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Showing posts with label Duncan Hamilton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Duncan Hamilton. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Nonsense on negotiation and James MacMillan/Joan McAlpine

The papers today -

Scotland on Sunday has a piece on page 7 - Lecturer sparks race row by linking absence of riots to lack of minorities. As soon as I saw this headline, I guessed who the lecturer would be - Dr. Stuart Waiton of the University of Abertay. A quote and a link will suffice -

“However, Waiton accused detractors of ‘wallowing in bulls**t victimhood’ and backed historian David Starkey, who said the riots had happened because too many white people had adopted ‘black attitudes.”

See an earlier blog of mine on Dr. Waiton. As for Starkey - nuff said …

Elsewhere in the paper, Duncan Hamilton has an article on page 15. I am an admirer of Duncan Hamilton, and he has a lot of pertinent things to say, including about negotiation, something I will return to later. But he does use a phrase I wish he hadn’t  - the silent majority.

This phrase, once used of the dead, has been subsequently utterly discredited by populist politicians, and notable by Richard Nixon. Anyone can claim the support of the silent majority because they are - well, silent. And that’s all we know about them, Duncan - until they vote, and even then we have to rely on guesswork or some aspects. As for me, I know the silent majority always silently agrees with every word I say. My problems are with the sometimes all-too-vocal citizenry - but that’s an inconvenient fact of democracy.


I do claim considerable expertise in negotiation, both as a  practitioner and a teacher/trainer. In politics, a kind of primitive negotiation goes on within political institutions, and from what I have heard and seen of it, primitive is the word. This must be caused by the new generation of politicos, many of whom have never done and real commercial or industrial work in their lives, having entered fresh from the egg clutching their PPE degrees.

This all too often means that they have never received either formal training in negotiating skills or actual experience at the negotiating table itself. (It also leaves them wide open to the snake oil salesmen and women in motivational consulting - getting in touch with their inner selves, hugging trees and kissing daisies, and imbibing a load of dubious psychobabble about left brain/right brain. This has one - and only one - very tangible outcome - the enrichment of motivational consultants.)

So when politicians talk about negotiation, draw a long breath. (I exempt practitioners of diplomacy from these strictures - diplomacy is negotiation between sovereign states, and it is usually at least conducted by professionals.) If we leave aside the unionist nonsense about ‘Scotland has two governments’, the reality is that Scotland, in the capable hands of Alex Salmond, is to all intents and purposes negotiating with the UK government as if both were sovereign states, even though that status is aspirational only for Scotland. In a country seeking independence, this is the only possible posture.

Few journalists understand negotiation, but some do, like Duncan Hamilton. As a former politician, he uses the language of negotiation uncharacteristically well, and has grasped its core concepts, and in good analysis, he asks the question - a highly pertinent one - Is the desire for a Scottish Electoral Commission a deal breaker. He says no, I say, it probably should be, while perhaps just leaving a tiny possibility that it could be negotiable.

Elsewhere in SoS, Kenny Farquarson talks journalese about negotiation, and says nothing of value. I’ve gone off Kenny Farquarson, and doubtless he has gone off me. But the cartoon above his piece, by the mordant Brian Adcock says more about negotiation than Kenny does.

The Sunday Herald has a 13-page report, with good, solid journalism, the always balanced and relevant Iain Macwhirter, and I can only suggest that you read it - and do it by buying the paper, which needs the circulation. If you think you’ll ever get this depth online if such a newspaper ceased to exist, dream on. A key medium, vital to our democracy would be lost for ever if print journalism went.


I have this to say - I stand squarely with Joan McAlpine in what she said. Regrettably, some misguided nat bloggers, in an attempt to defend her, have sunk to Labour’s level in contemptible personal attacks on Douglas Alexander. In so doing, they have discredited our cause, and have been no help whatsoever to Joan, who as a journalist, always maintained the highest standards.

But here we have James MacMillan, Scottish composer, claiming that the SNP are anti-English, and of stoking up anti-English sentiment.  This is the man who made all the running about sectarianism in Scottish society, which he appeared to confine to anti-Catholic sectarianism, which although it undoubtedly exists and has the highest number of recorded sectarian acts against the religion, is not the only sectarianism that disfigures aspects of Scottish life and sport.

His claims about the SNP are arrant nonsense, although no one would deny that every political movement has its nutcase fringe element, and that anti-Scottish remarks occur in England and anti-English in Scotland.

However, how can this man then permit himself to indulge in this disgraceful comment, without accusations a gross hypocrisy.

“Ayrshire-born MacMillan went on to claim that the SNP fuelled anti-English sentiment, citing McAlpine’s remarks. He added that he had met McAlpine once, saying: ‘All I can remember about Ms. McAlpine was her whiney Glaswegian accent, de rigueur for parish-pump-envy-and-grievance politics in these parts, and so beloved by the rest of the country. Not.”

It’s hard to know where to start with that offensive, class-based, dripping with contempt for ordinary Scots remark. I have been arguing that prominent Scots should come out and say where they stand on the great debate over Scotland’s independence. James MacMillan is a distinguished composer and a great artist. But if he cannot find a better way than this to express his anti-SNP, Unionist position, perhaps he should remain silent. Great artistic talent is no guarantor of political maturity, or even good manners, as history show all too clearly.

This was a contemptible statement, James. I won’t demand an apology - anyone who could frame such a remark is incapable of giving one. Can I just remind you that Joan McAlpine’s remarks were directed at other Scots, not at the English? She said that the effect of their posture was damaging to Scotland. So are your remarks.

