The brains of Scotland

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…I’m nothing to do with those people, honest..

In case anyone is interested, here is the list of  Remainers in Scotland who, and I quote: …call for a national debate on Brexit. We ask our fellow citizens, and our politicians, to think again. It is time to call a halt to Brexit.

They wrote to the Glasgow Herald, which is behind a paywall, on 18th July. The Herald excitedly dubbed them a “Who’s Who of Scotland’s intellectual elite”, and made it their front page.

Well, judge for yourself. I am personally unpersuaded.

(Spoiler alert: it is a very boring list, but there’s more stuff at the end if you scroll down)

Professor David Bell, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling; Andrew Bolger, former Scotland Correspondent, Financial Times; Professor Christina Boswell, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh; Professor Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Strathclyde; The Rt Hon Lord Campbell of Pittenweem CH CBE PC QC; Dr Chad Damro, University of Edinburgh; Professor Emeritus Sir Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh; Christine De Luca, poet; Dr Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland; Sir David Edward, Professor Emeritus Edinburgh University Law School and former ECJ Judge; John Edward, Former Head of European Parliament Office in Scotland/Former EU Policy Manager, Scotland Europa; Colin Imrie, European policy analyst; Maria Fletcher, Director of Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe (SULNE); Lord Foulkes of Cumnock; Dr Peter Geoghegan, University of the West of Scotland; Gwilym Gibbons Creative Help Ltd; Dame Anne Glover, Vice Principal for External Affairs and Dean for Europe, University of Aberdeen; Vanessa Glynn, Chair, European Movement in Scotland; David Gow, Editor, Sceptical Scot, Editor, Social Europe; Dr Eve Hepburn, Chief Executive, Fearless Femme CIC; David Hood, Director, Edinburgh Institute for Collaborative & Competitive Advantage; Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director, Scottish Centre on European Relations; Helen Hunter Education Officer (retired); Helen Kay M.A., M.Sc.; Stefan G Kay OBE; Patricia Kelly, retired teacher; Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG; Mark Lazarowicz, former Labour MP 2001 – 2015, Edinburgh North; Graham Leicester, International Futures Forum (in a personal capacity); Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, former Secretary of State Scotland and former High Commissioner to Australia; Dr John MacDonald, Director of the Scottish Global Forum and editor of CABLE magazine; Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, Author and chief executive, Business for Scotland; Dame Mariot Leslie; David Martin, MEP; Monica Martins, Managing Director, WomenBeing Project; Marilyne MacLaren, retired politician and educationalist; Rt Hon Henry McLeish, former First Minister; Maggie Mellon, former executive board, Women for Independence and social work consultant; Professor Steve Murdoch, University of St Andrews; Isobel Murray, Professor Emeritus Modern Scottish Literature, Aberdeen University; Dr Kath Murray, Criminal Justice Researcher; Andrew Ormston, Director of Drew Wylie Projects; Alex Orr, Managing Director, Orbit Communications (in a personal capacity); Robert Palmer robertpalmerconsultants@gmail.com; Ray Perman, author and journalist; Willis Pickard, former editor TES Scotland and Rector, Aberdeen University; Dr Janet Powney, consultant in education and evaluation research; Lesley Riddoch, journalist and broadcaster; Ian Ritchie, software entrepreneur; Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, former Secretary of State for Defence, former Secretary General, Nato; Bill Rodger, Treasurer, European Movement in Scotland; Anthony Salamone, Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser, Scottish Centre on European Relations; Prof. Andrew Scott, University of Edinburgh; Anne Scott, Secretary, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Scottish Branch; Peter K. Sellar Advocate, Axiom Advocates Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh; Prof. Jo Shaw, University of Edinburgh; Dr Kirsteen Shields, Lecturer in Public Law, University of Dundee; Martin Sime, Chief Executive, SCVO; Alyn Smith, MEP; Grahame Smith, General Secretary STUC; Professor Michael E. Smith, Professor of International Relations, University of Aberdeen; Prof Chris Smout, Historiographer Royal of Scotland and Emeritus Professor, University of St Andrews; Struan Stevenson, former MEP and European Movement in Scotland Vice-President; Bob Tait, philosopher and former Chair, Langstane Housing Association, Aberdeen; Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Liberal Democrat peer and former Deputy First Minister; Sir Graham Watson, former President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party), former MEP; Dr Geoffrey Whittam, Reader, Glasgow Caledonian University; Fay Young, Director of a digital media company,
c/o 3 Fettes Row, Edinburgh.

That last one is especially poignant.

