Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 523

Issue # 523                                                 Week ending Saturday 26th October 2019

A Life on the Ocean Wave Can Really Be Ferry Distressing on the Isle of Lewis by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When Mrs X said that someone we knew from a long time ago wanted her to do the clicking at his October wedding, I thought good for her. So I thought to myself that she could take my van and I would see her when she got back from Harris or Uist or wherever it was to be.

She sighed then slowly explained in simple words which I could understand that the wedding was actually in Lancashire, it was her van and I had to go with her to carry her bags and to drive. That would ease the stress on her - unlike the effect I normally have on her. Understood, milady. Whatever you say.

And in any case, we need to visit someone we know in Gloucestershire. Yes, The Daughter. The first born. The only born. I think I can say that confidently now because I have heard no more from the Child Support Agency. Just kidding, hon. You are my first, my last, my everything. So can you put the old lady and I up for a couple of nights? Least you can do to repay us for the last 22 years of worry and anxiety. No, I am not talking about your mother waiting for me to get back from the pub. Cheeky brat. I’ll see you soon.

That rotten old tub, the Isle of Lewis, is currently on the route as the Loch Seaforth is a ferry on the Mersey, as it is down in Liverpool for its refit. We were only just past the Arnish Light when it began to wobble. The 24-year-old Isle of Lewis must be one of the least-suited vessels to be assigned to a route in the Hebrides - ever.

We were about to order breakfast and the rolling began. The looks on people’s faces said it all. Many of us could remember very well how awful journeys were on this unstable and smelly old barge before the new Loch Seaforth came into service. Mrs X was going green round the gills and a quite unpleasant pallid hue. Dulux could market that colour if they called it white with a hint of broccoli.

Then she said it was too all much for her. She would have to go outside on deck. To be fair, that did help a lot. She was able to give a bit of counterweight and the ferry seemed to pitch a bit less. It’s an ill wind but Mrs X is still going to have to start that diet when we get back.

I feel so sorry for the people of Barra who have to put up with the shoogly ship, the Isle of Lewis, as their link with Oban. Services are regularly cancelled on that five-hour voyage. No wonder Barrachs describe her as the Olympic flame - she never goes out.

Even some of her hard-working crew were feeling unwell. That says it all. The only ones smiling were the school of porpoises which came alongside to snigger and chortle at Mrs X and I peering over the rail and retching in unison. Yes, I know porpoises are known to have what we humans interpret as smiley faces anyway but they did not have to leap clear out of the water with joy everytime we boked.

When we finally got off at Ullapool, we were sickly and bedraggled as were many other passengers too. I felt like getting out of the van and kissing the ground in front of the lorry park. I was just so glad to have made it. I would much rather lick up oil and diesel from D R Macleod’s lorries than go through that again. When I have seen the Pope doing that at the foot of aircraft steps, it has always crossed my mind that must have been a rough flight.

Listen, we are not coming back to the island on that rustbucket. Other arrangements have been made. CalMac, CMal, Transport Scotland - whatever you call yourselves this week, please get rid of the ferry Isle of Lewis. She has done her bit and is surely ready to be consigned to the pages of history.

Please do not make us - and the people of Barra - suffer any more. In the interests of justice and fair play, and to prove you listen to your users, you should not refuse this request without all the board members of your organisations taking a winter voyage on her. That’ll change all your minds pronto.

On the way down, we stopped for a breather and to stretch the legs in Carlisle. It has really changed since we were last here. Big new buildings, new shopping centres and, brand new businesses are trading everywhere. It is really very confusing. We were in a retail park and a guy came up to Mrs X and asked: “Excuse me, miss, can you help me? Do you know where I can find Pets at Home?”

Mrs X looked very puzzled and said: “Well, cove. I don't know. Let me think. Have you tried looking under the bed?”

