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Showing posts with label nuclear power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuclear power. Show all posts

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Black Ink Art of Spin by Headline – or is it just about selling papers?

I take a keen interest in media, especially print media. I am one of a dying breed – a newspaper subscriber (the the Herald/Sunday Herald) – and I believe a free press is vital to a functioning democracy. Print media may not matter as much as it once did to political campaigns (some would argue that it never has!) but despite apparently inexorably declining circulation figures, it still matters to many, and it definitely matters during the one year run-up to the Referendum.

I am not a journalist, and have no direct experience of what goes on in a newsroom, except that gleaned from news, drama, films and television, but I have some experience in my industrial career of news management – or attempts at it – by major companies and organisations, usually through journalists in their PR departments who did have inside knowledge.

My views, for what they are worth on newsroom and newspaper values and objectives (and to some extent television) can be condensed into the following core beliefs -

1. The first duty of a newspaper is to sell newspapers, just as the first duty of a politician is to get elected, and the first duty of a manager to get appointed. None of the higher, more noble objectives can be pursued, none of the key values can be expressed, nothing can be achieved until the power to pursue and achieve them has been secured, and that position, that power is always under threat.

(Many supporters of independence – I won’t speak for the other side – seem largely oblivious to these simple facts.)

2.  Journalists, editors and newspaper staff don’t own the newspapers that employ them, at least in traditional print media. They are either salaried employees or freelances, they have to earn a living, and to earn a living they have to get their work published or carry out editorial functions, etc.

3. Those who have the resources to establish newspapers, or buy existing newspapers  must have one thing only - money.

They may not be journalists, they may have no media experience of any kind, nor are they required to have political values, ethical values or a political viewpoint. All that is required of them is that they conform to the law of the land, and as we have seen recently, they don’t always do that.

As proprietors, they may or may not try to exercise influence over editorial freedom, they may or may not espouse a particular political or social viewpoint.  Examples of both extremes of involvement exist, and just about every point on the spectrum between them. Editors must make their own decisions when they accept a post where their editorial freedom is or might be constrained.

4. Exceptions or at least partial exceptions to the above are the Guardian Media Group, and the BBC – a public service broadcaster.

5. Journalists, salaried or freelance, must accept the right of the editor to alter their copy.

Whether they challenge this or not depends on the reasons advanced for the edit, and their professional judgment as to whether it distorts what they want to say, and a realistic assessment of the likelihood of being published if they do. The journalist who constantly disputes an editor’s decisions is likely to have to find another newspaper – or maybe another job.

6. A journalist and by extension a newspaper, owes a duty to the readers, to truth as they see it, to objectivity and to facts – and to the society of which they are a part.

That does not mean impartiality, or that elusive and usually unattainable concept of balance. Journalists and newspapers have the right to espouse causes, to take a political stance.  Where would the balance have been in reporting the holocaust, had the information been available at the time had we not been at war? Would Hitler and Himmler have been given equal space and airtime? The distinguished journalist John Pilger would have been shocked had he been accused of ‘balance’ in some of his most famous reports.

HOW THE NEWS IS PRESENTED

Certain facts seem evident to me as a reader and a voter, despite my lack of direct newsroom experience.

From all their sources of information, newspaper editors must decide what stories to run, their relative significance and how they will be presented.

In the ideal world that many independence supporters aspire to – understandably, since they are trying to create a better Scotland that more closely approximates their ideals – there would be rigorous fact checking, an attempt to ensure that all viewpoints are equally reflected (the elusive balance), news would be presented as news, and opinion would be separately reflected as comment. Stories would be presented in accordance with their relative significance, i.e. big, significant stories would make the headlines and the inside spreads, and lesser stories be given fewer column inches and humbler placement.

At the highest level of the Fourth Estate, this ideal is sometimes approached, but rarely completely achieved. The Financial Times, for instance, deals with the hard business of business and finance, and charges a premium price to its mainly well-heeled readers for presenting fully-researched news, data, information and informed opinion.