The must read piece on this self serving malarkey (as all these ridiculous multiple signature proclamations are) is from a genuine Great Scot, David Robertson, a Wee Free minister. He correctly points out that the authors’ views may not be entirely unconnected to their incomes, in some cases. Rigorously objective they are not. Read his whole piece, but here’s a telling excerpt:

Which brings me on to the state of the Scottish intelligentsia.  This is the land of David Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment.   The land which produced missionaries like David Livingstone, politicians of the calibre of John Smith and medical innovators like Sir James Young Simpson. We are the land which created writers like Burns,  Stevenson, Scott, Conan-Doyle and George MacDonald.  We are the land of the radical Christianity of Knox, Chalmers and Mary Slessor.   This is the land where a railway worker’s son like James Mackay can rise to become the highest legal official in the land.   This is a land that even today produces composers like James MacMillan.    Scotland has thrived because of  its intellectuals.  So how have we descended to the state where several of our leading intellectuals manage to produce a letter of such vacuity and banality, that if a student in college had produced it, they should have been failed?!

As he goes on to state:

This is what Scotlands metro-elites regard as intelligent debate nowadays – they talk to each other, tell themselves how important their conversation must be and so they continue in their wee circular world

Brilliant stuff.

 

 

 

The Punk President

Donald Trump Crowns The New Miss USA Nana Meriwether
21st century renaissance man

Those people who are openly dismayed that they see Trump ripping up the institutions and processes of sane stable government are wrong.

They’re also missing the point.

Trump often has the manner and superfical effect of a wrecking ball, but since 1997 in the UK and 2001 in the US, both countries have been decimated by the slow motion wrecking balls of New Labour, the Bush foreign adventures and the Obama Terror. Do I sound like some sort of right wing Trumpian monster? Possibly I do, but like many voters I am not ideological other than in the vague ‘less government in our lives would be better’ way. And like all voters there are specific issues that I would like to see dealt with. We can disagree on our wants and our priorities, but whatever they are, most voters want pragmatic government that works.

Why do I think Trump is not destroying the institutions of power? Well, it’s in the evidence so far. Charles Krauthammer’s take six weeks ago is pretty much spot on:

The strongman cometh, it was feared. Who and what would stop him? Two months into the Trumpian era, we have our answer.

Our checks and balances have turned out to be quite vibrant. Consider: The courts Trump rolls out not one but two immigration bans, and is stopped dead in his tracks by the courts. However you feel about the merits of the policy itself (in my view, execrable and useless but legal) or the merits of the constitutional reasoning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (embarrassingly weak, transparently political), the fact remains: The president proposed and the courts disposed. Trump’s pushback? A plaintive tweet or two complaining about the judges — that his own Supreme Court nominee denounced (if obliquely) as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” The states Federalism lives. The first immigration challenge to Trump was brought by the attorneys general of two states (Washington and Minnesota) picking up on a trend begun during the Barack Obama years when state attorneys general banded together to kill his immigration overreach and the more egregious trespasses of his Environmental Protection Agency. And beyond working through the courts, state governors — Republicans, no less — have been exerting pressure on members of Congress to oppose a Republican president’s signature health-care reform. Institutional exigency still trumps party loyalty. Congress The Republican-controlled Congress (House and Senate) is putting up epic resistance to a Republican administration’s health-care reform. True, that’s because of ideological and tactical disagreements rather than any particular desire to hem in Trump. But it does demonstrate that Congress is no rubber stamp. And its independence extends beyond the perennially divisive health-care conundrums. Trump’s budget, for example, was instantly declared dead on arrival in Congress, as it almost invariably is regardless of which party is in power

Not that I necessarily agree with all these opposing moves, the point is that there is relatively little absolute power outwith national crises and wartime, and all presidents must exist within a system. That system is entirely intact. Of course, in those areas where Trump has shown real skill, he gets little credit from the establishment.

The real damage occurred with his predecessors. The same happened in the UK under Blair, it’s happening now in various parts of Europe courtesy of the EU. Australia and Canada come and go a bit, but it really has been a classical Gramsci/Dutschke ‘long march through the institutions’. There is no better example of the occasionally overt nature of this than the US Supreme Court wrangling – surely all judges should be politically neutral in their work? If only.

Trump and inevitably, Brexit, are the most prominent examples of pushback against this infiltrative game changing. That’s all. And despite the risks and occasional misdemeanours, I welcome both. Particularly when I consider the alternatives. The Trump presidency so far, like Brexit and the associated Remain sulking, has done nothing that changes my mind on this.

