologies which blighted the last century. And yet among those achievements, England still exists, Scotland still exists. We have each retained our identities – in Scotland we retain our legal and religious institutions, and our international profile. We have evolved, and will continue to develop, a system of governance in which we have the best of both worlds.

That is surely something worth campaigning for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Doesn’t time fly when one is procrastinating?  I should know. I have been doing so for over a year.

With two novels down,  the time to start writing the third has never been quite right, what with ironing to do and cupboards to tidy and other important things like that.  Then when on occasion I run out of tasks and have to turn my minds to things literary there are so many things to consider.  Thinking about plot involves  wasting water as I turn over possibilities in the shower, then many fruitless hours can be spent on the internet in the name of research and updating Facebook. Then I have to decide where in the story I am going to start. Try the beginning I hear you say, but it is not always that obvious. Perhaps starting in the middle could be better, or perhaps the end and have it all in flashback.

Image

The problem is that this novel does not yet have a publisher so there is no deadline. Disaster for a procrastinator because anything but writing will always take priority over the three chapters and a synopsis which are needed by my agent in order to create a bidding war for this literary masterpiece. 

However, I have been given a kick start. I had to write a short story for Write Stuff in the Scotsman. I had a deadline. I had to sit down and create something in under three weeks and I managed it. It appears in print on Saturday, It has shown me that I can do it if I have to.

So I am now four chapters into Novel 3, a family mystery set in New Zealand and UK. I’ll write a few more chapters, then edit the first three and invent a synopsis. I intend to finish the whole thing  before Easter……… or perhaps we should make that June……

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

With Apologies to The Bard – My Love is like a Slice of Bread

It’s the 25th of January again and I am off out tonight to eat haggis and Reply to the Toast to the Lasses.I am not what Burns would have described as a lass. He liked his female companions to be wanton,voluptuous and bowled over by his charms. I am old enough and wise enough to be none of these.

Burns’ portrayed older women as hen pecking harridans, nursing their wrath to keep it warm and giving out unwanted advice – “Ah, gentle dames! it gars we greet, To think how mony consels sweet, How mony lengthened, sage advices, The husband frae the wife despises.”

He did not make old bones, being only 37 when he died. Had he survived into old age, I like to think that he might have written a love song to his long suffering wife, Jean Armour. It wouldn’t have been too taxing – he could have adapted one of his originals.As he never lived to do it, I’ve taken the liberty and done it for him –

A Love Song to the Elderly Jean

My love is like a slice of bread

Left too long in the air,

My love is like wrinkled prune

Sprouting facial hair.

Your chest’s gone south, my wrinkly friend,

Your beam is getting broader,

Your bunions make you hirple now,

A new hip is in order.

I have to shout to make you hear,

You need your specs to read,

You forget unless it’s written down,

You’ve really gone to seed.

(Ever the romantic, I would have hoped he might finish like this – )

The seas has not gang dry m’dear,

Rocks melted not by sun.

My love for you endures, my dear

Tho’ sands of time have run.

Image

Jean Armour  in old age

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Buckingham Palace? Been There, Done That!

Last evening, as members of a cast of many hundreds, we attended Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace.

Held in place by much elastic underwear, (and no liquid intake since 2.30pm) I was hooked into Granny’s black velvet without the aged fabric disintegrating. Velvet pumps blinged up with butchered earrings from M &Co, black satin elbow gloves a la Cruella De Vil and the diamonds belonging to the aforementioned Granny, completed the ensemble. He was kitted out in white tie and tails.
buck house 018

Our Addison Lee people carrier (no fancy Government Car Service, the Scotland Office contracts out) managed to push into the ambassadorial line of flag-flying Mercedes approaching the Palace and before we knew it, we were making our way upstairs and into the Queens Picture Gallery where we were greeted with a glass of champagne and too many Titians, Vermeers and Rembrandts to comprehend. People with clipboards then effected a separating of the diplomatic sheep from the political (and other) goats to opposite sides of the room, as if we were about to start a record-breaking Grand Old Duke of York. (No, he wasn’t there.)

picture gallery 2

The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay and Cornwall made their way up the diplomatic line while the goats, none of whom were to be presented, indulged in conversation. Amongst other things, I learnt that The Archbishop of Canterbury (must be difficult for his wife to compete with the finery) is a fan of Ron Ferguson and that St James’ Palace has the best car-parking in London.  Hand shaking and curtseying completed, the assembled hoards made their way to the Ballroom for Supper.

ballroom

My late father had always been concerned that my table manners would let me down on such an occasion, but he could rest easy, as I was given only a fork to go with the plate with clip-on wine glass.  Perched on an upholstered bench eating some sort of chicken pie, it had echoes of a TV dinner with the programme being one’s fellow guests. There were ladies in tiaras, presumably part of the hereditary system connected to the Royal Household (the headgear had certainly not come from Claire’s Accessories), there were men with medals and sashes, there were African colours and Oriental silks, some of which were not suitable for London in December. (The lady with the thick socks and flip flops being a case in point).

After the profiteroles, it was time to cruise around the room and indulge in more chitchat before music from the Royal Air Force band drew us into a side room where there was dancing. Unable to resist, we had one turn around the room before making our way down the stairs to the waiting Addison Lee coach.  Normal life has now been resumed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized