Monthly Archives: December 2014



Typically dark but utterly compelling, the best Twilight Sad album yet.


One of Scotland’s true international pop stars, Paolo remains defiantly individual and unafraid to go against current trends. At times Caustic Love is more like a 70’s funk record than a typical 2014 pop album and it s a hefty, mature work. We still don’t know whether Iron Sky referred to the referendum but it was adopted by Yes anyway.


Now a Gaelic superstar after her ‘Brave’ sound track exertions, Julie followed that up with this great collection of gaelic songs. With an impressive array of musicians of the Scottish folk aristocracy variety, including Duncan Chisholm (more of whom later) it sounds great. A fantastic voice and a great ambassador for the language of the angels.


Great Divide got a UK chart position of number 6 with this ambitious album based on their obvious love of the old ‘rock and roll’. Full of big catchy choruses and interesting arrangements it’s one to sing out loudly with with the roof down, that’s if you have a convertible – if you’ve not, just open the windows.


My old mucker Dougie, the Bard of Butterstone, the Sage of Snaigow, back with this orchestrated working of all his finest songs. He can now add to his bragging rights in the Taybank that Kylie was his support act at the Commonwealth Games! Went to see this performed at the 10th anniversary of Perthshire Amber and it was just fantastic. My favourite moment in the indyref in Perth was when he and I organised a flash mob on the High Street with loads of local musicians playing Caledonia almost in homage to this giant of Perthshire song.



It’s hard to believe that the masters of noise will be celebrating their 20th anniversary next year and 2014 was one of their best years yet. Rave Tapes is the band’s 8th album and even scraped into the UK top 10. More of a consolidation than a new development it left their legions of committed fans delighted. On tour most of the year, Stuart Braithwaite, still had time to emerge as one of the key cultural voices in the Yes campaign. One of the most enjoyable panels I was on this year was with Stewart and Stewart Henderson from Chemikal Underground talking about the possibilities in Scottish music with independence. Saw Mogwai play in the few days before the referendum at the Yes campaign’s incredible Usher Hall gig and live they are as massive sounding as ever. Will be interesting to see what they get up to in their anniversary year


Didn’t know much about this Edinburgh trio before they became the surprise winners at this year’s Mercury Prize. Since then this has barely been of my various istening devices. Almost impossible to classify, hip-hop remains the underlying influence with just so much almost eccentric stuff added on top. A fascinating album and an album that is actually hard to get tired off, with something new found in every listen. They seem to be a bunch of guys who also know exactly what they want to achieve and their next outing in the studio will be one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in Scotland.


I’ve known Duncan since he sported a full barnet of hair as the young fiddler in Wolfstone. He was always a superb musician who just manages to get something extra out of the fiddle and I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with him in his many guest appearances with Runrig. If you only listen to one ‘fiddle’ album make it this one. Rightly awarded album of the year at the MG Alba Folk awards, it is more than ‘just’ a live album. It is in fact the first performance of The Strathglass Suite, an ambitious instrumental work comprised of pieces from the Strathglass Trilogy that he’s been working on for the last six years. Great one to relax to and chill out with.


Where his collaboration with Jon Hopkins promised much Kenny Anderson took it to another level with this imaginative collaboration with film maker Virginia Heath. A truly beautiful and ambitious album, Kenny’s songs were composed to fit around undiscovered footage of Scottish life in the 20th century. Sara and I went to see the film in Dundee Contemporary Arts and we had the rare pleasure of listening to Kenny and Virginia talk about the project afterwards. Listening to these songs whilst watching this remarkable archive on the big screen was one of my highlights of the year, even if Kenny teased us by saying he was going to perform some ‘Better Together’ songs after! We also went to his gathering in his home town of Anstruther the day after the referendum and listening to some of these songs with the band, it even almost cheered me up.


Sara O introduced me to Withered Hand a couple of years ago when she came back from a Fence Collective gig raving about the songs, and particularly the lyrics, of this former Jehovah’s Witness. The first album, Good News, was just such a ground breaker. Unusual, unafraid, huge but homespun, I loved them immediately. If anything New Gods is even better. More mature and melodic but with a huge heart and still sounding like nothing else. I really thought that this album would make them huge and sure it will still happen. We went to see them at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh and it was a fantastic night. Go see them live if you can. My album of the year. Go listen, you’ll love it.

