Friday, 28 August 2009

Whose Opinion?

So the BBC (Biased Broadcasting Corporation) say they have an opinion poll which says 60% of Scots think Kenny MacAskill's decision to release Abdul Baset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was wrong, but the poll was of a grand total of 1005 people living in Scotland. How representative was it? How were the 'random' telephone numbers chosen? How come I have been totally unable, so far, to find anyone at all who thought the decision was wrong?
Brian Taylor's smug, self satisfied report on the poll was totally predictable - yet another flimsy attempt to undermine the SNP Government. It is time to root out this parcel o' rogues and have real Scottish reporting by a real Scottish media.
I prefer to believe that Scots are better than that; that they understand why the decision was made; that they know what compassion is all about; and that they know, deep down, that the trial was a stitch up anyway and that regardless of whether or not al-Megrahi was in any way involved, the truly guilty have never been brought to justice.

Friday, 21 August 2009


And so it begins ..... the condemnation of the release of al-Megrahi; the careful and deliberate emphasis on the BBC National News that this was the work of the Scottish Government - not their government; The pathetic whimpering of the Scottish opposition parties that they wouldn't have done it - oh dearie me no - not us; the righteous indignation from the United States.
Admittedly, it was not in any sense appropriate for Libya to openly celebrate his arrival back in his homeland as they did - but it was surely not surprising that they did, given their continued belief that he was always innocent. As things stand, al-Megrahi remains convicted of the crime of which he was accused, and will not see the day that his innocence is proven - if ever that day arrives.
That all of those affected by the crime may never truly know the truth is a shame, yet Kenny MacAskill is quite right that if there should ever be an arena in which the whole thing is reviewed and all of the evidence brought to light, that should be a higher authority than Scotland - it should be for the United Nations to show some guts, determination and, dare I say it, unity. But what matters for Scotland is that we did the right thing. We showed that as a Nation, we are capable of compassion and mercy; we demonstrated our Christian principles. Kenny MacAskill stood for us all, and held up to the world all that is good about Scotland. Amid the cheap political posturing, we must not forget that.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

To Be A Nation Once Again

A short while ago, Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill announced that Abdul Baset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is to be released on compassionate grounds.
I felt immense pride, listening to the carefully constructed words of the announcement. Not just pride that Scotland, as a Nation, can uphold our long held principles of compassion and mercy, but also in the inspiring words in which he framed his announcement.
It was delivered on Scottish soil, and related to a crime committed over Scottish soil; Kenny MacAskill's announcement was placed firmly in a global context, yet emphasised the principles of Scottish Justice and of the Scottish people perfectly.
Today, no matter what the USA may say, or Westminster, or the baying pack of political opposition dogs here in Scotland, for me, Kenny MacAskill proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that whilst we may not yet be independent, we are a Nation once again.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Thou Shalt Not Pass

Since 2005, the Patiala Pipe Band, from Lahore, Pakistan has competed each year in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.
Not this year.
The UK Borders Agency refused entry visas to around thirty members of the band, along with all bar one of a thirty five man strong government and trade delegation from Lahore, which is twinned with Glasgow.
Despite pleas from the Scottish Government and the Scotland Office, the UKBA would not relent.
That Scotland's national interest can be damaged in this way by a petty and small minded organisation operating under rules set by Westminster is yet another reason why we need independence now.
This ridiculous ruling is an appalling manifestation of what 'tough immigration rules' really means. For a welcoming, friendly and open nation such as ours, this is an anathema. An independent Scotland would sweep away much of this nonsense and replace it with rules that reflect our national psyche. Of course we would want to effectively control illegal immigration. Naturally, we would want to ensure that visitors returned home when they were supposed to - we just wouldn't use a sledgehammer to do it!


When it was reported a few days ago that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was likely to be released on compassionate grounds, I felt immense pride in our government that we could show the world that here in Scotland, we do things differently, and we can recognise that to leave a man dying of prostate cancer, who has always protested his innocence, to die far from home and family is pointless; has nothing whatever to do with justice; and would represent no more than a final, spiteful act of retribution. In my mind, along with that of Jim Swire, whose daughter was a victim of the Lockerbie abomination, al-Megrahi was always innocent; nothing more than a manipulated pawn in a political game in which the American machine found it convenient to ostracise Libya.
That the US had, just a few months earlier, shot down an Iranian airliner seemed to matter not one jot. And Americans today still believe what they are fed by their own machine.
The original speculation of release on compassionate grounds would have meant that al-Megrahi's appeal could continue, and the new evidence from foreign parts could be heard. There was more than a chance, therefore, that his pleas of innocence might finally be vindicated - even if the likelihood is that it may have come too late for the man himself.
And so, when the news came that he was abandoning his appeal, a couple of days after he was visited by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, I felt cheated and let down. It's hard not to believe that somewhere along the line, the pressure not to have the potential embarrassment of the new evidence meant that somewhere, somebody had been 'got at' by the might of the machine.
It remains now to be seen whether al-Megrahi is finally released on compassionate grounds, or simply returned to Libya to serve out his last few days or weeks of sentence there, because he had dropped his appeal and, by doing so, become eligible for transfer. I still live in hope that, despite the venomous reaction of the United States of Indignant Retribution, we will choose to release him and show the world that the true face of compassion is alive and well, and living in Scotland.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Ups and Downs of Scottish Tourism

On July 24th, VisitScotland finally owned up to what had been obvious to many - that numbers of visitors to Scotland last year were down by over one million - an eight percent drop. They announced that tourist spending fell by four percent, down £156 million, of which £113 million was attributed to business tourism, with business spending down by fourteen percent.
In truth, these figures, in time of recession, weren't all that bad - and came as no surprise to all those who have felt over the years that VisitScotland were past masters of the art of telling porkies ayway. A refreshing change to hear something believable.
Ah yes, but that was then - this is now - just a couple of weeks later.
Today VisitScotland reportedly made the announcement that a record £63.5 million was generated in Scotland through tourism last year. They said the drive to encourage people to visit during the quieter tourist months brought in £17 million more than the previous year ....
Confused? Yup, so am I. These figures seem to bear no relation to the reality on our streets last year, and don't seem to match up in any way to the earlier figures. Somewhere along the line, we're obviously comparing apples with pears - but the biggest question is are VisitScotland statistics rotten apples?


So that well known diminutive boat rocker, Hazel Blears has returned to her car in sunny Salford after delivering Labour leaflets about what they're doing to reduce crime, to find that her car has had its windscreen severely dunted and all four tyres slashed. The possibility that this has happened because disaffected voters of whatever age have recognised her car and taken the opportunity to protest cannot be discounted. It can't be condoned, of course, but it cannot possibly be ruled out. Unless you're Hazel Blears, that is.
She, in her infinite wisdom, has chosen to blame 'bored teenagers with nothing to do on a hot afternoon'. Even if that were true what does it say about the Labour administration in Salford and the facilities they do (or don't) provide for teenagers?
Worse, the statement itself says a great deal about Ms Blears' respect for teenagers in her constituency (zero) and about her own self denial. Oh, yes, and 'police have appealed for eye witnesses'.... did they, I wonder, appeal for eye witnesses when my daughter's car was broken into recently in Salford - of course not.
All men and women are equal - equally irrelevant - unles you're an MP.