Maybe you should just stick to the music …

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The GUU debate - This House believes in an independent Scotland

Last night, STV, to their credit, provided a live feed from the Glasgow University Union debate on the motion that This House believes in an independent Scotland. Unfortunately, I missed John Nicolson's and Frank McKirgan’s opening speeches for the motion and Kevin Sneader opening for the opposition. (The sound quality of the STV feed was OK but the video was appallingly poor. Quite why it should be so hard to transmit an adequate image across – in my case - miles or so, when we can transmit perfect images across the globe is not clear to me. Still …)

The motion was defeated, and that says nothing about the likelihood of Scotland achieving its independence, any more than the notorious Oxford Union debate motion of 1933, “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country", passed by 275 votes to 153, said about Britain going to war in 1939.

The general atmosphere of the debate was that of a self-congratulatory, complacent establishment elite, well lubricated by the national beverage, having a re-union with auld acquaintances, kilted, sporraned, privileged and utterly remote from the brutal realities of life for many Scots in 2011.

The underlying atmosphere, however, was a very different one, that of a complacent elite who had done very nicely, thank you, out of the United Kingdom, uneasily aware that they were fast becoming irrelevant to their country -if indeed they regarded that as Scotland - and that they were on the wrong side of history.

This was pointed up by the composition of the teams. The team for the motion included a journalist, two lawyers and a politician, and the opposing team  a vice-president of Proctor & Gamble, two directors of management consulting firms and the MD of a venture capital company: three out of four of the opposing team were not resident in Scotland and not eligible to vote in the referendum.

I would like to give more time to analysis of this debate, not because it in any way predicts the outcome of the referendum – nor would it had the vote gone the other way – but because it was very revealing as to core elements of the unionist argument, and the kinds of people who are advancing it. Unfortunately, I cannot do this in full because of the speakers I missed. I hope for a repeat  of the recording, or a transcript being made available.

But I will offer my impressions, based on what I did hear.

One of the opposition speakers, Gordon Peterson, former rugby internationalist and now ‘innovation consultant’, after announcing that his wife and mother were in the audience, then opened with an anecdote of a pre-marital sexual adventure with a transexual that involved “heavy pechin’” and closed with a reference to a wet dream. However hilarious this kind of content might be at all-male rugby dinners and ‘innovation consulting’ engagements, it seemed to me not only inappropriate for a mixed audience, one containing his wife and mother, but also deeply irrelevant to the debate. But it seemed to go down well enough with the GUU audience. Perhaps standards have changed …

But let me come to a more significant point. Austin Lally, the second speaker opposing the motion made the following remarkable statement as his core argument for retaining the Scotland in the UK.

Scotland has a purpose in this world that transcends her borders … If we choose to leave the UK, we will leave behind a conservative, Atlanticist, eurosceptic, intolerant, permanently conservative rump, which will change the balance of power in England, which will change the balance of power in Europe, which will be a bad force in the world. My argument is that Scotland can lead the UK, the UK can lead in Europe, and we can make the world a better place, and fairer place, in line with our destiny.”

Austn Lally, advancing this extraordinary argument was clearly of a Labour persuasion. Leaving aside the fact that it is probably deeply insulting to the people of England, Wales and  Northern Ireland, it in fact contains the central reasons why Scotland should get out of the 1707 Union as fast as possible.

A few figures -

Out of 650 seat in Westminster, Scotland has 59 – just over 9%. The 2013 review proposes 600 seats, of which Scotland will have 52 – just under 8.7%

It doesn’t take an Einsteinian grasp of mathematics to assess just what influence that represents if the UK had a truly representative democracy, with proportional representation. But we don’t, thanks to the Tories and a significant block of Labour MPs and Lords, including our very own Lord Reid, who mounted a virulent campaign to protect the first past the post system. (Of course, this same group installed a form of proportional representation for Holyrood that would neuter the SNP. Didnae work, did it?)

As a result of this, we had a Labour Government dominated by Scots for 13 years, whose contribution making the world “a better and fairer place, in line with our destiny” was to increase the gap between rich and poor, increase child poverty and launch two destructive wars – one illegal – and wreak death and destruction on innocent men, women and children of two other countries, while killing a significant number of British soldiers in the process. So much for the morality of Labour, which may be summed up in two words – Blair and Iraq. As for the morality of Westminster, the expenses scandal that rocked the nation revealed a greedy, amoral, unscrupulous political class feathering their own nests, one in which criminal Scottish MPs and Lords featured.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the latest YouGov poll is summed up in a Scotland on Sunday headline today as English move away from being British. They have every reason to – being British - i.e. being part of the corrupt conspiracy undemocratic of wealth and power called the UK - has delivered them into the hands of unrepresentative Scottish carpetbaggers called the Labour Party for 13 years, and now an unhappy and incompetent Coalition of rich and privileged men and women who are busy destroying the jobs and the fragile economic base of the most vulnerable, while protecting the rich and their own narrow circle of friends and financial backers.

Professor Murray Pittock, closing for the proposers of the motion – the pro-independence team – summed up the debate perfectly. He observed that in the 28 years since he had first stood at the lectern in such debates, nothing in the arguments of those opposing the independence of their country had changed. “Then the argument were about devolution: now they are about independence – and they are the same arguments the same objections. The same tittle tattle of fear, bad jokes, insults and shouting …”

That about summed it up. I hope this will be re-broadcast – Scotland should hear it and judge.