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The Flag in the Wind
A weekly online newspaper bringing you information on the political scene in Scotland: part of the monthly Scots Independent.

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[ Issue 423 - 11th July 2008]

Compiled by Mark Hirst

Lots of great information to read and enjoy under our Features Section:
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In a letter to President Kennedy in March 1962 the acclaimed Canadian economist John Galbraith said: “Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”  Well last week Labour succeeded in selecting both options at the start of the Glasgow East by-election. Labour, who have taken the voters of the East end for granted for years and duly rewarded them for such loyalty by ensuring they maintain the worst life expectancy rates in the country and some of the highest poverty and unemployment levels anywhere in the UK, demonstrated they can't run a selection process, let alone the country and finally chose a candidate only after the previous 5 or 6 preferred candidates turned Gordon Brown down.

The Labour leadership can of course sleep easy at night in the full knowledge that if voters reject them at the polls there is obviously a glittering career ahead. All they need to do is buy some extra pairs of big shoes, red nose and a funny curly wig (I know that is already a description of Margaret Curran but bare with me a moment) and then Ringmaster Broon will call: “Roll up, roll up. Welcome to Labour’s Tent of Turmoil, our Dome of Disaster, our Canvas of Chaos.”

Despite this, no one on the SNP side can be under any illusions about the task ahead. This is easily one of the most stubbornly Labour fiefdoms in Glasgow and arguably the whole of Scotland. For years political opponents and political commentators have remarked, only half jesting, that Labour could put up giraffe with a red rosette and its candidate could win it.

Given Labour’s selection problems a giraffe might have been a better choice as candidate as no one else seemed prepared to stick their neck above the parapet, no one, except Margaret Curran. It remains unclear where on Gordon Brown’s candidate dialathon list Curran was as he desperately phoned around trying to get someone, anyone, to stand. The others, including the giraffe, obviously felt they had too much to lose. Labour is plugging her as a “local lass” in touch with the punters of Glasgow East. Too bad Mrs Curran, a declared operatic aficionado, hadn’t broken into one her favourite opera ditties before Labour’s campaign was launched.  “Nessun Dorma”, Italian for “None shall sleep”, might have been a suitable option given previous Labour representatives for this part of the city have obviously been in the land of nod for the past 50 years. As for the Labour selection team... What on earth was going on? This is meant to be a modern, professional, slick professional political party, at least that is what they tell themselves.

I suspect that the good people of Glasgow East will not want to be patronised any longer by Labour politicians who have ignored them at every turn whilst watching their community slip further into decline. They want a positive change and a positive future. John Mason is a genuine local lad, who has a passion and a will to fight for local people, for local jobs and for a better future for Glasgow East. A win by the SNP would send a shockwave not just through Labour but also through the whole country. It would send a clear message to all other Labour politicians that the days of taking the Scottish people for granted are over. However I doubt we have seen the last of the circus type antics witnessed so far coming from the Labour Big Top.      

See the person, not the age

The Scottish Government has launched a very positive campaign this week, which some of you may have seen on TV and in the newspapers aimed at ending ageism in our society. I have been particularly impressed by the television adverts which, unusually for public service broadcasts were both entertaining and thought provoking.

Ageism affects both young and old alike and the latest ads are a good way to highlight how stereotypes, often reinforced by misleading tabloid headlines, lead to irrational tensions and fears between young and old.

Like those issues related to religion, gender and colour, people of all ages need to look at individuals as people, regardless of who they are and make their decisions on that. Good and bad doesn't run between people, but often runs through them.

All of us have been young at some point, even me, and most of us will end up being old. What we need to start doing is to communicate and I am certain this latest campaign by the Government will lead to some positive dialogue on that front. It is a long overdue initiative, but a positive step in the right direction.


David Cairns, Minister for Confusion and Misinformation 


David Cairns, Minister for “Nothing better to do with my time” at the Scotland Office was on News night with Jeremy Paxman this last week and was asked whether the above mentioned Mrs Curran would back a referendum on independence, like her pal Wendy Alexander did repeatedly before being pushed out the door. Of course this is a difficult question to answer, particularly if you are a self-respecting lickspittle like Mr Cairns.

No, she wont be supporting it, he responded, although his eyes gave away all the signs that inside that vacuous head the lights were on, but the burglars were in. The difficulty for Labour is that Wendy effectively signed up her whole parliamentary group to supporting a referendum, including the hapless Curran.

Paxman tried again; “Is it true that Gordon Brown did try to get [Council leader Steven Purcell] to stand in the Glasgow East by election?”

Cairns: “No, that's absolutely not true.”

Paxman: “So, that's all made up, is it?”

Cairns: “I'm afraid to say, if it's in the newspapers it doesn't make it true.”

The trouble for Cairns was that the aforementioned Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, Mr Purcell had earlier given an interview to Channel 4 News in which he confirmed he had been considered as a candidate. Oops. The gap between truth and fiction grows ever wider for Labour.