'County Lines': Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Highlands Targeted by Drugs Gangs

Rural communities in the Highlands, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire are being targeted by gangs using school children to sell class A drugs.  Dealers based mainly in London and Merseyside use youngsters to move heroin and crack cocaine from major cities to smaller locations.  Police Scotland say there are more than 20 active routes north of the border known as "county lines".  And in a major crackdown last week, officers made a series of arrests.  Police Scotland's special "intensified" operation was jointly organised by the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs' Council.  Its results included:   Six men and two woman were arrested, Police visited 18 "cuckooed" addresses,  One vulnerable adult was identified,  One bladed weapon was recovered, Officers seized cash totalling £2,560,  Drugs worth £31,180 were recovered.  The lucrative business operates via dedicated mobile phone lines where drug orders are made.  Across the UK, profits from the trade are estimated at about £500m by the National Crime Agency (NCA).   Crimestoppers has said it has seen a 600% rise in Scottish county lines-related calls from January to September this year compared to the same period in 2018.  The charity said children as young as 15 may not even realise they have been sucked in to front the operation.  Gangsters trick the young person in to becoming a drug courier by asking if they want to make money. DCI Alan Henderson, of Police Scotland, said: "Scotland is predominantly an importer of county lines. We don't export to England and Wales.  Police Scotland currently has over 20 identified county lines dealing primarily in class A drugs. The north east of Scotland is most significantly impacted for this activity.  The largest single exporting area in to Scotland is Merseyside.  "County lines, as it is now referred to, is not anything new. Illegal drugs are having a devastating impact on Scotland's communities. The number of deaths linked to substances soared to 1,187 last year - the highest since records began.  It also means Scotland has a higher drug death rate than the one reported for the United States of America.  A Scottish government taskforce is examining the factors behind the deaths and advise on action - despite drugs policy being reserved to Westminster.

More Than 2,000 Visitors Flock to Inverness Knitting Festival

More than 2,000 visitors, from 23 different countries, descended on the Highland Capital for a celebration of knitting.  Loch Ness Knit Fest took place throughout last week and over the weekend, welcoming people from far and wide.  Utilising popular Inverness venues such as the Leisure Centre, the Mercure Hotel and Bogbain farm, there was a lot for the international yarn-loving guests to enjoy as they soaked up Highland culture.  Attendees were able to participate in craft workshops, listen to presentations, browse an impressive marketplace – and many took the chance to cap the day off with a dram at various events.  Cairan Macleod, festival organiser, said: “We have had a really fantastic time again this year. We are especially delighted that we have visitors from 23 different countries, last year it was 22, so we are growing.  We have heard from the visitors that they felt so welcome in general when they come to Scotland – but especially the Highlands.  They feel that we are this friendly and welcoming community.

The Extra Barriers Faced by Dementia Patients From Ethnic Minorities

A lack of awareness around language, culture and faith can lead to a gap in mainstream dementia care for Scotland's ethnic minority communities, a charity has warned. And the Reach Community Health Project is trying to tackle the issue.  Hanif Mohammad and his wife had long been regular participants at Reach's dementia friendly group in Glasgow.  The group provides culturally relevant activities for Punjabi speakers in the area.  But when his wife, Mrs Shamim Azra Hanif, died four months ago, he stopped attending the group. The retired mechanical engineer was isolated and depressed.  That was when link worker Amy Gill stepped in. She visited 66-year-old Hanif at his home in the Pollokshields area, and was able to persuade him to start engaging with the project again.  Now he is back at the group, which meets every fortnight.  Hanif said: "These people are helping me to get on with my life. I am very grateful to them.  I'm enjoying the games and the songs, and meeting other people is very, very nice."  Amy describes her role as being a link between carers and support services, helping people find out what information is available.  She acknowledges that there can be a number of challenges for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. "Language is a barrier for people to access the right support and the information that they need," she said.  "They can feel quite intimidated coming along to the group.  It is about building up that trust with the carer and the person who has dementia to inform them that you're in safe hands."  Glasgow's sizeable and close knit south Asian community makes up around 14% of the city's population.  Reach's director, Shabir Banday, said mainstream services could lack awareness of the needs of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.  "Their needs are different - it could be language, culture, ethnicity, faith," he said.  "There is less participation from the communities into the services which exist.  The responsibility is on healthcare commissioners to make sure that, when they are commissioning work, they are doing it for the community as a whole."  He said monitoring should be introduced to ensure that there was equal participation in services among those in ethnic minorities.  "Staff should be available who can engage better and understand the needs of the communities," he added.  "There is a strong need for provisions within the existing system so that their needs can be better met."  The Scottish government said tackling barriers like language skills and cultural awareness would form part of the reforms being planned under its National Dementia Strategy. "We are currently working with partners to progress a national programme to support adult social care reform," said a spokesperson.  As part of this, we are considering how to ensure that people who face additional barriers, such as language skills and cultural awareness, are able to effectively access support."

