Friday, August 17, 2012

A few quick Edinburgh Fringe reviews

It's high time for my annual post about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Unlike last year, I've so far been going with other people, which is a good thing because it means I've been to shows I might not otherwise have bothered with, one of which was an absolute revelation.

Anyway, here is my quick run-through of the six shows I've seen, with a rough score out of ten. Bear in mind that I saw some of these at the start of the month, so they probably won't all still be running.

TRANSLUNAR PARADISE : I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to adequately describe physical theatre, and I must admit I winced at the start when it dawned on me that there wasn't going to be any dialogue at all. The first few minutes are taken up with a young male actor, holding a mask to his face to make him look elderly, going through a series of intricate but mundane movements, such as opening and shutting cupboards. I thought to myself "I'm not sure I can take an hour and a quarter of this", but fortunately it gets much livelier. In fact, it's extraordinary how much can be evocatively conveyed through physical movement - longing for a lost spouse, courtship, marriage, pregnancy, the death of a child, war, marital rows, etc, etc. The movements are so precise that I can't even begin to imagine how much rehearsing must be required. The action is accompanied throughout by a woman with an accordion who hums to herself rather a lot, which is an odd effect at first, but of course lyrics would have broken the spell of wordlessness.

So having been dubious at first, I was well and truly won over. Quote from the lead actor/performer/whatever the correct term is : "if you liked the show, please tell your friends, and if you didn't like it, please tell your enemies it was fantastic". On the basis of which I can only say - I liked it, but how do you know I'm not just saying that because I hate you? RATING : 8/10

TIM FITZHIGHAM - STOP THE PIGEON : This was the first time I'd ever seen comedy at the Fringe, and after an ill-fated trip a few years ago to a comedy club in Glasgow with a group of people I'd never met before, I was a tad nervous about it. But to my relief, it turned out to be very much mainstream comedy (even if the subject-matter was distinctly offbeat), and although there was audience participation, it wasn't of the 'enforced' variety.

In many ways, it was more like a painless history and physics lesson wrapped up as a comedy show. FitzHigham is obviously fascinated by the imaginative possibilities of gambling, and recounts in a surprisingly pleasurable degree of detail how he recreated a bet entered into by the 4th Duke of Queensberry in the 18th Century to send a letter over a distance of 50 miles in less than an hour, using only the technology available in the period. As the name of the show implies, FitzHigham eventually achieved the feat by using carrier pigeons, although intriguingly it appears that the Duke of Queensberry originally did it by inserting the letter in a cricket ball, and using a relay team of cricketers.

The performance was a bit rough and ready when I saw it, but to be fair that was the first preview show, so the gremlins were probably ironed out later. Having said that, I'm not sure the seating arrangements in the stifling 'igloo' venue are likely to have improved much since then. RATING : 7/10

THE LETTERS OF JANE AUSTEN : A bit like Translunar Paradise, my first thought was "am I really going to be able to stand 45 minutes of two women in period costume sitting and reading out letters?" But the answer to that question was a firm 'yes', because Austen's prose and wicked humour is such a treat for the ear. I'm not sure The Emails of Ian Davidson would be quite such a winner, though, before anyone gets any bright ideas.

Every single letter is from Austen to her sister Cassandra - except for the last, which appears to be Austen writing to someone else about her devastation at the death of Cassandra. It's only when the letter is signed off with the name "Cassandra" that you realise it was in fact Cassandra writing about Austen's death. A very moving end to an otherwise lightly comic show.

