The Empty Palace: Roads to Referendum 2

old-royal-high-schooloDuring the 1980s, Scotland’s political scene was polarised by a cathartic and visceral detestation of the UK Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This, for perhaps the last time, caused a genuinely British response, in that many Scottish opponents of Conservatism, badly discouraged by the calculating and dishonest way which the Home Rule that Scots had voted for had been snatched away by a self-interested Westminster, fell back to old loyalties, and threw their weight behind the familiar Labour Party, in an effort to rid themselves of the hated Tories. Continue reading “The Empty Palace: Roads to Referendum 2”

Muslims we Must Support: Maajid Nawaz

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Maajid Nawaz

Last week, Maajid Nawaz, a United Kingdom Liberal Democratic Party parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, became the centre of an attack from the Islamic fundamentalist right wing because he stood up for free speech. This is not, in itself, unusual; fundamentalists of any religious persuasion detest free speech. Nor is the chorus of death threats raised against Nawaz in any way uncommon from Islamic fanatics. However this case is important because it illustrates a divide which we must not only recognise but decide on which side we stand.

Nawaz’ crime? After taking part in a BBC debate in which two students were seen wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ tee-shirts, Nawaz tweeted the image, saying, “As a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that”.

For most people, that would not seem anything other than a reasonable point of view. Continue reading “Muslims we Must Support: Maajid Nawaz”

The Roads to Referendum: 1

scotland-referendum
A campaigner in the 1979 Scottish Devolution Referendum

This year’s Scottish Independence Referendum is  one of the most important political events in the lives of most living Scots. It outweighs in importance, for Scotland, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It outweighs the powerhouse rise to prominence of a rejuvenated China or an India that is on its way to being not just a regional, but a global, superpower. It is even more important, though perhaps less so, than the accession of the UK to what was then the EEC and is now the European Union. In this series of articles I am going to outline the history of the Referendum, as I saw it evolve.

The coming Referendum is the single most significant event to occur in Scotland since the end of World War Two. That event brought about the end of the Imperial era, in which European states used their military strength to dominate the planet. With Europe in ruins, and the United Kingdom pauperised, the control systems that had held empires in place collapsed. The British Empire, which Scotland had been a part of, was consigned to history. Continue reading “The Roads to Referendum: 1”

Whither Now Scotland

saltire
Pic: Rod Fleming

Whither Now Scotland:
Dateline: Friday 19 September 2014
By Rod Fleming, reporting from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland, for Rod Fleming’s World.

This morning, the whole of the United Kingdom woke up to the most important announcement in its history: the Scottish people have voted to bring it to an end.

After 307 years of often troubled partnership, in two years the partners in the unitary state will separate and become independent states, Scotland and what has been christened the ‘rUK’, the ‘rest of the United Kingdom’.

In a speech delivered, unusually, on the steps of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh after the poll result was announced, Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond, was statesmanlike but clearly delighted. Congratulating the Scots on their momentous decision, he called on ‘All the people of Scotland to put their differences behind them and work together for our country, our nation, and our future.’ Continue reading “Whither Now Scotland”

The Call of Duty?

call-of-duty
Pic: Rod Fleming

The last time I was back  in Scotland, I was asked, ‘Would you ever live here again?’ I gave a non-committal answer to avoid offence, but inside myself, I believed I knew; no, I would not.

In truth, I had not then and still have no plans to live in Scotland again. I love the country and the people, but I am both a Scot and a European; the day life in rural France gets too humdrum, it won’t be to Scotland that I turn.

In the last few months I’ve thought a lot about this, however. Continue reading “The Call of Duty?”

Sticks, Ice-Creams and Specks of Dust

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Pic: Rod Fleming

A long time ago, when I lived in Arbroath in Scotland, my role before opening up the old Fleming Partners office was to do the school run. Our kids went to a small village school just outside the town itself and there was no bus.

On these runs I always tried to entertain the boys by talking about whatever came into my mind (and would not take more than 10 minutes.) So one day I explained why humans can see in colour and many animals can’t. This is because, I said, there are two types of vision receptor cells, rods and cones. Cones see colour and rods see brightness—monochrome, in other words. (I do know it’s a bit more complex than that, but these were primary kids.) Humans have both rods and cones, and many animals, like dogs, only have rods. So we see colour and they don’t.

This went fine and was met with all the usual approval that could be mustered from a 5-year old and an 8-year old.

Continue reading “Sticks, Ice-Creams and Specks of Dust”

Richard Dawkins is WRONG!

anglican-rochesterRichard Dawkins is WRONG. He’s just plain wrong and even though his wrongness is perhaps understandable, that doesn’t change a damn thing.

Oh it’s okay, he’s not wrong about god or gods, Evolution, Genetics, Biology, the age of the Earth, and a whole heap of other stuff. He’s smack on the money on all that.

But he is dead wrong about religion—specifically, the one he himself was nominally raised in, the Church of England, Continue reading “Richard Dawkins is WRONG!”