The Guardian, run by a trust, has a long honourable record dating back to its days as The Manchester Guardian – a newspaper avowedly of the Left, but committed to telling truth to power, investigative journalism of a high order. The Times, a paper of the right (though it might argue that it isn’t) has high journalistic standards and is rarely cavalier with facts. And there are other honourable examples among the broadsheets and the regional press. The less said about the Telegraph under the Barclay Brothers proprietorship the better.

NEWS STORIES: SELECTION, SIGNIFICANCE, PLACEMENT, HEADLINES

Here’s Hollywood’s version of a legendary editor, Ben Bradley of The Washington Post, discussing the embryo Watergate story. Hollywood hokum? In part, yes, but based on the real story as told by the reporters, so probably accurate in essence.

Bradley considers the facts, and the risks of running the story, confronting in the process the inescapable and unpalatable facts that he has to trust his reporters and they have to trust their source.

That’s a single big story. But what happens on any day in the wider editorial conference? I speculate, because I have no inside knowledge -

The editor gets his/her key staff together and considers the potential content of the paper for the following day – new, features, sport, etc. Let’s focus on say, The Herald and one item -  a political story.

The political editor and his/her team will have had a pre-meeting, checked facts, sources and made a preliminary assessment of significance, and the core story will be written, possibly with a tentative headline. The political editor will have a view of how big the story is, but the editor must decide, perhaps in the face of competing non-political stories – entertainment, world events, celebrity, Royalty – even sport, because if a sports story is big enough, it can make the front page. (Rangers ongoing saga!)

It should be noted that a paper has to run a front page story every day as its main story, regardless of whether there is a big news story or not. On a dry day for news, this can result in a relatively minor story acquiring rather more prominence than it deserves.

Catch a paper on such a day, give them a good story, properly researched and presented and a headline hook to hang it on and they’ll run it! (I have personal experiences of this in an industry context.)

Despite all the claims, however justified, of mainstream media anti-independence bias, this is a lesson YES Scotland and the SNP need to re-learn over and over again. Sadly, it is a lesson Better Together and the well-resourced and shadowy interests who bankroll them have learned all too well.

Back to my analysis and my political story scenario -

The political editor makes his pitch to the editor, and let’s say the paper is The Herald – it’s Wednesday and the Thursday edition for 12th September is under consideration. Two big stories are competing for attention: the ongoing crisis in Syria, with key talks imminent between Obama and Putin, and the Scottish Budget and the row over the Bedroom Tax impact. 

What does the editor, Magnus Llewellin, decide to run with? He opts for neither, but instead for a story from the Highland correspondent, David Ross, based on an Audit Scotland report, Renewable Energy. This report clearly has political significance, so Magnus Gardham, the political editor (who takes a keen interest, as he must, in the independence debate) would have been a significant voice in the decision to run it as the front page main story. Audit Scotland’s website headlines their story on their report as follows -

Scotland's strategy for renewable energy is clear but achieving goals will be challenging

What headline did Llewellin and Gardham decide to run?

CIMG1439

What was it in the report that led them to choose this headline from the report’s comments, topics and conclusions that they could have chosen to offer as capturing its essence? What were the other influences and considerations that led to this choice of headline, and indeed to the choice of  this sober Audit Scotland report as the front page story?

Let’s look at what quotes they could have picked from the report summary by Audit Scotland -

“The Scottish Government has a clear strategy for renewable energy that links with other policy areas, and it has made steady progress so far.”

“Renewable energy projects are progressing more slowly than expected, due to the economy and changes in UK energy policy.”

“"Scotland's strategy for renewable energy is a good example of clear leadership and direction supported by integration across other policy areas.” Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland

“The Scottish Government needs to estimate how much public sector funding will be needed after 2014/15 to attract private sector investment and meet its goals for renewable energy.” Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland

Now, I could have crafted a punchy headline from any of those, and caught the sense of what Audit Scotland and Caroline Gardner actually said, e.g.