There are a few songs as well, which I didn't think were much to write home about (if you'll forgive the pun), but I suppose it's necessary to have something to break up the wall-to-wall reading out of letters. RATING : 7/10

POE'S LAST NIGHT : I think you'd have to be a true Poe aficionado to really 'get' this free one-man show. I was so baffled by it that my concentration kept slipping, a problem which wasn't helped when pop music started blaring out from somewhere! However, the performer David Crawford is a class act, and didn't bat an eyelid. I have the distinct feeling I'd have thought it was fantastic if I had fully understood what was going on. As it is, the most helpful thing I can say is that Crawford is clearly a superb actor, with a melodious voice. If only all American accents were like that, it would be the most disarming accent in the whole world. He also very modestly asked for suggestions about how the show could be improved, and invited donations in a civilised manner that put to shame the American street-performer I saw a couple of years ago who essentially bullied people into giving him money. RATING : 6/10

THE GIRL WITH NO HEART : One of those shows which you know within about five seconds is going to be amazing. It just radiates quality from the off. A girl from a world where wishes are always granted asks to be transported to the world where wishes do not always come true but where "every day is an adventure". She is warned that she can never return, but stands firm in her resolve. The world she arrives in is a world of ash, intended to represent Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombings, and the story that unfolds is a metaphor for how children experience war. A nuclear explosion is explained as something that happens when a child's heart, worn on his or her sleeve, is ripped in two by the 'Adult Army'. The decision to use nuclear weapons is justified as "one big terrible thing to stop smaller terrible things from happening", a line of reasoning which is challenged with the question "wouldn't it be better if nobody did any terrible things at all?"

Although the girl referred to in the title is played in conventional fashion by the actress Nicole Anderson, most of the other characters are represented by puppets. That takes a bit of getting used to, because you can see the puppet operators at all times, and at first you think you're supposed to be looking at a two-headed or three-headed being. But you quickly adjust to that and learn to suspend disbelief. I also initially thought it was a bit strange that the 'girl' in a fable about children is played by someone who is very obviously a woman, but Anderson's performance is so heartfelt that it doesn't really matter (in fact it may even work better that way).

Given the un-self-conscious way in which the show is presented, I assumed I was watching an interpretation of a well-known fable that had been written decades ago, perhaps by a Japanese author. So I was very surprised to learn afterwards that it was an entirely original play. As with the Poe show, the audience were asked for suggestions at the end, but in all honesty apart from the type of improvements that greater resources would be required for, it's hard to see how it could be made much better. I think the venue (the Bedlam Theatre) helped enormously - it's difficult to imagine it coming across quite as well in one of the more cramped venues. Simply spellbinding, and I can't recommend highly enough. RATING : 10/10

THE MOST DANGEROUS TOY : Jamie Laird is a very Scottish Nietzsche in this play which explores how the philosopher's relationship (or non-relationship) with Lou Salomé led him to despair. The ambiguity at the heart of the play is whether Salomé once allowed Nietzsche to kiss her under the moonlight, an incident which fuelled his false hopes. In a monologue, she insists that "she honestly can't remember" whether it happened, but then a flashback sequence suggests that she did allow the kiss, before slapping Nietzsche on the face twice.

Maria Alexe steals the show as Salomé. I was amazed to discover afterwards that she's Romanian - her accent sounds 100% middle-class English. RATING : 8/10

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Salmond on North Sea Oil, green energy and Trump : the full interview

For whatever reason, Oilprice got back in touch and offered me the chance to republish their recent interview with Alex Salmond in full. I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, because it's a fascinating read, and it certainly beats having to write this blog myself! The interview was conducted by James Stafford.

James Stafford: If Scotland manages to gain its independence it would receive a 90% geographical share of North Sea oil and gas fields based on a division under international maritime law, roughly 81% of current oil and gas receipts, worth between $9.67 - $19.34 billion annually. Is this income crucial to the SNP’s future economic policies?

Alex Salmond: Even without our offshore oil and gas reserves, Scotland currently has the third highest output per head in the UK, after London and the South-East. And when oil and gas output is included, Scotland’s output per head is 15% above the UK average.

Energy is important to Scotland’s economy. We have world class companies operating in the global oil and gas supply chain while we will benefit from Scotland’s second energy windfall in renewable energy where we have around a quarter of Europe’s potential offshore wind and tidal energy and some 10% of its wave energy resource.

James Stafford: What plans do you have for investing this revenue back into Scotland?