Choir Performance Brings Down Curtain on Royal National Mod in Glasgow

The curtain has been brought down on the Royal National Mod for 2019 ahead of the festival's return to the Highlands next year.  Numerous events have been held at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall lat week for what is described as the biggest Gaelic festival in the world - culminating in one final performance by several prominent choirs outside the venue on Saturday.  It is estimated the Mod has generated more than £2 million for the local economy, with organisers already planning the event's return to Inverness in October 2020 after a six-year absence.  An Comunn Gaidhealach also announced at the end of the week that the festival will be held in Oban in 2023 - the home of the very first Royal National Mod. John Morrison, chief executive of the group, said: "The Glasgow Royal National Mod has been a spectacular event.  We're delighted that this year's Mod was a huge success and the importance of our Gaelic culture was at the forefront of the Mod.  The level of competition has been stellar and it is great to see so many new faces joining the community alongside our regular attendees.  We are grateful as ever to everyone involved in running this year's Mod, especially the local organising committee and all of our volunteers and sponsors.  As the 2019 Mod comes to a close, we look forward to next year's event in Inverness, with planning already well under way.  We hope to see everyone there in Inverness to celebrate the culture and heritage of the Gaelic language."  Earlier in the week it was announced at the Mod that Scottish Gaelic would be added to Duolingo, a free online language learning service with more than 300 million users.  It is hoped the move will increase the number of people who speak the language around the world, with just under 60,000 speakers in Scotland, according to the 2011 Census.  More than four million people are learning Irish on the website and app, with 1.2 million signed up to learn Welsh, while courses in "indigenous and endangered" languages including Navajo and Hawaiian were also launched last year.  Allan Campbell, An Comunn Gaidhealach president, said: "It is excellent to see a large platform such as Duolingo recognising the growth of the Gaelic Language and taking action to support us in our efforts to introducing as many people to the language as possible.  By enabling an easy, basic introduction, the platform will help to support all of the work we do with Gaelic Medium Education courses and existing learning platforms such as LearnGaelic, and hopefully we will see more people enrolling in formal Gaelic education as a result."

New Bard Crowned in Glasgow on Literature Day
The Royal National Mod 2019  is leaving its mark on history with the appointment of a “new Bard”.  Sandy Macdonald-Jones was presented with the accolade as day six of Scotland’s largest Gaelic festival got under way.  The 59-year-old  – who started speaking Gaelic 20 years ago – has been an active participant in the Mod for many years as well as an established poet and semi-professional musician through playing the Clarsach, writing songs and producing choral arrangements.  Mrs Macdonald-Jones was crowned as the new Bard a’ Chomainn Ghaidhealaich (The Gaelic Association’s “crowned bard”) by Allan Campbell, president of An Comunn Gàidhealach.  Mrs Macdonald-Jones said she was honoured to have received the recognition.  She said: “It’s still sinking in. It’s an amazing honour and it was a huge surprise – but of course I am delighted.  In a way I came to Gaelic through the music because I love the songs, and it didn’t take me long to realise that that it was a beautiful language.  It’s the language of my ancestors and I knew that if I wanted to sing the songs well, I had to understand them and pronounce them properly. ”  This is the first time that a bard has been appointed since 2004, highlighting the strength and resurgence of Gaelic   literature in recent years.  Meanwhile, 22-year-old Jenny Black from Brechin in Angus was awarded the Gaelic Learner of the Year award.  The Edinburgh university student, who studies on their Provision of Gaelic medium education course, has been learning the indigenous language for the last four years and has previously taught students at a local Gaelic school.

