Saturday, 27 February 2010

Asgerd - A response

I'm happy to publish Asgerd's comment on the Lewis Chessmen, despite the criticism therein.
His response is perhaps typically 'academic', though making several points that are fair enough. But I'm not at all sure that it's fair to describe Angus's reaction as 'bullish' - justifiably indignant, yes, bullish, no. And let's not forget that it was the BM who caused the stooshie in the first place.

Personally, I'm quite happy to accept that the pieces originated in Norway, but they are universally recognised as The Lewis Chessmen' and were irrefutably found in Lewis. I'm perhaps somewhat less impressed by the 'I know more than you do' use of the term 'knowlegeable minds', however.

But this wasn't so much a question of a deliberate snub by the BM - more a case of blind academic pomposity failing to understand public perceptions. Actually, for me, the whole issue is just plain daft (as, of course, is the concept of keeping them - though to describe that as 'very irresponsible' is, frankly, boring, and as half-baked as the letters of years ago suggesting the Gauls might steal them), but the BM have brought the whole issue upon themselves, even though, in doing so, they have helped to highlight the forthcoming tour of the Chessmen with some extra free publicity. No bad thing that, then.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Lewis, No More

The Isle of Lewis has apparently joined the long list of 'no more' places celebrated in the Pretenders' Message from America, after the British Museum created a spectacular blunder in a poster on the London Underground depicting the famous Lewis Chessmen. One of the chess pieces is featured with the date 1150-1200 and the word 'Norway' beneath it, despite the pieces famously having been found buried in sand at Uig, Lewis in 1831. There is no mention of Lewis, or Scotland anywhere at all.

Angus MacNeil, SNP MP has secured the support of two other SNP MP's and seven others for a motion in Parliament deploring the poster.

A British Museum spokeswoman apparently said that “It is generally accepted that the chessmen were made in Norway. During this period, the Western Isles, where the chessmen were buried, were part of the kingdom of Norway, not Scotland.”

As Angus MacNeil points out, the Hebrides may have been ruled from Norway but were not part of Norway, any more than India was part of Britain.

Nobody has ever clearly established where the chessmen came from, but they were found in Uig. There is speculation they are of Scandinavian origin but there is also speculation they originated in Scotland and they certainly should be associated with Lewis.

The chessmen will be on display in four venues in Scotland including Museum nan Eilean, Stornoway, between April 15 and September 12 next year.If the British Museum continue to insist on this spectacular snub to the Hebrides and the wider Scottish Nation, then one thing is abundantly clear - when these chess pieces arrive back in Lewis, we should keep them!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Ask Wales, Ask England, But Don't Ask Scotland

Today is a momentous day in Scotland, as the SNP Government publishes their consultation document on the planned referendum, proposing a question on further devolution, and one on outright independence.
The opposition parties are, as one, baying like wolves under a full moon, stating that this is the wrong time, that it's a waste of public money to have a referendum at all, and that they will kill this off at the earliest opportunity.
These are precisely the same opposition parties who, down in Westminsterland, fully support a referendum for Wales on greater powers from the Welsh Assembly, and it is the disunited and totally treacherous Labour Party in England who have promised a referendum on proportional representation if they are re-elected - something the Lib Dems have wanted since the days of Jo Grimmond.
Yet the withered Scottish arms of these wimpish, clueless and gutless parties would deny Scots the opportunity to express their views on the most important question for Scotland since the Parcel O' Rogues in 1707. They say it's a waste of time because there's no way Scotland will vote for Independence - yet they don't dare risk it.
Scots need to have faith in themselves, and courage for their futures - it will be for those of us who believe in Independence to convince them to emerge triumphant from under the thumb of Westminster rule - but it should never be for the rag bag unholy alliance of Labour, Lib Dems and Tories to deny even the opportunity to choose.
In my Westminster Constituency, the hapless Lib Dem incumbent is Danny Alexander, and the SNP Candidate will be John Finnie - the hugely capable leader of the SNP Group in Highland Council.
I challenge Danny to tell me here and now if he supports his pals in Holyrood in their stance not to support a referendum. If he does, every voter in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey should reflect, come May 6th, or whenever, that this man would deny their right to choose, and should exercise their alternative right to choose John Finnie to replace him.

You'd have to be bonkers ......

.... to support a party whose elected members are like this ....

Honesty in Politics

For me, Nicola Sturgeon's frank, open and genuine reflection on her actions in supporting a constituent convicted of fraud, and apology for the mistakes she made is part and parcel of what it is that sets the SNP Government apart from the rest. It is an ability to answer questions - Alec Salmond, First Minister, has been known on more than one occasion to answer a simple question with a simple 'Yes', or 'No', rather than a menage of prevarication. Nicola has time and again demonstrated this remarkable openness with the electorate, and this time has once again clearly shown why she will make a magnificent successor to the Mighty Eck, and with luck, and a following wind, Scotland's first Prime Minister. Everybody makes mistakes, as the Dalek said, climbing off the dustbin, and the concept that we expect our politicians never ever to do so is plainly ridiculous. Yet who else, other than the SNP, have the courage to hold their hands up and say 'yup, got that one wrong, sorry'?