Alex Salmond: In contrast to other oil rich nations, successive UK Governments have failed to take the action necessary to ensure that future generations benefit from the economic windfall from Scottish oil and gas. An independent Scotland would use its oil and gas reserves far more responsibly. Specifically, the Scottish Government would establish an oil fund, once fiscal conditions allow. The development of an oil fund for Scotland would promote economic responsibility and stability. Revenues could be invested, rather than spent on current expenditure, during good financial times, and could counteract the effects of economic downturns.

James Stafford: You have stated that there is no chance of any new nuclear power plants being built in Scotland. Does this anti-nuclear stance go as far as shutting down current nuclear power plants? I saw that nuclear power currently provides up to 33% of Scotland’s electricity generation needs - how soon would you hope to close the plants down, and where would you find the extra power?

Alex Salmond: We have always been clear that as long as the safety case can be made we are supportive of the possible life extension of existing nuclear power stations but that we are opposed to the development of new nuclear build in Scotland. New build nuclear power is vastly expensive and prone to delay - and shut downs in recent times have meant they have not been meeting 40 per cent of Scotland's energy needs. We do not support subsidies for new nuclear.

Nuclear power will also leave a legacy of waste and vast decommissioning costs for the next generation of Scots - we will not add to the issues of decommissioning by building new nuclear plants in Scotland. The legacy we must leave future generations is a world where invention and innovation is used to harness the earth’s natural resources sustainably. And it is in wind, wave and tidal energy, and in carbon capture and storage, where Scotland has strong competitive advantages, both in terms of capacity and expertise. This is where it makes economic sense to concentrate our efforts, and that is what we are doing.

James Stafford: Scotland is famously doing very well in achieving its renewable energy goals with provisional generation statistics confirming that 2011 was a record year for renewable generation in Scotland, up 28.1 % from the previous record in 2009. Your well publicized target is 100% renewable electricity by 2020. How are you coming along with that? Is this figure really achievable?

Alex Salmond: Our Electricity Generation Policy Statement confirms that our 100% renewable electricity is technically feasible although we are not complacent and accept that it will be challenging. Delivery of the target will require around 16GW of capacity. We currently have almost 5GW operational. With a further 3.3 GW consented or operational and over 20GW in planning or scoping we are confident that the target can be delivered.

James Stafford: If Scotland manages to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2020, will it continue to invest in renewable energy technology and look to become an energy exporter?

Alex Salmond: Scotland is fortunate in having a massive green energy potential. We have the best capacity for CCS in the European Union as well as a buoyant oil and gas regime, with record levels of capital investment. Our wind and seas hold some of the most concentrated potential not only across the UK and Europe, but in the world – our practical offshore renewables resource has been estimated at 206 GW. By harnessing around a third of this resource, installed offshore renewables capacity could reach 68 GW by 2050 – enough to meet Scotland’s own domestic electricity needs seven times. Around 20 per cent of the electricity generated in Scotland is already exported to the rest of the UK and Scotland can go far beyond this to become the green energy capital of Europe.

James Stafford: Offshore wind farms are an important part of Scotland’s renewable energy future, but what do you say about the concerns of small fishing villages, such as those of East Neuk, who fear that their livelihoods will be threatened?

Alex Salmond: “Communities across the country stand to benefit from the development of Scotland’s huge offshore clean energy resources and clearly the fishing industry is right at the heart of many coastal communities, so we aim to strike the right balance between our renewables ambitions and other competing uses for the seas. That’s why Marine Scotland is actively engaged with the industry, for example, through a trilateral policy group, bringing together government, renewables and fisheries, and by ensuring fishermen are represented on two other renewable energy steering groups and where possible engaging them in an operational capacity such as undertaking fisheries liaison duties.. It is also undertaking mapping and research into areas used by the fishing industry, including sensitive fisheries. At an individual project level, Marine Scotland is required by statute to fully consult relevant stakeholders, including the fishing industry, and the public, before any offshore renewable project can be consented or rejected.”