There is a good analogy. When I was a teenager back in the 70’s the British cultural and music scene was hardly vibrant. Superannuated hippies made dull long winded and overhyped LP’s, gigs were often tedious doped up snooze fests. Even one’s parents were comfortable with it all. Then came punk. Not just a musical phenomenon (though the best is still great), more of a kicking over the traces cultural paradigm shift that was in some ways absolutely tremendous. The country had a totally different mood. And the Establishment suffered acute Fear and Loathing in response. But there was no threat, no real damage, no real animosity. It was fun. By 1981 it was over, pretty much, as the appalling New Romantics took over, and we’ve never had it again. Four years max.

In fact, as I survey in middle age the current music scene (indeed, nearly everything since the mid 90’s) I shudder at the complacency and derivative boring rubbish that is out there. Punk was great.

And that’s how I see Trump (and Brexit).  How I hate the proclamations of stultifying conventional career progressing professional political types, of whatever party. Boring earnestness usually goes with platitudes, sanctimony, virtue signalling and complete ineffectivenness. That applies to all parties – though some are worse than others. If you become an apostate then the humourless horde try to destroy you. Trump is an antidote, possibly only temporary, like the Punk Era, but welcome all the same. He doesn’t give a toss, he’s spontaneous, he often means well, he’s unconventional**, deeply flawed, funny and rides his luck. His enemies almost uniformly underrate, dismiss and fear him, in one confused bundle. Good for him.

One of the mission statements of this blog is from the late John von Kannon: “If  I can’t have good government, give me entertaining government”.

And you only have to look at who’s against him (and Brexit), to get that little heartwarming glow.

 

**fascinatingly, the day after I wrote this, here is the highly experienced Robert Gates – former CIA and Defence Secretary, with bipartisan support – talking about Trump:

Broadly philosophically, I’m in agreement with his disruptive approach. So in government, I’m a strong believer in the need for reform of government agencies and departments. They have gotten fat and sloppy and they’re not user-friendly. They are inefficient. They cost too much. I also think on the foreign policy side that there is a need for disruption. We’ve had three administrations follow a pretty consistent policy toward North Korea, and it really hasn’t gotten us anywhere. So the notion of disrupting and putting the Chinese on notice that it’s no longer business as usual for the United States I think is a good thing. Now the question is, obviously, in the implementation of disruption. On the foreign policy side, there’s the risk of being too spontaneous and too disruptive where you end up doing more harm than damage. Figuring out that balance is where having strong people around you matters.

How to write (an occasional series)

I have in the past lauded Kevin D Williamson of National Review Online, for his remarkable ability to marshal facts, argue his corner and knock out umpteen witticisms in extraordinarily concise and punchy prose. Possibly his most famous knockdown was his commentary on the now annual State of the Union address, but it’s one of many. Here’s the opening:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

He had, too.

That was more than three years ago, and this week Brendan O’Neill (1, 2, 3 ), hero of free speech and independent thinking courtesy of Spiked Online, has his say in the Spectator, on Blair’s possible Brexit comeback. It has a similar ‘oomph’. Here’s the opening:

Here they come, Tony Blair and his tragic chattering-class army. The former PM, whose rictus grin and glottal stops still haunt the nation’s dreams (well, mine anyway), is on the march with his pleb-allergic mates in business and the media. Blair and the Twitterati, linking arms, united in their horror at the incalculable stupidity of northerners and Welsh people and Essex men and women and other Brexiteers, their aim as clear as it is foul. They’re here to save us from ourselves. ‘Tony Blair is trying to save Britain from itself’, as one report put it. Excuse me while I pop an anti-nausea pill.

Yes, Blair, the political version of Michael Myers, the nutter in the Halloween movies who just cannot be slain, is back. Again. Remember when PMs were dignified and would bow out into their cobwebbed corner of the Lords when it became clear the British public had had a gutful of them? Not Blair. He’s considering a return to the frontline of politics, according to reports, because he wants to halt Hard Brexit. He feels so ‘passionate’ about this, he says, that ‘I almost feel motivated to go right back into it’ — ‘it’ being politics, public life, our daily lives. Make it stop, please

I doubt that he’s the sort that would accept a knighthood, but if he maintains this standard (he will)……

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Snappy dresser O’Neill

Free the serfs!!

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The Foundation doctors arriving at the hospital

In these exciting times, when morons/Lib Dems drone on about the entirely fictitious entities of hard and soft Brexit, I recommend interested parties to read a charming Spectator piece from last year: Reasons to be Cheerful. A symposium on the benefits of Brexit. All of it is good, with contributions from right across the spectrum of beliefs and politics.