Another Scottish Labour No Show

There was a big vote in the House of Commons today. We know it was big vote because the Labour Party told us it was. It was on transparency on equal pay put forward by Labour MP Sarah Champion to ensure that any employer with more than 250 employees be forced to detail any gender pay gap. It was a fantastic bill that would go a long way to ensure that employers were shamed into acknowledging sex pay differentials and obliged into putting it right. It was accompanied with ‘made in Dagenham’ references that were most definitely deserved. The SNP certainly though it was important – that is why we all turned up to vote. All other Scottish MPs would be there, particularly our Scottish Labour MP colleagues, you would think? Well, yeah, some of them turned up, but 11 of them obviously had better things to do. Shadow Scottish Secretary, Margaret Curran wasn’t there neither was the new Scottish leader, Jim Murphy, who this weekend said he would only turn up for the ‘big votes’ in the House of Commons. This apparently was not a ‘big vote’ for Jim. The curious thing about this vote was that the Tories didn’t oppose this Bill so Labour called it themselves. In the cause of transparency here are your Scottish elected members who couldn’t be bothered to turn up for their own vote on equal pay for women.

Scottish Labour leader – Jim Murphy
Shadow Scottish Secretary – Margaret Curran
Former Labour PM – Gordon Brown
Leader of ‘Better Together’ – Alistair Darling
Shadow Foreign Secretary – Douglas Alexander
Labour ‘socialist’ leadership candidate – Katy Clark
Labour front bencher – Russell Brown
Pamela Nash
Anne McGuire
Michael Connarty
Tom Harris

Some of them may have good reasons to have not been there, others may have had better things to do. You may want to ask them.

Towards a ‘No Alliance’?

The referendum has changed politics for ever in Scotland and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the voting intentions for the Westminster general election. In 2010 we saw the almost boring repetition of Scottish Westminster results where no seats changed hands at all. We, therefore, have the same Scottish Westminster representation as 2005 – a political age ago. In 2005, Jack McConnell was still First Minister and Labour was in power at Westminster. Whilst Scottish politics has been totally transformed, Scotland’s membership of the House of Commons is frozen in time, a situation that is unlikely to go unaltered in May.

Scottish Labour Party Leader Johann LamoIf current polls are to be believed, Scotland’s Westminster representation will now fall into line with the predominant political trends in Scotland and this is primarily because of the referendum.

The referendum changed everything, by forcing Scottish politics into two camps and pitching the two opposing forces of Scottish politics directly against each other. It cast aside all the other niceties of Scottish politics and forced the parties of independence squarely against those opposed. The SNP and the much smaller Greens and SSP were then pitched against Labour, Conservative and Liberals at the expense of all other political considerations and resultant presentational problems. When the referendum was concluded, there was the almost naïve belief that these camps would simply be wound up and normal service would resume. This has proven to be an almost fatal miscalculation for the former No parties.

The idea that people who voted Yes would just all of a sudden decide that ‘that was that’ and start voting for a unionist party that stood against everything they wanted to achieve was, at best, fanciful. So, we have a huge upturn in SNP membership and big SNP leads in opinion polls, as Yes voters continue to be loyal to their referendum position with polls showing SNP support close to the 45% Yes secured in the referendum.

But how does the ‘referendum legacy’ leave the unionist parties? Well, all over the place and with a series of issues, would be the charitable assessment! Their first difficulty is that the No vote fragments into its three component parts, as each claim their share of the 55%. There is also the difficulty of the ‘soft Noes’, who feel aggrieved with the post referendum settlement- hence the hard work to make Smith seem like a substantial piece of work that honours the referendum promises made.

Trying to get Scotland back to ‘business as usual’ for a UK election is going to take some effort. With the referendum fallout all around them, Scotland feels like a place with unfinished business. Where the Yes vote seems to know where it wants to go at the general election, what about a tactical No vote? Already there are online campaigns mounted to try and secure a ‘No Alliance’ vote with a real effort being made to tactically defeat Alex Salmond in Gordon. Any talk of a No tactical vote presents the most obvious dangers for Labour. The prospect of Labour telling their voters to vote Tory to keep the SNP out only compounds their initial difficulty of being seen to work with the Tories during the referendum in the first place. It is also almost absurd- that Labour wants to replace the Tories as the Government in the UK.

The post-referendum Scottish political environment is, therefore, a place that presents huge challenges for the former No parties. Their best hope is that somehow, in the course of the next few months, the Scottish people put the referendum behind them and turn to the UK parties to forge a better Scotland. I sense that that’s just not going to happen any time soon.