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The Little University on the Prairie

content discovered on Saturday, November 25, 2017 in

Apparently there is a plan in Scotland to pay students £8000 per year to study. Scottish students already have their fees paid by the taxpayer. The idea now is that they should be paid the equivalent of the "living wage" to study. This all begins to get rather expensive for the tax payer. But is it worth it? A while back I came across an exam paper from the late nineteenth century. The task involved translating various passages from English literature into Ancient Greek. With a bit of effort I could ima...

Bought and sold for RT gold

content discovered on Saturday, November 11, 2017 in

Does it matter very much that Alex Salmond has chosen to appear on Russia Today (RT)? No. I sometimes glance at this site. It has a perspective, but then again so does the BBC, CNN and the New York Times. RT has a Russian perspective. It’s not a perspective we often have access to in the Western media, so in that sense RT can be useful. I find some of its reporting and opinion pieces to be very biased, but others are no worse than what we get in British newspapers or television. But then every story on e...

Bach’s wife

content discovered on Friday, November 10, 2017 in

Many people think the greatest composer who ever lived was Johann Sebastian Bach. There might be some debate about this. Some think Mozart was greater, others Beethoven. It doesn’t much matter. If you look at a list of the greatest composers these nearly always make up the top three. But who is the greatest female composer? Is there a woman composer who ranks with Bach? No. How many women composers would make a list of the top one hundred? Perhaps Hildegard von Bingen a medieval abbess might just sneak i...

The trial of Effie Deans

content discovered on Saturday, November 4, 2017 in

Imagine if thirty years ago someone had been murdered in Cambridge. Suddenly the police arrive and knock on my door and accuse me of being the murderer. They take me into custody, question me and eventually charge that on the night of November 4th 1987 I did wilfully and with malice aforethought murder one Scott Walters. What would I say in my defence? The trial of Effie Deans I might say that I’m fairly sure I was in Cambridge on that particular night, but I don’t remember anything else about it. All...

The Catalan handkerchief

content discovered on Saturday, October 28, 2017 in

Spain isn’t greatly liked in Britain. This has been particularly noticeable in the past few weeks as the crisis in Catalonia has developed. Quite a few writers have indulged in the pleasures of Spain bashing and for a variety of reasons. Some Eurosceptic Brexiteers have sympathised with the Catalans and used the crisis to complain about democracy in Spain and the EU. Some people have just found another underdog to champion. Plucky little Catalonia up against nasty Spain only needs Francis Drake to come t...

The casting coach goes back to the cave

content discovered on Friday, October 20, 2017 in

How many fat, ugly sixty five year old men do you know who have an addiction to sex? How many have beautiful wives or girlfriends in their twenties? I don’t know very many. Aging academics may chase after girls who could be their daughters and sometimes even their granddaughters and some may even succeed in catching them, but still it is not a common sight to see fat ugly sixty five year old men with the problems associated with addiction to sex with the youngest most beautiful women in the world. Stra...

An unknown face for a new Conservative party

content discovered on Friday, October 13, 2017 in

The great moment in modern British politics upon which all else turns was the election in 1979. The decade that followed brought in fundamental change, not because the Conservative Party sought consensus and the centre ground, but rather because it decided to take a different direction. There was disagreement, there was struggle. Sometimes it was even violent. But the results of the decade that followed are still with us. Britain had been in decline since 1945. Both Conservatives and Labour had come to ...

A senseless struggle about nothing

content discovered on Saturday, October 7, 2017 in

There are two forces going on in human nature, the desire to unify and the desire to separate. The reason that we have nation states at all is because people have felt the need to unify with others who are similar to them. In antiquity each small village had its own ruler, its own customs and often its own variety of language. Historical progress across the world has involved the process of people uniting to form nation states. These are the building blocks of international relations and without them the...