Scots renewables policy makes steady progress, but is hit by UK economic factors and changes in UK energy policy says Audit Scotland

or

Watchdog cites good example of Scottish leadership and direction on renewables, but calls for tighter funding estimates

“… cast doubt on Scots renewables policy” is a partial and misleading comment on the thrust and conclusions of the report in my view.

What led the Herald to choose this story over, say, Syria or the Budget for the front page?

What influenced them to choose this headline?

I can think of two alternative reasons that might have influenced the editors -

1. Renewables policy is vital to Scotland’s energy policy, jobs and industry infrastructure, Scotland leads the world in renewables, Scotland has unrivalled natural resources of wind and wave to exploit renewables, and alternative energy matters to Scotland, to the UK, to Europe and to the planet.

2. Any story that can be spun to attack the SNP Government, and by extension the independence debate, and any story that attacks renewable energy and by implication favours nuclear power is worth the front page.

If the editors were driven by the first reason, they made an odd choice of headline, and should have followed up with a centre page spread offering a full analysis of the report and of renewables policy.

If the editors were driven by the second reason – and I hope, as a lifetime Herald reader and a current subscriber that they were not – then it is a bad example of spin-by-headline, something that belongs in the tabloids, a relic of the yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst.

They have just one year, as editors of a great Scottish newspaper – and as every Scot has – to decide how they can play an honourable role in the great debate, at this pivotal moment in Scottish history.

They might look to their sister paper, The Sunday Herald, to find a model of responsible journalism to equip them for such a role.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A reminder from the Brown/Calman era –March 2009 - of what will happen to us if we lose the referendum in 2014

The Scottish unionists are singing a different, siren song these days, panicked by the re-election - with an overall majority - of the SNP and now the referendum agreement - singing a song of new powers, of devo this and devo that. They’re lying in their teeth – here’s what awaits a Scotland that rejects independence in 2014 -
The Calman threat to Scottish freedom from nuclear power – and weapons (March 2009 blog)

Two things come together today in an insidious coupling - an article by Gordon Brown in the Observer entitled "We are about to take the war against terror to a new level"

and

the news in the Scotsman from Tom Peterkin, Scottish Political Editor, that the Calman Commission wants to partially reverse devolution by clawing back powers from Holyrood to Westminster, including the power of the Scottish Government to veto nuclear development.

The ostensible reason for this is the belief that the UK's energy needs can only be met by building new nuclear plants in Scotland. If this were the sole reason, it would be bad enough, exposing nakedly what the Union really means for Scotland. But the real reason is the link between civil nuclear power and the nuclear weapons industry. I covered this is some detail here on the 20th of February and I wrote to the Herald on the 21st in response to an Alf Young article.

The Gordon Brown article in today's Observer is an exercise in naked paranoia, or more accurately, an attempt to induce paranoia in the electorate by a failing Prime Minister and a failing government. One paragraph alone should send a chill down the spine of any Scot concerned for freedom.

“As the threats we face are changing rapidly, we can never assume that the established way of doing things will be enough. We will always make the necessary changes, whether through greater investment, changes to our laws or reforms to the way we do things, to ensure that Britain is protected.” GORDON BROWN

