Saturday, August 28, 2021

Forget the bias - Andrew Neil's rant is just spectacularly WRONG on every count

A lot of people have pointed out that Andrew Neil's lunatic rant in the Mail about the SNP-Green deal has shamed the BBC, who forever more will be known to have tried to pass off a right-wing nutter as an "objective, forensic interviewer" for the last couple of decades.  But even more than the bias of the article, what strikes me is just how poor it is as a piece of punditry.  It's full of factual inaccuracies, and analysis that is embarrassingly wide of the mark.  Why was this guy ever so highly regarded?

"After all, they [the Greens] failed to win a single constituency, and only ended up with seven seats thanks to Scotland’s absurd voting system"

What Andrew appears to be talking about here is simply proportional representation - and if that's "absurd" then clearly the entire continent of Europe has lost its marbles. The UK is practically the only European country that doesn't use a proportional voting system for national elections.

"Sturgeon failed to win an overall majority in the May elections, which undermined her promise that she would have a ‘mandate’ to demand a second independence referendum."

Interesting use of inverted commas around the word "mandate" there, given that Nicola Sturgeon stood on a manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum and won a landslide victory on the back of it.  She'll be claiming to have been "elected" as "First Minister" next.  Maybe she'll even call Andrew a "journalist".

"But the Scottish Greens are also big fans of separation. By merging their seven seats with the SNP’s 64, hey presto, you get what Sturgeon would consider a rock-solid majority for Indyref2 in the Scottish parliament"

And in what sense is that unreasonable?  Seven plus sixty-four equals seventy-one, which amounts to 55.5% of the seats in the parliament (excluding the non-voting Presiding Officer).  Someone who regards that as a rock-solid majority is known variously as "a democrat" or "someone who can count".

"Whatever the majority in Holyrood for another referendum, it comes up against the cold, hard fact that only Westminster can sanction a second vote."

That may have been the fiction that the BBC gave Andrew licence to peddle, but in the real world it's a dubious claim that is contested by legal experts and has yet to be tested in court.  The Scottish Parliament may well have the legal power to call a referendum without external 'permission'.

"It’s clear Sturgeon will accommodate just about anybody if it furthers independence, which is all the SNP really cares about."

If only that were true, but the evidence suggests otherwise.  Was Andrew snoozing when Nicola Sturgeon made abundantly clear that she would refuse to work with the Alba party to bring about independence?  And if independence is the current SNP leadership's first and only love, why does the SNP-Green deal specify a one-year deadline for introducing self-ID for trans people, while the timetable for an independence referendum is rather more elastic, to say the least?

"The Scottish Greens are led by inexperienced chancers Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater"

Hmmm.  Patrick Harvie can be legitimately accused of many things (most obviously intolerance and extremism on identity politics), but I'm not sure "inexperience" is one of them, given that he's been a parliamentarian since 2003 and co-leader of his party since 2008.  Did Andrew even bother to check Wikipedia before penning his piece?

"There is no word, of course, about where the money will come from to pay for all this [the Green policy programme], though no doubt the much-derided UK will be expected to stump up most of it."

Expected to? You mean the Scottish Government sets policies and the UK Government adjusts its block grant to Scotland accordingly?  As opposed to the actual system whereby the Scottish Government has to set policy within the confines of a fixed block grant, and the only wiggle-room comes from the ability to adjust income tax rates for residents of Scotland?

"It certainly won’t be from oil revenues — the Greens in government will likely mark a moratorium on any further exploitation of oil reserves.  The great SNP rallying cry — ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’ — is now consigned to the history books."

As Andrew has been telling us, practically since the day I was born, that the oil is just about to run out, there's more than a whiff of pro-cakeism and pro-eatism about this line of argument.  "You're turning your back on all that OIL you don't have!"

Note about BTL comments on Scot Goes Pop

First of all, I've changed the settings so that logging into a Google account is no longer needed to attempt to post a commment.  That layer of protection began to seem superfluous given that I have pre-moderation switched on anyway - although obviously if my inbox ends up being completely swamped with garbage, I may have to switch back.