No-one expects the Liberal Inquisition

content discovered on Saturday, September 30, 2017 in

There must be something in human nature that means we always need to take a good thing too far. In this way far from turning it into a very good thing we instead turn it into a very bad thing. The fault, for instance, with Christianity is not what Jesus and his disciples taught, but that many centuries later when the Church had become powerful it started burning people at the stake for believing one thing about Jesus rather than another thing. It’s impossible to imagine either Jesus or his disciples thin...

Encouraging nationalism involves a heavy respon...

content discovered on Saturday, September 23, 2017 in

As many of us have noticed this week, Spain is trying to prevent one of its parts from holding a referendum on independence. I normally don’t pay much attention to the internal politics of European countries. I can’t even routinely name the leaders of more than a few EU countries. But I began noticing the dispute in Spain a few years ago and from time to time have paid attention. There is a reason for this. Independence movements feed off each other. Scottish nationalists wave Catalan flags and vice vers...

It’s not bad enough yet

content discovered on Saturday, September 16, 2017 in

I was going to write about something else this week. I had something almost ready about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s views on theology. But then I saw that he had ruled himself out from being leader, no doubt because of his views on theology. Maybe at a later date I will discuss those views. I think there is an interesting rational argument to be had about the subject. But why stick your neck out. It’s not bad enough yet. Every other day now North Korea either has a new test for a new sort of nuclear weapon or e...

Indyref; or, 'tis three years since

content discovered on Saturday, September 9, 2017 in

It’s a pity Walter Scott is so little read nowadays. Waverley (or 'tis sixty years since) is not merely a station in Edinburgh it is the key to understanding everything in Scottish history and if you understand the past you understand the present, for history is not about what was, it’s about what is, it’s not about then, it’s about now. I resolved earlier this summer to not write about Scottish nationalism, the SNP or even Scottish politics. For the most part I have stuck to this resolution. For the mo...

If there is hope, it lies in the Poles

content discovered on Saturday, September 2, 2017 in

There has been endless complaint since the UK voted to leave the EU a little over a year ago. Not from voters mind you. The vast majority of Remain voters have simply got on with their lives and accepted that they lost the argument. Owing to the fact that the Remain prediction of immediate catastrophe for the UK simply did not occur, many former Remain voters have come to the conclusion that they were duped. But this has not stopped the rearguard action from some politicians and some influential people i...

Wallace must fall

content discovered on Saturday, August 26, 2017 in

By an amazing piece of good luck the Aberdeen branch of the Wallace Must Fall Campaign has discovered a hitherto unknown letter between William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. One of the problems of medieval history is that so few contemporary sources survive. We are forced to rely frequently on Blind Harry whose reliability as a witness is hindered not merely by him being blind, but more importantly by the fact that he lived some hundreds of years after the events he describes. But finally we have a conte...

The Left is winning

content discovered on Saturday, August 19, 2017 in

Until recently I thought that the Right had won the economic battle decisively, but were gradually losing the cultural war. Now I am not so optimistic. Conservative economics suffered a set-back at the last election and now Conservatives are actually helping the Left to still more decisively destroy Conservative values. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher won the Cold War by bankrupting the Soviet Union and by showing that Right-wing economics bring with it peace and prosperity. They therefore won bot...

Better to be a dragon than a bear : the Chinese...

content discovered on Saturday, August 12, 2017 in

Part 1 Russia famously was described by Winston Churchill as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. What is less frequently noted is that Churchill went on to solve his riddle. The key to understanding Russian actions was to look at Russian national interest. But is this not simply to state a truism? Isn’t the key to understanding any country’s action to simply reflect on its national interest? Is Churchill actually saying anything at all? Then again, it was not straightforwardly in the Am...

British citizenship confounds both Irish & Scot...

content discovered on Saturday, August 12, 2017 in

One of the main benefits of travel and meeting people from different places is to discover that ideas that are almost universally shared in one place are unknown in another. There is a tendency in the West to suppose that what we think everyone thinks. Left/Liberal values are held to be universal even if some of them have only developed recently even here. Take the concept of nationality. In Britain we almost all accept that nationality is fundamentally a matter of citizenship. All British citizens are e...