James Stafford: Donald Trump has made a public complaint and set up a campaign to prevent offshore wind farms along the coast of Scotland. I imagine he is more worried about the view from his luxury golf resort than the plight of the local communities, but the local communities do still back him. Do you believe his campaign could receive enough support to prove troublesome, or will you always be able to laugh it off as the tantrum of man who is used to getting his own way?

Alex Salmond: In terms of the local community, I’d simply point out that so far there have been some 460 representations from members of the public supporting the Offshore Wind Demonstrator project, compared to 137 against. Of course, as we have made clear throughout, each project is determined on it merits taking into account views of stakeholders, consultees and members of the public. In general terms, however, several recent surveys have shown strong public support for clean energy, including wind power.

Some 71 per cent of people in Scotland backed wind power as part of our energy mix in a Scottish Renewables/YouGov poll published around the time Mr Trump gave his evidence to the Scottish Parliament Committee. The development of the low carbon economy, driven by a renewables revolution that reindustrialises communities across Scotland, was a clear commitment in the last election which we won convincingly. So, I’m confident that our support for Scotland’s world-leading renewables industry is well welcomed across Scotland. Communities are already benefiting from thousands of jobs and tens of millions of pounds of investment. Over last year, around £750 million of new renewable electricity projects began generating in Scotland, while there is a potential future pipeline of renewable electricity projects with a capital value of around £46 billion.

James Stafford: Angus Armstrong, director of macroeconomic research at NIESR, said that “even with a favourable settlement on future oil revenues, its (Scotland’s) fiscal balances are likely to be volatile with large deficits in some years as a result of its dependence on oil revenues.” He suggested that an independent Scotland's debt would be about 70% of the country's gross domestic product. Does this fear have any founding? How do you intend to protect Scotland from an over reliance on oil revenues?

Alex Salmond: As a result of the financial crisis and the management of the public finances by successive UK Governments, the UK has a considerable national debt. Debt that Scotland will have to repay independent or not. If UK debt was allocated on a per capita basis, then for 2010-11 - the last year in which figures are fully available - Scotland’s net debt would be 51% of GDP compared to 60% of GDP for the UK.

Scotland has a broad tax base and is not overly reliant on North Sea revenues. For example even when North Sea revenues fell by 50% in 2009-10, during the global financial crises, Scotland’s fiscal position remained stronger than the UK’s.

James Stafford: The partnership deal with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi clean energy company, could be hugely lucrative and beneficial for Scotland. We know that the agreement covers; offshore and onshore wind, carbon capture and storage, investment in the low carbon economy, and renewable energy research and development, but could you give us a more detailed account as to what Scotland will benefit from, and what Abu Dhabi will benefit from?

Alex Salmond: Globally, we need to make the transition from an economy which largely generates energy from fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy. The issues that Scotland and Abu Dhabi will work on together are among the key challenges that confront the world as it moves to a low carbon future: how to develop commercial onshore and offshore wind projects of scale; how to reduce the cost of offshore wind; the implementation of projects for carbon capture and storage; smart grids; power electronics; bio-energy; building technologies and solar power. Both Abu Dhabi and Scotland know that countries which develop the low carbon technologies to power the planet in the future will gain significant economic benefits, whether it is from the sale of technology, the manufacture of turbines and machinery, or the export of clean electricity itself. The Framework for Action between Scottish Enterprise, Masdar, the 12 Scottish universities of the Energy Technology Partnership and the Masdar Institute for Science and Technology brings together a huge amount of accumulated expertise. Masdar is a very attractive partner because its basic premise is to invest in and develop low carbon technologies and Scotland has massive investment opportunities, for example in offshore wind. Masdar is making significant investments in markets outside the UAE and is ambitious to invest further in the UK. Masdar, which has a number of investment funds which take shares in hi-tech companies, will consider potential investment opportunities in the Clean Technology sector in Scotland. Both Abu Dhabi and Scotland are committed to using our existing expertise in the oil and gas industry to help us in the transition to a low-carbon economy, for example Scotland’s North Sea experience can help cut the costs of offshore wind. Our partnership is also a wider statement of intent that it makes about the role that Scotland and Abu Dhabi intend to play in helping the world to meet its future energy needs.

