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Showing posts with label New Sunday Herald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Sunday Herald. 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, 8 January 2012

The laziness of Scottish journalism

I had planned an extended blog this morning on ‘Labour’s Last Redoubt – I’m an internationalist!’ But it will have to wait until later today, because one or two items in todays press require a quick response.

I have defended the media, especially the BBC and print journalism on a number of occasions against those who think that all media are biased against nationalism and Scotland’s independence, and that it doesn’t really matter anyway because bloggers and alternative media are going to supplant them anyway. This has led me to point out, among other things, that political bloggers and alternative media in fact feed upon media and the press, and would have rather thin blogs without them.

But I have also complained of the lack of any real investigative journalism in Scotland, and the reliance of television and the press on the same old circle of panellists and commentators – the usual suspects. An exception to this can be radio, and often the key story and insight of the week comes from radio, especially Radio Four, where the real story of the week before last broke on the Today programme on defence, and the nuclear issue for the UK of Scotland’s independence.  Here I must say that a blogger’s role in recognising the significance of this story and teasing out the elements of the debate appeared to have triggered the belated wider awareness of its significance. That blogger was me, and the blog was Nuclear bases, subs and Trident on Today programme

Anyway the press, including today’s newspapers, have belatedly latched on. Do I claim credit? No, but I claim a role. And by the way, guys, your analysis is still superficial and has still failed to grasp what really matters in the defence story. Earn your corn, for God’s sake!


A few weeks ago, I attended an SNP meeting in the old Broughton School, now Drummond Community School in Edinburgh. The meeting, on 15th December 2011, was addresses by Angus Robertson MP and Derek Mackay MSP, the two central strategists in the SNP’s independence campaign.

The meeting was no secret, and it was made clear that there was no restriction on attendance – it was not a closed meeting, and branch members were encouraged to bring along non-party guests who might be curious about the SNP and its independence strategy. The open invitation included the comment “This is no ordinary meeting as we will map out how we will help secure Scottish independence.” Indeed, Angus Robertson asked the large audience, around 250 to 300, if they had brought an outsider, e.g. a non-party, non-affiliated voter who might be interested - and if not, why not?

There was no security, no requirement to show an invitation, and those attending were simply invited to sign a guest book. At no point in the meeting was confidentiality requested or suggested, and I remember looking around and wondering where the press people were, because although I assume they weren’t formally invited, there was nothing whatsoever to have prevented them attending. I am certain that Angus Robertson and Derek Mackay operated on the assumption that, like any political meeting these days that is not enveloped in iron security measures – and probably most of those anyway – that it would be reported, and indeed probably recorded surreptitiously. There ain’t no secrets no more, if you will forgive the double negatives …

But today’s Sunday Herald, pages 6 and 7, over three weeks after this meeting took place, bursting with excitement, presents a report of the meeting billed as EXCLUSIVE BY PAUL HUTCHEON. Eat your hearts out, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward!

Paul Hutcheon breathlessly reveals his Deep Throat -

At a meeting held at a school in Edinburgh last month, details of which have been leaked to this newspaper, psychologist Claire Howell was present alongside Robertson and Mackay.”

The article goes on in similar vein, with a rash of quotes in inverted commas, to maintain the spurious air of secrecy, one which was totally absent in the structure and tone of the meeting.

Not one word of the ‘exclusive’ presented anything that was not already in the public domain. If Paul, or any other journalist had taken the bother to find out that the meeting was scheduled, they could simply have attended as an interested party – no slouch hat, raincoat, and heavily-muffled face would have been required, Paul.

Of course, for the Sunday Herald, surrendering yet again to its tabloid instincts, the story is the ‘guru’, not the open content of the meeting. After all, if you have a three-week old ‘exclusive’ from a ‘leak’ from an open meeting, you do have to try and make it look like something. Journalism is a hard game these days, and anything is better than getting off your arse, out of the office and doing some real digging.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Glasgow, Labour, the SNP, and carpetbaggers …

I have had my moments with Gerry Braiden of the Herald, mainly over the reporting of the Dalmarnock outrages directed against the Jaconellis and other families, businesses and of course the shocking callousness of Glasgow City Council over the closure of the Accord Centre for disabled children.

But I believe in crediting good, objective journalism when it makes its rare appearances in the Scottish Press, and Gerry Braiden’s exclusive yesterday – Labour axes ‘old guard’ – was an example of that.

It reflects the inchoate panic of Glasgow Labour as it faces the terrible prospect of its control of Glasgow City Council being wrested away from them in next year's local elections, a fear that must be exacerbated by  the recent Ipsos MORI poll on Scottish Public Opinion and voting intentions.

However, Labour might take a crumb of comfort from alleged infighting among SNP Glasgow councillors, if Tom Gordon’s piece Fresh blow for SNP bid to take over Glasgow in today’s New Sunday Herald is accurate.

I can forgive my party many things, but if they blow their chances to remove Labour from the GCC, and wreck the last best hope of the people of Glasgow, I will find it hard to swallow. Maybe someone will reassure me …


I have had some fun on Twitter over Murdo Fraser’s plan for a new Scottish Greed and Privilege party -

moridura Peter Curran

Murdo Fraser's New Unionism sounds a bit New Labour-ish. Could he not have called it New Imperialism? New Jingoism? NeoConism? Naechanceism?

moridura Peter Curran

Murdo Fraser will outline plans to "kill independence" and "break the SNP" at his campaign launch next week. Who, the Tories? Aye, right …


However, Rosanna Cunningham calls for due seriousness, in case he is on the ‘right’ lines, to coin a phrase. David Mundel, on BBC News today, looking even more rabbit-in-the-headlights than usual over a grainy, out of synch link from Skype, clearly doesn’t like Murdo’s big idea. The virtual death of his party is as nothing to him compared to the fact that, as the sole Scottish Tory MP in Westminster from a party contemptuously rejected by Scots, he nonetheless is taken seriously by the big boys, and thinks he plays a significant role in government.

I have always found David Mundel to be faintly risible, and he did nothing to dispel this today. Quotes -

Membership of the Union ---- is a very strong suit in our armour ---“

A new party is not a silver bullet that turns the problems round …”

Wearing a suit under your armour is not to be recommended, David, although if anyone can carry it off, you could. Silver bullets are for killing werewolves, and they were used to great effect in recent years at the ballot box to kill off a great threat to the Scottish people, namely, the Scottish Tories.

Back to Scottish Labour, who, if the Glasgow SNP can get their act together, will face a hail of silver bullets at the 2012 local elections. Murdo Fraser’s New Unionism leaves the way clear for Scottish Labour to re-brand itself as The Scottish Labour and Unionist Party, under the leadership of one or another of the carpetbagging hacks from Westminster. The name change would simply formalise things, for this is what they have been for some time now.

For those not versed in American history, the carpetbaggers were cynical and opportunistic politicians who move from the North to exploit the South. Labour is busy reversing the compass in this respect.