Ireland shows why Scotland will never leave

content discovered on Saturday, August 5, 2017 in

Apparently the Irish Taoiseach wants the UK to remain in the EU. He is trying to keep the door open to the European Union and if that door fails, then he wants Britain to at least remain in the European Single Market and Customs Union. The Republic of Ireland is also concerned about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and it wishes to maintain the passport free Common Travel Area that allows citizens of the Republic to travel anywhere within the British Isles without even showing a passp...

Turning gold into base metal

content discovered on Saturday, July 29, 2017 in

There was a period in British politics where we all more or less agreed with each other. Tony Blair was a somewhat more Left-wing Thatcherite, while David Cameron was a somewhat more Right-wing Blairite. The two main parties shouted loudly at each other, but this just hid their fundamental agreement about nearly everything. At this point voting became largely a tribal matter. Did I belong to the red team or the blue team? In the end, competence or the lack of it mattered more than policies. Either party’...

Socialism is theft

content discovered on Saturday, July 15, 2017 in

In order to understand a thing you have to strip it back to its essence. The fault of too much political thinking has been that it is too abstract. It tries to impose a theoretical system on human nature rather than accept human nature as the basic building block. This is especially the case with the political ideas of the Left and it is the reason the same pattern follows whenever they are implemented. Finding that socialism/social democracy comes up against the ordinary human nature of the workers, the...

Everything is permitted except morality

content discovered on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in

We live in a relentlessly secular society. In some ways I am glad that we do. I would far prefer to live in a secular society than a theocratic one. I don’t want laws to be governed by any religion. I don’t want a government to say to me that I can or I can’t do something because of religious rules. I believe in freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe or not to believe. But I think this freedom should cut both ways. Religion should not attempt to impose its beliefs on society, but nor should soc...

The SNP goal is receding into the distance

content discovered on Saturday, July 1, 2017 in

Did anything happen this week of consequence? Nicola Sturgeon turned up in the Scottish Parliament and said something about delaying indyref2. If this meant that we would have this referendum in a couple of years’ time, then what she said would have been of small consequence. What does it fundamentally matter if we have to go through all that divisiveness again in one year or two or even three? But the moment has passed when Sturgeon’s latest threat matters very much or indeed her withdrawal or delay of ...

We must learn to be British again

content discovered on Saturday, June 24, 2017 in

Something happened to Britain in the past fifty years or so. We were famous for not making a fuss no matter what happened and we were famous for not showing emotion. When Lord Uxbridge had his leg shot off at Waterloo, he is said to have remarked casually to the Duke of Wellington that it seemed he had lost his leg. The Duke equally casually agreed with him. Both were unruffled, neither showed much emotion. It doesn’t matter if this story is true, because it used to express something about the British ch...

The frostbite of her hopes

content discovered on Saturday, June 17, 2017 in

In the aftermath of an election emotions are high, levels of spin even higher and judgement barely there at all. Politics in Britain has become uncertain. This is the third election in a row in which we have woken up to a surprise and not only one surprise but sometimes a multiple of surprises. There is a lot of noise. Everyone is trying to manoeuvre. Contradictory views are leaked to the press. Journalists are briefed behind the scenes and then when they write up the story, it is denied sometimes profan...

Bursting the SNP bubble

content discovered on Saturday, June 10, 2017 in

A few months ago there were two main strategic challenges facing Britain. How to leave the EU successfully and how to keep our country intact? There are in addition, of course, the usual challenges facing any government. How to keep the economy growing? How to earn more than we spend? How to keep our people safe? Other unexpected challenges will arise from time to time. But these challenges are different in kind from the two main ones. Leaving the EU and keeping our country intact are existential challen...