The second issue is thornier and requires a bit of background explanation.  A few weeks ago, an individual who previously was a regular commenter on this blog made potentially defamatory allegations about me in the comments section of Wee Ginger Dug.  As a matter of courtesy, I let Paul Kavanagh know that the accusations were serious enough that I really had no option left but to reply to them publicly.  However, Paul strongly urged me not to do that, because he felt it would add fuel to the fire, and said that he and his moderation team would deal with the matter instead.  So I agreed not to write a public post on the understanding that the original allegations would be deleted.  It's important to stress that I didn't ask for any deletion - my own intention had been to post a reply, but Paul and his moderators preferred a different resolution, and I agreed to that.

Since then, I gather that the individual in question has been asked not to make any comments about me at all, and that this request has been enforced.  Again, this is not something I asked for - it's entirely at the initiative of Paul and his moderators.  However, in the intervening period, the commenter 'Independence for Scotland' has repeatedly criticised Paul in the comments section of this blog.  Paul emailed me a couple of days ago to point out that I am being protected by the moderation team on Wee Ginger Dug, and to ask me to speak to 'Independence for Scotland' about dialling his own attacks down.  That's something I can only do in a public post like this, because the Blogger platform does not provide me with contact details for commenters.

Paul also made the point that when 'Independence for Scotland' attacks a certain commenter on Wee Ginger Dug, it simply winds up the individual in question and creates problems for the moderators on that site.  This is a tricky one, because I can't really allow my own moderation policy to be determined by the decisions of moderators on another blog.  It's also worth making the point that, even if criticisms of me on WGD are deleted, they often remain up for several hours or longer, which essentially means that any damage is already done.  I'm not going to ask Independence for Scotland to refrain from criticising someone who subjected me to an extraordinary campaign of harassment for several weeks in the late spring and early summer.  Some of the points being made are actually fully justified - the individual is indeed a Walter Mitty-style fantasist, a malicious troublemaker, and a thoroughly unprincipled propagandist.  It's no bad thing if people wake up to that.

However, as far as the petty and persistent criticisms of Paul Kavanagh himself are concerned, those are unwarranted and unhelpful and I would much prefer them to stop.  I'm not issuing an edict, but I'm just asking people to voluntarily show some restraint.  

For one night only: the return of the Scot Goes Pop mini-reviews of the Edinburgh Fringe

I said on Twitter a few days ago that I'm extremely unsure of what activities constitute too big a risk at the moment, because I have regular contact with a vulnerable person.  One thing I had in mind was the Edinburgh Fringe, which I've been to every year since 2010 (apart from last year, when it was cancelled altogether).  Normally I'd go multiple times throughout August, but given the circumstances I thought it would be nice just to make one trip in and see a couple of shows as safely as possible.  With case numbers rising, though, I found it harder and harder to imagine myself actually doing it.  I had a look through the website on Wednesday, and to my disappointment could literally only find four shows of the type I'd normally see (drama, dance or musicals) that I was 100% confident were taking place outdoors.  I suddenly got bold and decided to go ahead anyway, so I booked the two out of those four that appealed to me the most, and made the journey in yesterday.  It was my first time in the capital since the pandemic started, and it felt a bit weird to be there, to say the least.

Having gone to all that trouble, I may as well mark the occasion with a one-off return of the much-missed-by-absolutely-nobody Scot Goes Pop Fringe mini-reviews.  The main legacy of having done these reviews in the past is that I ended up being followed on Twitter by a few actors and creatives, some of whom later unfollowed me after I retweeted gender critical tweets and they concluded I was a "transphobe"...


Rating: N/A

When your main criteria for selecting a show is that it has seating arrangements that minimise your risk of catching a deadly virus, your expectations of quality are bound to be somewhat 'tempered' and 'realistic'.  However, I didn't even get that far, because it was cancelled at ten minutes' notice.  I've no idea if that had anything to do with Covid.  In case you're wondering, the show would apparently have been a "farcical comedy" about a bank heist, but all I can really tell you about it is that the venue looked commendably airy.


Rating: 5 stars (*****)

I wouldn't normally review the free street performances, but I'm in severe need of padding this time.  With an extra hour to kill, I gingerly ventured onto the Royal Mile to see what was happening. I heard some loud shouting, which normally is the dead giveaway of an escapology act, but it was actually four drunk men screaming at each other and gearing up for a fistfight.  Just as I was about to give up, I stumbled across a duo, unimaginatively called "Duo", playing some lovely guitar music - a lot of it was flamenco music, but there was also some Daft Punk thrown in.  They were genuinely excellent, as you can see from the short clips below.


