Monthly Archives: November 2012

The day Big Bad Alistair let the music die

I’ve got no idea what possessed Alistair Darling to attempt to scaremonger on the issue of culture but he has ended up quite rightly a laughing stock. Last night he said that “British music will no longer be our music” as legions of Scottish music fans turned to their music collection and bidded a long adieu to what will now apparently be “their” music, whoever “they” are. 

When I recorded my nine albums with Runrig the last thing that was on my mind was borders and frontiers. Runrig currently have a Canadian singer, the keyboard player I replaced was English – even as one of the most quintessential of Scottish of bands we had an international dimension to our membership and quite rightly so. Music is universal, absolutely collaborative and the closest thing we have to an international language. This attempt to create borders around something so wonderfully free spirited is as clumsy as it is absolute nonsense. To even attempt to suggest that a nation has “possession” of music or even of a culture in a globalised, cross culturally connected world is almost absurd.

This is of course part of the general unionist campaign to scare the Scottish people out of voting for independence. To achieve this they must portray an independent Scotland as a totally “separate” country bereft of currency, EU membership, monarch and now apparently shared culture. In this latest instalment of scaremongering we are now to be stripped of our shared British identity as we are set off to drift in the North Atlantic.

They want to suggest that our shared history as part of being British is extinguished with independence and will be stripped from our collective consciousness. They then portray a future that has neighbors and friends as “foreigners” as they negotiate the newly installed “frontiers” assuming ownership of our shared culture.

British culture is in fact as much mine as the most battle hardened unionist from the southern shires. It is the sum of what we have shared together on these islands. It is everything from the industrial revolution, to standing together in the world wars, to the welfare state, and yes, to our fantastic rock and pop bands. 

With independence it goes absolutely nowhere. In fact these connections and cultural ties may even be improved because we can put a new energy into building them from a position of equality and mutual respect.

Even though all of this latest scaremongering will backfire, and will be to our advantage, I hope we don’t see too much of it. It is cringeworthy and embarrassing and debases an important debate. I am also becoming just a bit alarmed by the language of “foreigners”, “colonialism” etc, and hope that the unionists will at least be careful in how they phrase this part of their “separatist” narrative.

But, ultimately, If this is the territory upon which the unionists want to fight the campaign, then I’m afraid, they’ll be fighting with themselves.

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THE SPEECH THEY FEARED TO HEAR

Can I firstly welcome you to the chair, Mr Deputy Speaker?  I’m sure you realised pretty quickly that you had picked the short straw when you secured this debate.

As you’ve observed so far, Scottish debates in this House are always characterised by their good nature and consensus, and as you can see we’re all getting on famously once again today!

I’m sure, like me, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would have just about distinguished the Honourable lady’s dreary contribution from a ray of sunshine.

That, Mr Deputy Speaker, is because these anti-independence parties can’t cobble together a positive case for the union. They have to resort to a depressing diet of telling Scotland “you cannae dae that, we’re no gonna let you do this, and don’t even think about that!”.

You have been fortunate, though, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you have been spared the pathetic and appalling name calling that they have indulged in the past fortnight.

The First Minister of Scotland has been called a “bare faced liar” a “chancer” likened to a cork screw and you don’t even want to know about the personal insults.

This from a party that gets upset about anonymous posting on the Scotsman’s online comments section!

What they are attempting to do, of course, is to try and undermine the confidence in the viability of an independent Scotland and scaremongering is the most effective tool in the unionist tool box.

For them, they have to portray an independent Scotland as being bereft of currency, EU membership, credit ratings, The X Factor and even our giant pandas!

They know that as the two options about Scotland’s future take shape, the Scottish people will increasingly opt for the positive choice of a normal, self governing Scotland in charge of its own resources, against a Scotland tethered to a failing UK almost relaxed about its decline.

Scaremongering on Europe is currently the “plat du jour” and what an effort they have invested in it. Barely a day goes by without another instalment provided in association with their friends in the press.

But let’s look at the reality of the situation.

This debate is called ‘The Constituent Parts of the UK and EU Membership.’

As a constituent part of the UK, Scotland is a member of the EU

When Scotland becomes an independent nation Scotland will remain a member of the European Union.

Our membership of the EU came about through being a part of the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom came about through the Act of Union which united the Scottish and English Parliaments.

When Scotland votes to leave the UK, the UK as we know it will be no more.

When it comes to issues such as EU membership, Scotland and the rest of the UK are entirely in the same boat.

If the absurd notion comes to pass that Scotland is to be kicked out, what is left of the UK will be kicked out too.