Tipping the SNP out

content discovered on Friday, June 9, 2017 in

I’m a Conservative, but above all else I’m a Unionist. Party politics is a matter of ups and downs. Our country is a different matter. I would gladly accept any defeat for the Conservatives if it made our country safer. It looks as if the Conservatives are going to lose their overall majority. But the result in Scotland is beyond all expectations. I’ll take that. I’ve hardly talked about the SNP during the campaign. This was quite deliberate. Scotland’s place in the UK would only really be secure when...

Enough

content discovered on Sunday, June 4, 2017 in

I wake up once more to find that there has been a terrorist attack in Britain. It’s the second in a few days. Is it the third or the fourth this year? How many such attacks have taken place in Europe in the past two or three years? I’ve lost count. Events are unfolding. Perhaps I should say nothing. But now is not the time for silence. Now is the time for some clear thinking. This is not acceptable. The timing of these attacks is not accidental. They are an attack on our democracy. I have no idea what...

A vote for which party helps the Pro UK cause?

content discovered on Saturday, June 3, 2017 in

There is only one thing in politics I really care about. I have lived under Labour Government’s, Conservative Governments and Coalition Governments. These things matter in the short term. But in the long term they don’t really matter. What matters is our country. Compared to the threat of our country breaking up it matters little to me who is elected. If somehow we could go back to the time when Labour won nearly all the seats in Scotland but the UK was safe, I would take that result in a second. If I...

Don't wake up to a nightmare

content discovered on Saturday, May 27, 2017 in

I don’t feel much like writing about politics at the moment. We all stopped campaigning. We did so for a good reason. How do we start up again? There is only one thing on all our minds. But no-one wants to score cheap points. Yet the alternative is to remain silent. That isn’t right also. The country needs unity, but we are in the middle of a General Election campaign and elections are about alternatives and making a choice. To make a good choice you need to think clearly. In the UK as a whole we have...

Changing the conventions of Scottish politics

content discovered on Saturday, May 20, 2017 in

British politics is about conventions. One of the most important of these is the one about a political manifesto. Few of us read manifestos. But this is not really their point. A party does write a manifesto to persuade people to vote for it. How many voters read manifestos? Rather a party uses the manifesto to justify what it hopes to do in the future. This is really why we are having a General Election at the moment. There is a convention that if something is in a party’s manifesto, then the House of L...

May points the way

content discovered on Saturday, May 13, 2017 in

Recent experience has taught everyone with an interest in politics not to rely too much on opinion polls. However, the present General Election campaign is unusual because there has been an actual poll which has acted as an hors d'œuvre to the main course on June 8th. We don’t know if the May 4th Local Election results will be completely mirrored in a few weeks’ time, but it is unlikely that they will be overturned. Of course, this is no time to be complacent. Much can still happen in the weeks ahead. Bu...

It's swing that wrecks the SNP

content discovered on Saturday, May 6, 2017 in

At the last General Election in 2015 I voted for the Lib Dems. This was partly because I thought they had done a good job as part of the coalition government, but it was mainly because I had become convinced that tactical voting was the best way to keep the SNP out. I live in the Gordon Constituency in Aberdeenshire. It’s very rural and more prosperous than most parts of Scotland. For a long time the seat was held by Lib Dem Malcolm Bruce, who is popular in the area and who did a good job as an MP. My...

A united voted for a United Kingdom

content discovered on Saturday, April 29, 2017 in

Once more there is a General Election. I’m rather tired of elections, but it could have been worse. I could be writing once more there is going to a Scottish independence referendum. A few weeks ago indyref2 appeared to be getting closer by the minute. Then it got kicked into the long grass by Theresa May telling Nicola Sturgeon that she would have to wait. Now the whole thing may depend once more on the outcome of the General Election. It’s time to think clearly. There are only two people who can beco...