Highland Rural Choirs Triumph At the Royal National Mod in Glasgow
Choirs from across the north are walking away from the Royal National Mod as champions following a tough day of competitions in Glasgow.  The Isle of Mull Gaelic Choir became the first winners of the day, taking four awards in the morning’s ladies contest.  The group, made up of 28 members, was awarded the Grampian Television Trophy as well as the Angus MacTavish Memorial Trophy and Rotary Club of Blairgowrie Trophy.  Conductor Elizabeth Jack, 69, was also presented with the Rod MacKenzie, Sgir’ a’ Bhac Memorial Baton following the choir’s outstanding performance.  Their success was swiftly followed by Còisir Ghàidhlig Chàrlabhaigh from Carloway on Lewis, who became the recipients of the Aline MacKenzie Memorial Trophy.  Conductor Mairi MacLeod, daughter of the late John Macleod, former president of An Comunn Gàidhealach from 2007 to 2017, was presented with the John Young Memorial Baton.  The 22-strong group also became the recipients of the Calum Robertson Memorial Trophy as well as coming joint first for the Evelyn Huckbody Memorial Trophy.  Ms MacLeod, a 32-year-old music teacher, said: “I’m speechless. My dad was in the choir and he passed away 18 months ago. He would have loved it.  “Gaelic is a major thing in our choir and it means an awful lot. We absolutely love singing and they were singing out Carloway anthem as I came onto the stage. We just sing all the time.” During the first of the afternoon’s competitions, which were held in the main auditorium, Coisir Sgir’ a’ Bhac earned The Lord Shield and a host of other accolades.  After performing a prescribed song and a song of their choice – both composed by Kenny Thomson – the group were awarded first place.  After topping the leader board, the group received the Captain Angus Stewart Trophy for gaining the highest marks in music and the Sandy Heron Cup for their marks in music across three separate competitions.  Meanwhile, conductor of 17 years Avril Allen was awarded The Mrs Catherine C MacDonald Silver Baton.  Highland choir Bùrach were awarded the title of champions as the day’s rural choir competitions drew to a close. Their performance in Glasgow marks their seventh appearance at the Royal National Mod and their third consecutive win. Following a tough afternoon of competitions by six choirs from across the country, the group – conducted by Riona Whyte – was awarded the Sheriff MacMaster Campbell Memorial Quaich and the Selma Shield for the highest marks in Gaelic.


SOME MOD RESULTS

CHORAL
A301 Lovat and Tullibardine Shield
1 Còisir Ghàidhlig an Òbain. (Oban)
2 Ceòlraidh Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu.(Glasgow)
3 Còisir Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis. (Inverness)

Weekly Scotsman Quaich for Gaelic – Ceòlraidh Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (Glasgow).
Oban Times Silver Salver for music – Còisir Ghàidhlig an Òbain. (Oban)

A302 Margrat Duncan Memorial Trophy

1 Còisir Ghàidhlig Shruighlea. (Stirling)
2 Còisir Ghàidhlig Obar Pheallaidh. (Aberfeldy)
3 Còisir Sgìre Phort Righ. (Portree)

A304 Women’s Choirs (Esme Smyth Trophy)
1 Atomaig Piseag.
2 Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle Ghlaschu.(Islay Gaelic Choir Glasgow)
3 Ceòlraidh Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu.(Glasgow)

A307 Men’s Choirs (Mull and Iona Shield)
1 Còisir Ceann an Tuirc.
2 Ceòlraidh Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu.
3 Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle Ghlaschu.

A308 Puirt-a-Beul (Greenock Gaelic Choir Cup)
1 Còisir Ghàidhlig Obar Dheathain. (Aberdeen)
2 Còisir Ghàidhlig an Òbain. (Oban)
3 Ceòlraidh Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu. (Glasgow)

Edinburgh, Memorial Trophy for Gaelic – Còisir Ghàidhlig Obar Dheathain.