James Stafford: If Scotland achieves its independence, in what areas are you looking to exert that independence? I have read that you will still keep the pound sterling as your currency, but that means that monetary policies will be set/heavily influenced by the Bank of England.

Alex Salmond: Scottish Ministers have outlined our intention to stay in a sterling zone with the rest of the UK, which would be in the best interests of the Scottish and UK economies.
"The Bank of England has had operational independence from the UK Government since 1997 – a position we would support post independence.

The aim of monetary policy is to provide the overall stable macroeconomic framework that is conducive to growth. What independence would provide is access to the key levers – particularly fiscal policy – which would give the Scottish Government the ability to tailor a full range of policies to meet the specific needs of the Scottish economy. These levers could include the use of taxation and regulation to boost innovation, skills and attract investment.

James Stafford: Do you think that Scottish Independence will be contested in Europe? It could prove a troublesome issue for countries, for example, the regions of Catalonia or the Basque Country could decide to separate themselves and declare their independence from Spain.

Alex Salmond: An independent Scotland would inherit membership of the EU as a successor state, in the same way as the rest of the UK, and Scotland brings a great deal to the EU table. We are a leader in the field of climate change, we are natural-resource rich, we have 10% of Europe’s coastline and 20% of Europe’s seas and we enjoy vast renewables potential, including around a quarter of Europe's offshore wind and tidal energy resource, and as much as a tenth of Europe's wave power potential, and in the North Sea Western Europe's largest oil and natural gas reserves – crucial to the Commission’s objectives for energy security of supply.

Scotland’s constitutional position within the UK is very different from the Spanish context, but in any event Spain have already confirmed that they would have no objections to Scottish independence and membership of the EU. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, is quoted in the Spanish newspaper Diario Vasco on 24th February 2012 saying that "If in the UK both parties agree that this is consistent with their constitutional order, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say, just that this does not affect us. No one would object to a consented independence of Scotland.

James Stafford: Is Scottish independence crucial to your renewable energy plans for the future?

Alex Salmond: The Scottish Government has a very strong vision of the opportunities that independence would bring to Scotland in the energy sector. We are aiming for a transformation – a re-industrialisation along the lines of a green economy. The Scottish Government strongly believes that the increasingly integrated EU energy market means it is in the shared interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK to continue with the GB-wide energy and electricity markets after Scottish independence. This would be similar in principle to the many international sharing arrangements which already exist, for example the All-Islands Approach agreed by UK, Scottish and Irish governments. Scotland can continue to play a key role in ensuring security of supply for the UK. The costs of low carbon electricity generation, be it in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland, to allow us collectively to meet international obligations to reduce polluting emissions, would continue to be spread equally across the consumer base.

James Stafford: Subsidies for renewable energy programs are losing popularity in many countries as expensive startup costs and the shale gas revolution make these technologies economically unfeasible. How are you attracting investors to your various programs?

Alex Salmond: Scotland has a natural competitive advantage in the transition to the low carbon economy given our vast renewable energy resources and our history of technological innovation. We believe that our competitive advantage lies in being at the forefront of technological innovation: this is achievable for a small nation. We want to make Scotland the destination for international investment in low carbon, and for the development of the financial architecture for a global low carbon economy, by operating at the forefront of development of clean energy. You also have to provide investment certainty. In 2009 the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. This groundbreaking piece of legislation sets a world-leading target of at least a 42% cut in national greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990. As well as having all-party support, the Scottish legislation received support from across Scottish civil society such as business organisations, trade unions and environmental groups. The aim of the Act was to provide certainty for businesses and the public about Scotland’s low carbon future. We have backed up the legislation with a comprehensive delivery framework. So business, and investors know that Scotland is serious about leading the low carbon transition and International energy companies are making Scotland their base for research and development in offshore wind and marine energy.