A single transferable Pro UK preference

content discovered on Saturday, April 22, 2017 in

Over the years I have had minimal interest in council elections. I simply want whoever runs the council to do their job as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Ideally I would like as little party politics as possible involved in how local services are run. I would much prefer it, for instance, if I put all my rubbish in one bin and that bin went out once a week. I don’t want my council to try to change the world. In fact I want them to do as little as possible, do that little well and charge me the smal...

What if the SNP held indyref2 without permission?

content discovered on Saturday, April 15, 2017 in

Nicola Sturgeon loves to make threats. How often have we seen her put on her angry face, screw up her fists and start talking in her thickest Ayrshire accent about what she will do if her demands are not met? Her colleagues follow the leader. Every few days we see a story in a newspaper involving the latest SNP threat. Perhaps they will do this. Perhaps they will do that. Many of these stories are, of course, just kite flying. They want to see how Scottish voters will react. They want to keep everyone gu...

Indyref2 is in the long grass, we kicked it there

content discovered on Saturday, April 8, 2017 in

A short time ago it looked as if there would indyref2 within a year or so. I could feel the tension building within myself, I could sense it coming from others. If there were going to be another vote on independence next year, the campaign would begin more or less now. It would be another long and drawn out affair with the result uncertain to the end. All the old arguments would be repeated with new variants. I dreaded the prospect. It didn’t look as if anything could be done to stop this. Somehow an ...

Scotland is not a colony, the UK is not an empire

content discovered on Saturday, April 1, 2017 in

Alex Salmond wishes to inform us that “the days of the British Empire are over, and the days of British prime ministers denying self-determination to the Scottish people are over as well.” There are all sorts of odd things about this sort of statement. Most of us who have any knowledge of history are well aware that the British Empire is over. There are a few British Overseas Territories, but they are few and far between. They could hardly be called an Empire. So Mr Salmond is informing us of something w...

A defence of the UK (summary)

content discovered on Saturday, March 4, 2017 in

My essay A defence of the UK is long and detailed. But the main arguments can be summarised as follows: Introduction We must present arguments that are clear and true. Scottish politics has only one issue and is tending towards the politics of Northern Ireland. Is there a case for a single Pro UK party so that we are united against the SNP? The aim is to persuade moderate Scots. Leave the fundamentalist nationalists alone. Scottish independence involves long term uncertainty and potential insta...

Playing hardball with Mrs Angry

content discovered on Saturday, February 18, 2017 in

There’s a little woman I know who is from the Glasgow area and she always gets her own way. If there is a committee meeting she is aggressive. She interrupts. She tries to belittle the point of view of others. People avoid getting into an argument with her because rather than discuss calmly she gets emotional. She makes assertions which are really just her own opinions, but they are presented as truths. If someone crosses her she will bear a grudge, but at the same time she is a sycophant always trying t...

How to respond to Nationalist threats

content discovered on Saturday, February 11, 2017 in

Before finally deciding to campaign for Brexit, Boris Johnson prepared two articles for his regular Telegraph column. The first explained why he was choosing to vote Leave the other why he was choosing to vote for Remain. Many people would see this as a sign that his eventual decision was calculating and based on self-interest. I would hope that most of us make decisions by means of calculating the pros and cons and I would suggest that few indeed are the people that do not at least take into account sel...

Theresa May makes Sturgeon look petty and foolish

content discovered on Saturday, February 4, 2017 in

There is developing an extraordinary difference between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon. It is impossible to imagine Nicola Sturgeon going to Washington and charming everyone she meets. While May has dignity, character, politeness and obvious intellect, Sturgeon simply doesn’t. May puts her points with force, but not with anger. She is subtle while Sturgeon has the subtlety of a Glasgow handshake. I can’t recall hearing Theresa May make an overt threat. I can’t recall hearing Nicola Sturgeon have a conve...