RURAL CHOIRS
A303 Sheriff MacMaster Campbell Memorial Quaich
1 Bùrach.
2 Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle.
3 Còisir Ghàidhlig Thaigh an Uillt.

A306 Puirt-a-beul (Aline MacKenzie Memorial Trophy)
1 Còisir Ghàidhlig Chàrlabhaigh.
2 Còisir Ghàidhlig Mhealbhaich.
3 = Còisir Ghàidhlig nan Loch and Còisir Ghàidhlig Mhealbhaich.

SOME VOCAL SOLOS

GS224 Gold Medal Finals
Women
1 Claire Nicamhlaigh, Glaschu.
2 Raonaid M J Deans, Comar nan Allt.
3 Marina NicLeòid, Glaschu
4 Saffron Hanvidge, Inbhir Nis.

Men
1 Ruairidh Alastair MacIllFhinnein, Glaschu.
2 Rory MacInnes MacDiarmid, Glaschu.
3 John Boa, Dùn Èideann.
4 Ruaraidh Mac an t-Saoir, Glaschu.

TS232 Traditional Final (Mary Lamont Gold Medal)
Women
1 Isabelle Bain, Am Bac.
2 Emma NicLeòid, Sgalpaigh.
3 Kerrie NicFhionnlaigh, Obar Dheathain.
4 Marie Matheson, Hunndaidh.

Men
1 Crìsdean MacCoinnich, Glaschu.
2 Micheal MacAoidh, Na Stàitean Aonaichte.
3 = Alasdair Iain MacPhee, Glaschu, and Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, Dùn Èideann.

Brexit Must Be Extended So the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament Can Scrutinise the Withdrawal Deal

Brexit must be extended in order for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly to scrutinise  Boris Johnson's withdrawal deal, the first ministers of Wales and Scotland have said.  Both places will need to vote on a law to implement the deal - Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon say 10 days is not enough to consider the legislation.  The PM has sent Brussels an unsigned letter asking for an extension.  But it was accompanied by a second saying an extension would be a mistake.  Mr Johnson was required by law to ask for the extension after MPs voted to delay agreeing his deal at the weekend until his legislation is passed by Parliament. No.10 sought a further vote on the Brexit deal on Monday but the request was rejected by the House of Commons speaker John Bercow.  Mr Drakeford and Ms Sturgeon made their request in letters to EU council president Donald Tusk and Mr Johnson.  They say there is not enough time before the scheduled Brexit day of 31 October for AMs and MSPs to fulfil their "constitutional responsibilities".  Both also asked Mr Tusk for the extension, if granted by the remaining 27 EU states, to be long enough so a further referendum could be held. Writing to the PM, the first ministers said: "We... wish to state in the clearest possible terms that we and our legislatures need time to analyse and consider the draft bill.  We share the view which lay behind the amendment passed by a clear majority of the House of Commons that the time between now and 31 October provides insufficient opportunity to undertake this essential scrutiny".  They urged Mr Johnson to comply "fully and in good faith" with the Benn Act, which forced him to request the letter, so the UK Parliament, the assembly and the Scottish Parliament can carry out "their proper constitutional and democratic functions". Earlier leader of the house Jacob Rees-Mogg announced government plans for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to complete its passage through the Commons by Thursday.  Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said it was a "fair point" that the UK Westminster government was "keen to address".  He acknowledged concerns about the "effectiveness" of the joint ministerial committee which brings the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments together for talks.  Cabinet office minister Michael Gove had spoken with the two governments "in the last day or so", Mr Barclay added.  UKIP assembly member Gareth Bennett, who is supporting Mr Johnson's deal, accused Mr Drakeford of ignoring Wales' vote to leave the EU in 2016  "There is now a grave danger that, if Boris's deal doesn't go through, then we will not leave at all," he said.  In the Commons on Wednesday, however, the prime minister said the Scottish Parliament "has no role" in approving his deal.