Here is my favourite, because it begins to address a problem that’s blighted British medicine, the EWTD and the associated serfdom of medics in the NHS. It doesn’t mention the equally pernicious New Deal junior doctors’ contract, but it’s a fine start. The author is one of the great British medical writers, Theodore Dalrymple (AKA Anthony Daniels), a terrific writer and experienced clinician, with quite a fan club online (1, 2). Here he is:

No one wants to be treated by a dog-tired doctor, but even less does he want to be the parcel in the medical game of pass-the-parcel that is now commonplace in our hospitals. The European Working Time Directive has transformed doctors into proletarian production-line workers, much to their dissatisfaction with their work and to the detriment of their training and medical experience. It means that doctors no longer work in proper teams, patients don’t know who their doctors are and doctors don’t know who their patients are. The withdrawal of the directive would improve the situation.

Every working doctor that I know would recognise the problem described. Whether abandoning the EWTD (I would) and introducing a more sensible hours regulation would help is a moot point.

But we now need to at least have the conversation.

The SNP: decline and fall (7)

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Er….

Perhaps the neatest summary of the state of play of the SNP in power is from the erudite and perceptive farmer/historian/Hellenophile/linguist, Victor Davis Hanson. He is describing the then mayor of NYC, billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s inadequacy in the basic tasks that he’d been given:

The Bloomberg syndrome is a characteristic of contemporary government officials. When they are unwilling or unable to address premodern problems in their jurisdictions — crime, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate transportation — they compensate by posing as philosopher kings who cheaply lecture on existential challenges over which they have no control.

A second independence referendum is exactly that, something over which they have no control. Hanson poses a question, to which in Scotland the answer appears to be yes:

Do our smug politicians promise utopia because they cannot cope with reality? Do lectures compensate for inaction?

So with that in mind, here’s the latest choices from a cornucopia of SNP nonsense…

24. The creative use of the conditional

Thanks to Wikipedia for this: The conditional mood (abbreviated cond) is a grammatical mood used to express a proposition whose validity is dependent on some condition, possibly counterfactual. It thus refers to a distinct verb form that expresses a hypothetical state of affairs, or an uncertain event, that is contingent on another set of circumstances. So far then, regarding the fabled Indyref2, we’ve had:

The Scottish First minister claimed autumn 2018 would be the ‘common-sense time’

The SNP leader has claimed a vote on separation is ‘highly likely’ and has now given her clearest hint yet that Scotland could be just 18 months away from another vote…if that is the road we choose to go down.

Pressed on the timing of a possible second referendum while on BBC Two’s Brexit: Britain’s Biggest Deal, the First Minister said she was “not ruling anything out”.

Sturgeon said that if May failed to do so, then “proposing a further decision on independence wouldn’t simply be legitimate, it would almost be a necessary way of giving the people of Scotland a say in our own future direction”.

A Scottish Government source said: “We have made clear an independence referendum is very much on the table as an option if it becomes clear it is the best or only way to protect our vital national interests.”

Ms Sturgeon has warned another independence referendum is “almost inevitable” in the event of a hard Brexit and has hinted she could name the date for a new vote next month.

…and so on and so on and so on. I know that the highly overrated Sturgeon – who must now be looking over her shoulder at a predictably unpleasant sight– has to placate the noisy zoomer fraternity, but every sentient citizen of Scotland is rapidly getting fed up of this political footsie.

25. An opposition that works (a bit)

Which, bizarrely, is a Tory one.

26. There’s still no money

Says who? Er…says Salmond’s own economic guru, nice guy Andrew Wilson. Which lead to the correct response (from @murdo_fraser), “If the SNP is now admitting oil is a bonus, it must set out which taxes would rise and what public services would be cut in order to fill an independent Scotland’s £15bn deficit.”

27. A new referendum has never been less popular.

According to this poll: A Panelbase survey of 1,020 voters for the Sunday Times found that support for an “indyref2” before Brexit — which is scheduled to happen by March 2019 — dropped from 43% last June to just 27% last week. The poll also found that 51% of Scots oppose a second referendum within the next “few” years.

28. The SNP are hopeless at governing. Still.

The dismal education record of Scotland under the SNP actually lead to that very rare beast – a productive Holyrood debate. As Labour’s Iain Gray put it: “Yes, our schools need reform. But, above all, our schools need more teachers with more support, more time and more resources to do their job. That is the core reform. Failure to deliver it is the defining characteristic of the SNP decade in charge of education.”

29. Alex Salmond declares war, or something, by invading a playpark in Aberdeenshire.

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*

He’s increasingly reminiscent of Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, and if Eck thought this would be a credible photo-op, I fear he’s mistaken. However it did provide one comedy highlight of the culture that prevails in parts of The Democratic Republic of Scotland (see pics below, my thanks to ).

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ellon2
Who’s Eck’s new pal on the right?