Learning from Leave

content discovered on Saturday, January 28, 2017 in

In Scotland it’s important that Pro UK people move beyond our disagreements. Keeping up the pressure on the SNP requires us not to squabble among ourselves. Whichever way we voted in the EU referendum it’s crucial that we learn the lessons of that campaign. Obviously Remain had good arguments that can be adapted to persuade Scots of the benefits of remaining in the UK, but what may be less obvious is that so did the Leave campaign. We must think clearly about past campaigns and focus on what works. In th...

Boats against the current,

content discovered on Friday, January 27, 2017 in

I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper. Perhaps it was when I went on a long train journey. But when was that? Trains have become so expensive that it is nearly always cheaper to fly. I have a picture of myself at various points in time reading print newspapers and getting ink on my fingers. I remember how newspapers were enormous and how there was a knack to folding them so as to make reading manageable. But it isn’t as if I have stopped reading newspapers. I have a series of bookmarks on m...

The front of the queue

content discovered on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in

One of the best bits from Tim Shipman’s book “All out War” is when he describes David Cameron’s attempt to negotiate some sort of deal with the other EU leaders. The account feels already like another country as if we could look back on those days from a perspective of centuries. But then “the past is foreign country. They do things differently there.” How transient are the political events of a year ago. I had forgotten many of the things that the papers thought at the time were momentous. But then the ...

Sturgeon just revealed her hand

content discovered on Saturday, January 14, 2017 in

If you’ve ever played a card game that involves bluffing, you will no doubt be aware that it crucially depends on the players not being able to see each other’s cards. I can pretend that I have four aces only if my cards are hidden. This makes it possible for me to bluff. It also makes it possible for me to win even if I have a very poor hand. Indeed my hand may be worse than yours. It all depends on what I am willing to risk. Nicola Sturgeon has continually been telling everyone for some time that sh...

A new Act of Union

content discovered on Saturday, January 7, 2017 in

Every now and again someone in Scottish politics pops up and mentions the word federalism. This has become even more frequent since the EU referendum. Apparently the fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the EU, while England and Wales voted to Leave has caused a problem that is so enormous that we need to have a new Act of Union, still more powers for Scotland and the other parts of the UK and we need to call this new arrangement federalism. Various models of federalism have bee...

The Turning Point

content discovered on Saturday, December 31, 2016 in

Certain people I know and certain people I read have been describing the past year as something horrible. You only have to go back one hundred years to see how foolish this assessment is. Imagine you had just celebrated Christmas in 1916. There is every chance you would have lost someone during the previous years fighting. What would you have to look forward to in 1917? Well there would be further stalemate on the Western Front. The French Army would reach the limit of what it could take on the Aisne and...

Simple gifts

content discovered on Sunday, December 25, 2016 in

We know what it is like to be divided in Scotland. It is hard even to remember that time from our youths when these divisions did not exist and could not even be imagined. “O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.” Now we have gone through a year of division in the whole of our country. I never thought I would see the day in Britain where people tried to block the result of an election. But it shows how deeply they feel about the loss. So too in Scotland. It’s all too deeply felt, if not ...

Game over for the SNP

content discovered on Saturday, December 24, 2016 in

To give Scotland a different EU status to any other part of the UK would in effect be to give it independence. It might be the case that the UK would continue to exist in some odd way still technically united, but for how long could such an arrangement last? There may be examples of tiny parts of EU member states having a separate status. You can find an anomaly to cover every situation. But this is all beside the point. The SNP’s argument remains give us a status that amounts to independence or we will ...

We have the chance to kill off Scottish nationa...

content discovered on Saturday, December 17, 2016 in

Just after the Brexit vote I came back from holiday and found a string of messages from Pro UK people. They were worried. Nicola Sturgeon was continually on the television complaining about something or other. Far from encountering systematic bias from the BBC, she was getting encouragement. At least she wasn’t one of those dreadful Brexiteers. People were asking me where have you been. Some were angry that I had encouraged them to vote to leave the EU. Look what you’ve done. The pound will soon be wo...


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