Climate change campaigner and Nobel Laureate Al Gore praised Scotland’s commitment to renewables when he said: "Scotland has not only provided inspiring leadership, you are exploiting one of the greatest resources anywhere on the planet, with wind onshore and particularly offshore, all sorts of variety of windmills - and the new renewable technologies are especially important". So clearly, major international figures think we have the framework right in Scotland.

James Stafford: Given the SNP commitment to renewable energy independence would you be able to discuss the importance of wave & tidal power in the overall renewable matrix?

Alex Salmond: The Scottish Government sees wave and tidal as playing a central role in the energy mix given their ability to complement and balance other forms of renewable energy generation. In the short term our priority is to develop the industry through small arrays to meet as much as possible of the ambitious plans for over 1GW of wave and tidal in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters by 2020.

We have also consented a 10 megawatt tidal power array in the Sound of Islay; this is the world’s largest consented wave or tidal stream project. We have launched the Saltire Prize, Scotland’s £10 million energy challenge to the world to push back the boundaries of marine energy innovation will accelerate the commercial development of wave and tidal technology.

James Stafford: Would Edinburgh join the EU? If so, what does that mean for its renewable energy targets?

Alex Salmond: Scotland is and will remain a member of the EU. We already have ambitious targets, above the EU target, so we will take those ambitions to the top table in Europe. Scotland has a target of delivering the equivalent of 100% of domestic electricity demand from renewables – far above the EU target of about 30% for the UK – we exceeded that last year.

James Stafford: Should you gain independence from the United Kingdom, do you believe North Sea oil will give Edinburgh enough cash to shield it from similar debt burdens plaguing the eurozone?

Alex Salmond: Scotland has had a lower fiscal deficit than the UK over the past five years as a whole. Scottish Ministers believe that with the additional economic levers that independence would provide, and the £1.5 trillion asset based provided by Scotland’s remaining oil and gas reserves, an independent Scotland would stand on a strong financial footing.

An independent Scotland would establish a credible fiscal framework to ensure Scotland’s public finances were put on a sustainable footing. In order to facilitate this process, the Scottish Government has recently established a Fiscal Commission Working Group (comprising of Professors Joseph Stiglitz; Andrew Hughes Hallett; Sir Jim Mirrlees; and Frances Ruane) to oversee the crucial work to assist in the design of a fiscal and macroeconomic framework for Scotland which entrenches financial responsibility.

James Stafford: A recent Citigroup research report estimated that to achieve your renewable energy goals you would need to invest between £6 billion to £7 billion a year. Where do you see this investment coming from? As green energy has not delivered good returns for investors in the past.

Alex Salmond: The Citigroup report was widely criticised by industry in Scotland and the proof is that investors are continuing to invest in Scotland. The UK Government estimates announcements more of renewables investment and jobs in 2011-12 in Scotland were £1.7 billion with 4411 jobs, with a potential £8bn and 3313 jobs in the pipeline – that’s more investment in the pipeline than the rest of the UK put together – significantly more. There have been a string of announcements by major domestic and international companies making significant investments in Scotland encouraged by our commitment to the low carbon revolution: Scottish and Southern Energy, Iberdrola Scottish Power, Gamesa, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Gaia Wind, Global Energy Group, Aquamarine Power. And we have seen substantial £7bn of investment in grid connections in Scotland being fasttracked by Ofgem in particular to strengthen the capacity to export green electricity to England – Scotland already exports around a fifth of our electricity generation. And of course we heard recent welcome news that the Green Investment Bank, with capital of £3bn, will have its HQ in Edinburgh.

James Stafford: Alex, thank you for taking the time to go through our questions.

This interview was originally published HERE.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Panelbase poll : Olympics boost support for independence, as 'Britishing' effect of the Games proves to be London wishful thinking

Thanks to Marcia on the previous thread for alerting me to the latest Panelbase poll on independence, which has produced some highly encouraging results. The standard voting intention figures for the referendum show an essentially identical result to last month's very close poll, which is extraordinary enough given the diet of unrelenting Britishness that we've been force-fed over the intervening period.