Rating: 4 stars (****)

I had to walk all the way to Tynecastle Park for this one, so if it had been cancelled or turned out to be rubbish, that would have been the final straw.  All was well, though, it was thoroughly entertaining in a very all-round way - there were more than two hours of songs, jokes, a love story, and above all else a painless history lesson about women's football in Scotland.  I already knew some of that history, I think mainly from reading an article on the BBC website a few years ago.  During the First World War, women's football suddenly became wildly popular due to male players having joined the army.  Even after the war was over, the female teams continued to attract crowds of thousands, until the powers-that-be at the SFA maliciously put a stop to it by forbidding the clubs from allowing their grounds to be used.  

One thing that puzzled me about the play is that the SFA bigwigs were portrayed as Glasgow nationalists with English accents. I get the Glasgow thing, but I felt like the accents were a joke that was going clean over my head.  There were also references at the end to the Spanish flu and mandatory mask-wearing ("can you imagine that?"), which made me wince slightly given that I think I was the only person in the audience who wore a mask through most of the performance.  But leaving aside these minor quibbles, the show is well worth seeing, and I think it's running for a couple more days.  It doesn't take place on the Tynecastle pitch for obvious reasons - there's a raised little stage in front of the main stand.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Interview on the Alex Salmond Show

You might remember that during the election campaign in the spring, I was fortunate enough to interview the former First Minister Alex Salmond for the Scot Goes Popcast.  Today the roles were reversed, because Mr Salmond interviewed me on the subject of opinion polls for The Alex Salmond Show.  The other guest was Professor John Curtice, which will probably be the first and last time in my life that I get joint billing with the great man!  The programme has been showing a few times through the day on RT, and I believe there's one more showing at 11.30pm.  However you can also watch it at your leisure on YouTube via the embedded player below.

I've been interviewed on Radio Sputnik several tines in the past, so I know the controversial journalist David Leask will be incredibly proud of me for 'completing the double', so to speak.  Cheers, David.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Kenny MacAskill for Alba depute leader, and how I voted in the other office bearer elections

I've just voted in the Alba office bearer elections - the ballot doesn't close until 10th September, but I thought I'd better get it done now in case it slips my mind later on.  I was slightly surprised by how the nominations worked out - all of the buzz on social media had been for the potential female candidates for depute leader, probably because of a desire for gender balance in the leadership team.  So I was half-expecting an all-female contest, perhaps between Michelle Ferns and Eva Comrie.  Personally I nominated Eva Comrie, and I was surprised when she didn't make the ballot (although she's a candidate for Equalities Convener instead) and Kenny MacAskill did.  But now that Mr MacAskill is an option and clearly wants the position, I have to say I think he's the obvious choice.  I dipped in and out of the hustings, and I was increasingly impressed by Michelle Ferns as it went on, but that didn't change my view that it makes sense to have someone with the tremendous experience and profile of someone like Mr MacAskill as depute leader, especially as the party is trying to get itself established.

Incidentally, I liked the fact that both candidates took the question about the high male suicide rate seriously.  I'd have liked to have seen them go a little further, though, and accept that the phenomenon is actually rooted in gender, in much the same way that the structural challenges faced by women are gender-related.  The idea that it can instead be put down to poverty doesn't entirely ring true, because there are as many women living in poverty, and if men are far more likely to take their own lives there must be an additional gender-related factor.

In the Equalities Convener ballot, I surprised myself slightly by giving my first preference to Suzanne Blackley.  I went into the hustings expecting to vote for Eva Comrie, but I just felt that Ms Blackley's pitch gave her the very slight edge.  However, I gave my second preference vote to Eva Comrie.

The Local Government Convener ballot was the one I found toughest.  The hustings muddied the waters for me because Brian Topping was having severe sound problems and I was very impressed by Leigh Wilson, but I did give my first preference to the former MSP Mike MacKenzie in the end.

And last but not least, I plumped for the former MP Corri Wilson in the Membership Convener vote.