Comment - R
Sounds like a perfectly reasonable course of action.  The Scots and Welsh have every right to pour over every detail of this document, allowing for due consideration, and debate on the document details. They are after all (for the time being anyway) participating members of the United Kingdom, irrespective of the PM’s negative comment on Wednesday re Scotland.

Edinburgh Company Generates Electricity From Gravity

An Edinburgh company is harnessing a simple idea to crack an important energy challenge, using the principle of the winding mechanism on an old clock.  It could be used around the world, where old mine shafts are available, some of the deepest in South Africa.  What goes up must come down, and a vague memory of school physics reminds me that an object that has yet to come down has potential energy in it.  Drop it, and it becomes kinetic energy. That's the essence of pump storage in hydro projects. On a steep drop between two reservoirs, use excess power at night to pump water uphill, then release it downhill when you need it. When the nation's kettles are switched on at half time in a big football match, the sluices are opened, water hits the turbines, and power is delivered within very few seconds. It's much faster and greener than firing up a gas boiler.  Norway's geography has blessed it with a lot of pump storage. The UK's much less so. There are a few big projects, such as Cruachan, and a couple of sites, including one at the planning stage north of Dumfries, which could be developed.  But with only a few possible sites, and daunting cost when you develop one, a much cheaper application of the same very simple physics is being developed by an Edinburgh company.   Unlike so many incomprehensible techie start-ups, it has chosen a name that describes precisely what it does.  Gravitricity - generating electricity from gravity - is getting noticed by investors, as an effective alternative to large batteries, so that renewable energy supply can be stored until there is demand. No need to go to the Congolese jungle to get hold of the raw materials for batteries.   All you need is a lot of concrete, some very strong cables, and winding gear.  I simplify a bit. The power also has to be harnessed by turbines and then connected to the grid. And you have to build high towers, or find deep holes in the ground.  Gravitricity wants to start with such a tower in Edinburgh, to prove the concept. But it then wants to use mines which are closing, or recently closed, to make use of their deep shafts.  The company is in discussions with mine owners in the UK, South Africa, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic. The scale of the ambition is really quite large. The company reckons on using 24 weights, totalling 12,000 tonnes, stacked in a mine shaft. Depending on demand, they could be released one at a time or in combination, and at different speeds, depending on what is required.  This apparatus, it is pointed out, has the same weight as 84 blue whales (while area is compared with football pitches or the size of Wales, and height with double-deck buses, the comparison with blue whale weight is lost on me, not least because they are rarely seen and unimaginably large. But I digress). At that scale, the company claims the output from one (average) mineshaft could power 63,000 homes for an hour. The weights could then be recharged when demand is lower, and you do it all over again, without any degradation of capacity.   A UK Westminster government agency, Innovate UK, has just pumped a £640,000 grant into the idea. This week, analysts at Imperial College London, predicted that the idea offered a much cheaper form of storage than batteries or other alternatives.

National Gaelic Schools Debate to Kick-off in Stornoway
Stornoway is set to host the first two rounds of this year’s National Gaelic Schools Debate. Forty children from schools across Scotland will take part in the competition in Stornoway Town Hall over two days of debate in early November, with the finals taking place in the main debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in early December.  The event is celebrating its twentieth year, and the final in Holyrood is also part of the Scottish Parliament’s twentieth anniversary celebrations.  Evelyn Coull Macleod from the National Gaelic School’s Debate Management Committee, said: “We are very much looking forward to the twentieth year of the National Gaelic Schools Debate, and to welcoming the schools to Stornoway once again. “Following the success of the 2018 Debate, which saw Hannah Macleod and Sandy Morrison from The Nicolson Institute emerge as the worthy winners, a high level of competition was set and we look forward to another year of interesting and thought-provoking debates.”