Yes 35% (-1)
No 44% (-1)

However, the truly stunning figures come from a supplementary question. It seems fairly likely that the Sunday Times asked Panelbase to enquire whether the Olympics had made people feel more unionist or independence-friendly because they were confident of getting a result that was to their taste. The classic schoolboy error of falling for your own propaganda.

Q. How has Team GB's success affected your attitude to Scottish Independence?

More Unionist 4%

Slightly More Unionist 4%


More for Independence 8%

Slightly More for Independence 4%


I would of course have brought the glad tidings to the Tory multitude at Political Betting, but I'm still banned. I've asked for an explanation, and to be told whether the ban is permanent or temporary, but as of yet I haven't received a reply. Luckily, however, one of the two regular SNP posters who haven't been banned yet was on hand to impart the good news!

Tony Parsons closes in on gold in the hypocrisy and humbug events

I've never previously felt moved to leave a comment on the Daily Record website, but then I hadn't seen an example of jingoistic hypocrisy quite like this before -

"This was a rotten fortnight to be a bigot. This was when the barriers that divide us came crashing down.

English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish fought side by side. The old joke about Andy Murray – British when he wins, Scottish when he loses – got left out for the binmen. At the sight of all those Union flags, the SNP’s Alex Salmond no longer looked like the cat who got the cream...

For two weeks we were all British, laughing and crying together...

The British ran an Empire that covered the world for three centuries – why did we doubt we could run a sporting event for two weeks?...

And as they united the nation in the way that we have not been united since 1945, these Olympics revealed the true nature of our people.

All of our people...

You can love your own country without hating somebody else’s."

This was my reply :

The part of this article I find most confusing is the phrase "by Tony Parsons". Presumably this will be the same Tony Parsons who disgraced himself a few years back by penning a ranting article that branded Andy Murray an anti-English bigot, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever other than a baseless rumour that Murray wanted the English football team to lose (which would scarcely have been a sign of bigotry even if it had been true). Oh, but wait, perhaps that vile article was one of the "jokes" Tony refers to here? Must be.

As far as this piece touches on Scotland, the implicit message seems to be "Scottishness = bigotry, Britishness = maturity".

Grow up, Tony. I say that for your own sake, otherwise you might end up feeling slightly queasy at the sight of all those saltires at the Commonwealth Games in two years' time, just weeks before the independence referendum takes place.

As for the point about Alex Salmond, you may not have noticed this from your vantage point in London, but he does indeed still look like the cat that got the cream, mainly because the unprecedented success of Scottish Olympic athletes has been a source of immense pleasure and pride for all Scots, unionist and nationalist alike. But I can understand how that might seem a touch baffling to a divisive Brit Nat zealot such as yourself.

Political Betting's Tory moderator makes a mockery of the site's "non-aligned" status - again.

Well, it's been quite a week for me over at Political Betting. I was called a "c***" seven times, I was told that my support for a Scottish Olympic team makes me a racist, and last but not least I've just been banned from the site for the fourth time. I say 'fourth' - that tally does of course include my original 'technical fault' blocking, which by an astonishing coincidence occurred just two seconds after the site owner noticed I had sharply criticised his random banning of my fellow SNP poster Stuart Dickson, and which lasted for 36 hours in spite of me clearing the cache, rebooting my computer, and experimenting with different browsers. Well, what kind of world would this be without coincidences like that to enrich our lives?

I appreciate that some of you must by now be heartily sick of hearing about my running battles at PB. However, one of the advantages of having my own blog is that I don't have to let the cowardly Tory moderators (and I use the word 'cowardly' advisedly, as you'll see) get away with it when they use Orwellian tactics to cover their tracks. The most Orwellian part of all, of course, is that when the moderators abuse their position, anyone who calls them out on what they've done is then subject to an instant outright ban - because even referring to the fact that moderation exists on the site at all is a straight banning 'offence'.