Christina McKelvie MSP
Read Christina McKelvie MSP's Weekly Diary



SNP MSP for Livingston, Angela Constance, is writing to energy providers to seek assurances that vulnerable people will not have their energy supplies cut off once the autumn and winter weather starts to bite.

Ms Constance’s concern has been sparked by new figures that show that there has been an astonishing 146% rise in the number of energy disconnections – a figure which is even more worrying when it is considered that this rise was for the period before the recent huge rises in utility bills.

Angela Constance MSPMs Constance said “This rise is extremely concerning coming as it does before the last rise in energy prices.  With some industry analysts predicting that energy prices are set to rise by a further 40%, it is obvious that there will be a huge increase in the number of people who will struggle to heat their home during the long winter months.
“In this day and age it is simply unacceptable that anyone has to choose between eating and heating but that is the sad reality for many of our most vulnerable people once the weather starts to turn.  I am extremely concerned that the massive rises in energy prices that have already taken place and the further rises that are predicted will put many more people in that situation.

“For an oil rich country like Scotland, the price of energy is a national scandal.  It is even more scandalous that the Chancellor is refusing to divert the additional revenues he is raking in from North Sea Oil to offset these costs for increasingly hard pressed consumers.

“Against this backdrop, all we can do is to try to alleviate the worst effects of these energy rises.  Therefore, I have written to all our local energy providers to ask what procedures they have in place to ensure that those most vulnerable households will not have their gas or electricity cut off this coming winter simply because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

“By addressing this issue during the summer months, I hope that there will be adequate time to put in place any measures that are necessary to protect vulnerable households from the impact of these spiralling energy costs.”

Homecoming Scotland Shames Scottish Arts Council — MSP Lambastes SAC’s Neglect of Indigenous Culture

Dr Bill Wilson, SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, today commented on the recently released Homecoming Scotland Events Guide. Congratulating EventScotland and VisitScotland on the programme, he said that it was clear that those organisations “value indigenous Scottish culture and language, but the same cannot be said for the Scottish Arts Council (SAC)”.

Dr Bill Wilson MSPInternational visitors
Dr Wilson explained, “When you look through the Homecoming Scotland Events Guide you see just how many events depend upon writers, musicians and performers steeped in Scottish language, culture and music. Obviously, as 2009 is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, there are many events commemorating one of the world’s greatest poets. He is justly internationally famous, and he is still seen as a major draw for Scotland. What would our international visitors think if they knew that SAC had just cut funding for those organisations associated with Scots, the language he predominantly wrote in?

“It’s a national disgrace that Northern Ireland can find the means to support Ulster Scots — to the tune of some £3 million — but Scotland’s leading cultural body can find not a single penny for the Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scots Language Centre, for example. I believe the former is already starting the mothballing process. I refer people to the many statements I have made on the value of the Scots language before!”

Dr Wilson continued, “Traditional music also features extensively amongst the Homecoming Scotland events, and this too the SAC clearly thinks of little value. It has cut funding for various groups that have been sustaining our world-famous traditional music. An example of their irresponsible vandalism is the Edinburgh-based Scots Music Group (SMG). This excellent organisation — where my researcher has been learning to play the fiddle! — won the Community Project of the Year title in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2007, but the SAC has cut its funding.

“I believe Stan Reeves, one of the SMG’s founders, spoke eloquently at the last meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Culture and the Media. He pointed out that Ireland, with a total arts budget of about €82 million, has allocated €4 million of this to the performance of its traditional arts, and €3 million, from another budget, to education in them, that’s a total of €7 million while the equivalent sector is left scrabbling for a few crumbs here!

“Mr Reeves also implied, I believe — and I agree with him — that the SAC’s obsession with innovation is wrong-headed, that both maintenance and innovation deserve support. I would go further and ask where do innovators come from? They rarely come from thin air. Often they emerge from the very traditions the SAC apparently despises, traditions which, in any case, are evolving. There are many brilliant young Scottish musicians and groups today who have come from the Scottish musical tradition. Rather than single any individuals out, however, I suggest people browse the website.”

More than commerce
Dr Wilson continued, “I don’t wish to give the impression that we should fund Scottish cultural, language and music groups purely because of their commercial value, although this is undoubtedly considerable. Just a short walk from the Scottish Parliament — and in many of our villages, towns and cities — you will find amateur musicians gathered to play in informal sessions. Many of the musicians who play in these learnt to play in the Scots Music Group and similar bodies. Yes, the venues are often packed with admiring tourists, but the most important thing is that the musicians are having a great time! That’s what culture is for, as much as anything else: it’s extremely valuable, and that’s what the SAC doesn’t appear to understand.”
Dr Wilson concluded with the remarks: “I sincerely hope that whatever happens with SAC/Creative Scotland our indigenous language, culture and music groups will receive the secure long-term funding they deserve — or rather that we deserve!”