Being An Englishman in Glasgow Has Changed My Views on Independence'

English voters in Scotland are assumed to oppose independence. This may well be true of a majority, but I suspect many English-raised Brits who have chosen to make Scotland their home – or who like me have made their way here by some lucky accident – sympathise decidedly with the Yes camp.  From the discussions I’ve had with colleagues since arriving in Glasgow a few weeks ago to work, I can’t help but feel that the visions for Scotland’s future – if it is to have one inside the UK – are all a hopeless fantasy. For many undecided Scottish voters this sort of alternative appears to appeal – it avoids the big leap while still rejecting arrangements as they are today.  But federalisation or any form of a significantly re-imagined UK is never going to happen. My experiences as an undergraduate at Oxford taught me at least that much. The English elite simply have no interest in a radical reform. While the discourse along this theme rages on north of the Border, the silence in the south-east of England roars a definitive “no”. Sweeping reform simply isn’t on the radar. And if it weren’t after a heartfelt vow to change was made on the eve of the 2014 poll and 45% still voted Yes, it is never going to be.  Because in a “precious union of nations”, as the nauseatingly insincere phrase goes, we would have said that given two nations rejected Brexit and the overall result in that referendum was narrow, we should leave but in a very soft form. A Union that respects the views of all its nations would allow for flexible arrangements where Scotland could have a deal tailored to its needs and respecting its anti-Brexit vote. But no such recognition of national differences within the UK came Scotland’s way. On Wednesday we even heard from the Prime Minister that the devolved legislatures have no role whatsoever in consenting to the Brexit deal – a claim as outrageous as it is erroneous.  For most of the southern English who go on to rule the UK roost, Scotland piques interest only for carefully selected performative acts. At Oxford the usual crowd of boys schooled in England with refined English accents and London homes would don their kilts for formal dinners and balls. Burns Night is one such favoured occasion of the Scottish-when-it-suits-me cohort. And then there’s the annual English middle-class pilgrimage to Edinburgh for the Fringe.  Scotland deserves better than the disregard the English demonstrate the rest of the year.  As much as our Westminster leaders profess their deep love of the Union, it feels much more like a love of the cultural prestige Scotland affords England and a fear of the symbolic blow to the UK that would come with independence.  Better to look at what the UK Westminster Government does in relation to Scotland than continue to listen to the endless stream of verbal assurances insisting they care. I do believe the English and Scots have broadly the same values. The talk of Scottish progressiveness has probably been somewhat overdone in a country which in my lifetime had a private postal ballot on whether to continue banning discussion of gay people’s existence from schools. But that is irrelevant. Where the Scottish and English diverge is in voting behaviour. If the UK had not returned a Conservative government driven by English votes in 2015, there never would have been a Brexit referendum that no one outside a rabid fringe was calling for. If the English had voted like the Scottish in that referendum, we would not still potentially be just days away from a catastrophic No-Deal Brexit that no one said was on the cards. But here we are.  Voting patterns matter more than the values professed in polling. Voting choices have put us in the dire straits the UK is in today. And a voting choice can extract Scotland from this vicious cycle of disappointment with a UK seemingly hell-bent on damaging not just Scots but everyone else in Britain too.  In recent weeks the possibility of border controls between Scotland and England has been raised in the event of independence. Our borders are best when they’re invisible. There is a group which shares that view and has demonstrated its commitment to it through action. It’s the European Union. If controls appear at the Border with an independent Scotland is in the EU, it will only be because the English have chosen not to sign up to the European norm, not because Scotland, like the vast majority of Europe, will have chosen to do so.  As an Englishman due to return south of that Border in February, I can only hope the rest of the UK would re-assess the situation in light of the new realities of a post-independence world and join Scotland and Ireland back in the EU. The choice will be for the rest of the UK to make.  I am by no means wedded to the idea of independence. Through serious reform Canada redefined itself after Quebec voted by less than 50.6 per cent against splitting off in 1995. It’s an outcome the Québécois seem happy with, as independence is no longer under serious discussion. Are the British ruling class willing to radically overhaul the UK? They would sooner just grant independence than go to the trouble.

Comment -R
Refreshing to read an English Oxford man calling out his fellow English Oxford types for what they are.  And we all know federalism is only something trotted out by Labour and the Lib-Dems whenever support for indy spikes.  Hopefully the Scots will come to see that standing on their own feet is best way to go.