Anyway, simply sit back and marvel at the brazenness with which certain comments are erased from history, and certain comments remain intact, in the following exchange. I've had to reconstruct some of it from memory, such was the speed with which the Tory moderator 'The Screaming Eagles' deleted comments and secretly blocked people from posting in a pathetic attempt to make it look like he had effortlessly won the argument.

For the uninitiated, Mick Pork is a fellow SNP-supporting poster, who tonight was banned for the fifty-sixth time (literally).

The Screaming Eagles (Tory moderator) : Yup, Lord Coe is judged to have down a brilliant job by 68% of Scots.

I was told he wasn't very popular up there.

Me : Now if I was praying in aid Scottish subsample data (such as, for example, the YouGov data over the last two weeks showing that the Olympics has had no impact on support for the SNP), what would the reaction be?

Desperate, desperate stuff.

Mick Pork : The reaction?

You mean from pitiful cowards who can dish it out but can never take it back? Who can say? It's not as if we'll see it for long anyway. But we'll still know it was there and laugh each and every time it's proved. ;^)

The Screaming Eagles : Name the cowards.

Come on name names.

Me : I think among others he's probably talking about you, TSE, for abusing your position as moderator. That would be my guess, since you specifically asked.


Mick Pork : Those who can dish it out but never take it back of course. Who else would it be? :-)

The Screaming Eagles : Specific names please.

Mick Pork : Well since you said please I'll give you the name and even the surname.. Wait a minute! you're trying to get me to break the site rules by actually naming posters Like Pluto did? You are a very naughty TSE aren't you?


The Screaming Eagles : No, their posting names.

Mick Pork : Well that wouldn't be fair either would it? Here's an idea, take a wild f**king guess instead and stop behaving like a petulant child demanding I do exactly as you say. Because as an ordinary poster on PB like everyone else on here you have ZERO ability to force me to do anything.

That must be terribly frustrating for you but sadly that's life.


The Screaming Eagles : As I thought.

You'll throw insults around, but when asked to give specifics, you'll turn into a feartie.

Mick Pork : I named the poster in a reply to James Kelly but sadly for you his post magically disappeared and my reply along with it. I'm assuming because of bravery. How very tragic and incredibly telling. As usual.



Me : TSE, I take it you're now going to tell me the fact that my comment was deleted and you banned me for ten minutes was a "technical fault"?


"PBmoderator" (almost certainly The Screaming Eagles) : No, you violated OGH's rules, and the comment was deleted.

You are blocked from posting while this happens.


Me : "you violated OGH's rules"

Rubbish. A moderator posed a question, and I answered it.

What glorious irony that you were in the middle of trying to 'disprove' the claims of cowardice, and of some people not being able to take back what they dish out.


Chris g00 : You wouldn't talk to that character [Mick Pork] away from this site for obvious reasons, my advice is to ignore him. A great night of sport and still some people appear bitter about life.

The Screaming Eagles : Sage advice.

The site's resident Sun journalist (posting incognito), who seems to be quite chummy with The Screaming Eagles, then trotted out the traditional snide suggestion that Mick's claim to have been banned/victimised must be a figment of his imagination or a recurring technical fault. It's almost like psychological warfare - "we don't have jails, but we have a high concentration of locked doors", "we don't ban you from posting, but our software feels you should take the odd break".

I actually asked Mick a few days ago by email if it was possible that experimenting with a different browser might resolve his problem with being constantly blocked, and this was his response -

"when it started happening all those months ago I did as you say. Tried every conceivable technical fix including every different browser I could, logging in and out and clearing cookies and cache, cleaning the whole drive with CCleaner, rebooting whenever it happened, checking my internet connection settings. etc. You name it I tried it. And none of it worked. Because it simply isn't a Disqus problem. It's a moderation problem."

Given my own experience, I haven't the slightest doubt that's entirely correct.