In Glasgow

On Friday evening, hundreds of loyalists congregated in George Square. Some bought union flags from hawkers; most brought their own. Women in red, white and blue wraparound skirts sang ‘you can stuff your independence up your arse.’ Expensive cars disgorged burly men from Ayrshire and Fife onto the square. A Rangers banner was attached to the metal railings in front of the city’s cenotaph. Sections of the crowd chanted ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘No Surrender’. Some gave Hitler salutes. In the gloaming, pro-independence supporters and non-aligned passers-by were attacked. So far eleven people have been arrested. More »

The Morning After

The early Scottish referendum results didn’t look good for the would-be dividers of the kingdom. My pro-independence Orcadian friend, down in London for a wine fair, went to bed before three a.m., disconsolate, not long after a furious thunderstorm lit up the deserted streets and made drums of the cars. I stayed awake long enough for the moment around four when my home town of Dundee went heavily for Yes, swiftly followed by another Yes in West Dunbartonshire. Suddenly the two camps were neck and neck. More »

It isn’t about independence

Polling day is suitably dreich in Fife. Since yesterday morning the damp mists of a haar have loomed over us like a hangover that won’t go away. We cannot see the Forth, the Isle of May or the Lammermuirs marking the horizon beyond. In Arncroach, where I live, there’s just the polling booth adorned with a single large Yes poster.

The most striking thing about the referendum is the extent to which it has turned out to be not about Scottish independence. More »

Types of Colonialism

In the course of the current debate about Scottish independence I’ve noticed a few references comparing it to an anti-colonial struggle: the poor oppressed Scots against their arrogant English masters. This is historical nonsense. Scotland joined the Union originally in order to share in the benefits of England’s overseas colonialism, after its own had failed; and thereafter played a disproportionate part in the expansion and rule of the British Empire, from the butt end of the gun. It has also shared greatly – maybe disproportionately again – in the governance of Britain itself, as well as in its culture. It may be that the loss of the empire has removed one of the original Scottish motives for the Union, and so boosted nationalism in that way. But that is a very different thing from painting it as a rebellion by colonial victims.

On the other hand, colonialism/imperialism has moved on from the mid-20th century. More »

‘Merci pour ce moment’ in English

In case you haven’t been able to get your hands on Merci pour ce moment, Valérie Trierweiler’s sellout tract about President Hollande, herself and her feelings, here it is, accelerated and reduced in the first available English translation.

I

No choice but to take up the pen. I didn’t smash the crockery AS WAS ALLEGED when FH told me, on the bed, in the Elysée apartments, about Julie Gayet. Does a real man in charge of a country have an affair with an actress – that’s actress, not actor – when factories are closing and unemployment is rising? More »

On the Campaign Trail

On Saturday, with only days to go before the independence referendum, thousands of Yes supporters gathered on Buchanan Street in Glasgow, waving Saltires and singing ‘Flower of Scotland’. At around the same time, more than ten thousand Orangemen staged a pro-union march in Edinburgh. The standards at the head of the flute bands hailed from Portadown and Coatbridge, London and Liverpool, Leeds and Stockport. More »

A Grisly Future

Is the island of Albion about to split? It’s clear that the No/Yes gap has narrowed but it’s still likelier that ‘No’ will win, by a clear if not comfortable margin; certainly if the bookies, who usually get these things right, are credited. The London press has blunderbussed out unionist propaganda, some of which, in the way of propaganda, has hit the truth, notably about Salmond’s triangulation of left and right by promising to scrap Trident while levying bargain-basement business rates. No prizes for guessing which pledge would be met first. More »

When Mining Firms Sue

Last week a fracking company was refused permission to drill in the South Downs National Park. Celtique Energie is considering an appeal to Eric Pickles to overrule the decision. He might be reluctant to cause a furore in West Sussex, but would he feel the same if aggrieved companies could sue the government for lost profits? This can happen if foreign firms have access to an investor-state dispute settlement, as provided for in the new trade agreements being finalised by the EU with Canada and the US. Ministers reassure us that the provisions are nothing new, without mentioning that US companies are the world leaders in making ISDS claims. The two main ISDS tribunals, run by the World Bank and the UN, operate behind closed doors, with private attorneys who rotate between being judges and advocates, and have no appeals mechanisms. More »

After the Ceasefire

On 26 August a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers). Since then Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire. Israel has done the following: More »

At the RIBA

Clothes line, Glencaple, Scotland, 1954 (c) Edwin Smith, RIBA Photographs Collection

What is most striking about the retrospective of Edwin Smith’s photographs at the Royal Institute of British Architects (until 6 December) is his ability to capture the human relationship to buildings. A woman’s silhouette in a shadowy side street is dwarfed by York Minster; a man in a suit casts a short shadow before the long shadows of the palatial façade of the Royal Exchange; a cat lingers uncertainly in the gateway to Ampton Hall. More »

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