Maybe that’s why the UK Government are not keen to seek legal advice from the EU about the status of an independent Scotland.

But can I reassure all my English colleagues here. Your EU membership is secure. I know a growing number of you may despair at such a reassurance, but there is simply no precedent or process to boot out a part of the EU .

This fox was effectively shot last week when Graham Avery of the University of Oxford, a senior adviser at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, and honorary director general of the European Commission said to the Westminster Foreign Affairs Committee:

“For practical and political reasons the idea of Scotland leaving the EU, and subsequently applying to join it, is not feasible.”

And no one takes seriously the proposition that the EU will try to expel Scotland following the 2014 referendum.

Even Unionists know it’s nonsense.

Willie Rennie, one of “Better Together’s” high command said in FMQs last week,

“The First Minister and I agree that it would be unlikely that an independent Scotland would be excluded from the EU.”

Maybe the latest instalment of the scaremongering agenda hasn’t got down here yet, but can I say ever so gently to Honourable members of the “no” persuasion -the scaremongering has moved on and try keep up?

And why would anyone in the EU even contemplate such a move? Scotland has been inside the EU for 40 years. We already comply with all necessary EU legislation.

We are an oil-rich, renewable energy-rich, fishing-rich European nation and as an independent nation we would be welcomed with open arms.

Our message is clear and unambiguous: Scotland‟s future inside the EU is safe.

However, can the Honourable lady say the same if we stayed in the union?

What is the real threat to Scotland’s EU membership?

Well it’s not an independent Scotland – it is the union and the Westminster Tories.

What I observe down here is all three political parties running scared of the UK Independence Party, which is now expected to win the 2014 European Parliament elections in England.

We’ve seen that such is the passion of the Tory backbench that they’re even prepared to defeat their own Government to pursue their anti-Europe agenda

Getting the UK out of the EU seems to be coming the official policy of the Government, with the Labour Party, as always, dutifully following on behind.

As a constituent part of the UK, Scotland’s relationship with Europe is characterised by a dreary euro-scepticism.

The influence of the UK Government in EU negotiations has reached an all-time low. Even our closest friends are fed up with British obstructionism and the lecturing on the alleged failings of our partners.

The UK has been reduced to a sulky, semi-withdrawn member of the EU, plotting its own course to the way out.

The Westminster Tories have withdrawn us from the European Arrest Warrant, when the Scottish police say that this makes law enforcement in Scotland more difficult.

This is not what my constituent part of the UK wants from its relations with Europe.

An independent Scotland would, instead, be a positive member of the EU. With our own voice and place at the top table we would ensure that vital Scottish interests are pursued and protected.

I firmly believe that the majority of Scots want a future inside the EU.

The question simply is: Do we want to be independent in Europe or isolated in the UK?

Mr Deputy Speaker, I know what I would rather be, and I know what the Scottish people will choose.”

A University of the City of Perth

A few weeks ago I attended the graduation for Perth College UHI and as usual it was a fantastic event. It is always a delight to see young people receive recognition for all their hard work and look forward to the coming challenges for the future.
 
The same must go for institutions. Perth College has developed and grown since its beginnings offering courses in building trades in its old Rose Terrace site. Perth College now has some 7000 students, served by 500 staff. It also now has an international reputation. It is a centre of excellence in aircraft engineering. It also offers degree courses in music, social sciences, computing and youth studies.
 
The major transformative moment for Perth College was when it became incorporated into the University of the Highland and Islands. The degree courses started to arrive and Perth College became a proper paid up higher education institution.
 
Now is the time for it to take the next part of its journey. It is time to think big and grasp the opportunities that comes with our new city status. I think that there could be nothing more fitting than looking at Perth securing its own university and the college becoming the University of the City of Perth.
 
Perth lost out to Stirling when Scotland got its first new build university since medieval times in 1967. Dundee also has two universities. Our nearest neighbouring cities are ahead of us in developing student campuses and we must catch up.
 
And the thing is we’re almost there. As part of the UHI we already have degree courses, we have an excellent site within the city environs and we have a dedicated and committed staff group. All it needs is the ambition to take this forward and grasp the opportunity to go out on our own.
 
A University of the City of Perth would have great benefits to the rest of the city. University towns and cities attract incredible economic benefits – we only need to look to Dundee to see what a university can do for the local economy. It would also be fantastic to hold on to the many school leavers who leave Perth to pursue their university studies elsewhere.
 
I hope that the college board do look seriously at this proposal and at least test if this is possible. We are a small city but we need to think big. The University of the City of Perth would be proof that we have truly arrived. I hope we can go for it.