Here is my online posting to the Observer today (22 Mar 200() on the article -

Moridura
22 Mar 09, 1:03am
We lived through thirty years of IRA terror directed at our shores without resorting to the attack on our liberties that Brown has mounted. Every ruler whose coat hangs upon a shaky nail needs an enemy to deflect attention away from his inadequacies, and the more shadowy and amorphous that enemy is the better.
Does Al Quaeda exist? Of course it does, as a loose grouping of terrorist cells, but not as the mighty global entity portrayed by Brown and his ilk. Does terror exist? Of course it does. Has it comes to our shores? Undeniably, but we brought it on ourselves - in all its full, inhumane, undemocratic horror - by our own ill-considered and inhumane actions in Iraq.
People have died and are still dying to serve the overweening ambition, lust for power and vanity of Blair and Brown.
I have never voted Tory, and I voted Labour all of my life up until 2003, but Maggie and her cabinet were the targets of a terrorist attack in Brighton, yet this did not stampede her into panic reactions. I detested Maggie, and much that she stood for, but she was not a coward, and was more of a leader than vacillating, terrified Brown will ever be.
As a Scot, I have an option, and I have taken it, by joining the Scottish National Party. As I speak, the Calman Commission, a Unionist front, is trying to claw back to Westminster the powers the Scottish Government currently has over civil nuclear development. Since The Deadly Nuclear Twins of civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry are joined at the hip, the purpose of this is all too clear. It has little to do with global warming and a lot to do with WMDs.
England, wake up to what this failing regime is trying to do as it desperately tries to survive.
I have also posted on the Scotsman online comment to the Peterkin article as follows -
This must be stopped, by legal, constitutional means, and there must be public, legal demonstrations against any clawing back of powers. This is the insidious workings of the military/industrial complex, and we should have expected it. They were never going to let a little thing like democracy or the wishes of the Scottish people get in the way of their war machine.
There must be an outcry, and soon. I have been postponing my decision to rejoin CND after many years, but my cheque will be in the post on Monday.
I have written of the Deadly Nuclear Twins to the Scottish press and in my blog of 20th February 2009.
This must be stopped. They want to further pollute our country and deprive us of the right to veto further nuclear development.

Here is my Herald letter of 21st February 2009 in full - it was edited in some aspects in the Letters page of the Herald.

Dear Sir,
Alf Young (20th Feb) advances the case for nuclear power in Scotland, and criticises the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear. I am one of the very large number of Scots who, in 2007, abandoned my previous political allegiance (Labour) and transferred my vote and my commitment to the SNP. A major factor in that decision was precisely the fact of the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In spite of my strong commitment to an independent Scotland for many other reasons, I would resign my membership of the party instantly if that commitment ever wavered, however, I am sure that will not happen.
I will not rehearse the arguments against nuclear power generation versus alternative sources of energy in relation to the global warming priorities, for the simple reason that I would rather accept the energy deficit and all that goes with it – although I do not believe that this will happen – because of the link between the civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry. Every advocate of civil nuclear power generation I have read, heard, or met personally is either an advocate of nuclear weapons, nuclear defence policies and the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’, or, frankly, must be naive, and unaware or badly informed about this insidious linking of the civil and military aspects.
The facts are these, and in setting them out, I would remind readers of the famous quote by American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynahan – “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts ...”
Any country that has nuclear power has the undeniable potential to make nuclear weapons. This is why the West is making such a fuss over Iran’s nuclear programme, and was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq. The UK is a massive exporter of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment processes, and this is at the core (forgive me) of nuclear weapons production. If the UK abandoned this deadly trade and never built another nuclear power station it would be taking a major step towards reducing international tension, nuclear proliferation and creating a safer planet.
The International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is charged with investigating the regular, and sinister, transfer of nuclear material between civil and military stockpiles, but its powers are limited, and by the UK government’s own admission, its acceptance of inspection was not intended to provide an assurance that such material would not be used for defence purposes. In any case, the notorious ‘national security reasons’, the final refuge of totalitarian, militaristic governments everywhere, can be uses to stop the inspections at any time. In America, in Britain and in France, where one might assume that there were safe and secure procedure, unaccountable and unexplained discrepancies exist on plutonium. It is not just Russia that has problems of the theft and smuggling of nuclear material, not to mention inadequate and permeable storage arrangements.
I am a grandfather, and this status provides a special focus, a special viewpoint. I may not live long enough to experience the appalling consequences of our present nuclear obsession, but my children may, and my granddaughter almost certainly will. I was born in the 1930s, the decade of an unprecedented rise in militarism, and the lead-up to war. I sat in 1945 in the Park Cinema in Glasgow (formerly The Marne Cinema) as watched with fascinated horror the dropping of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its appalling aftermath. I grew up in the 1950s with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over my world. I followed with apprehension the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, when that threat became real and immediate. I don’t want my beloved granddaughter to have to live her life under this radioactive cloud.
The nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms industry are conjoined twins, locked forever in a deadly embrace, and cannot be separated. You can’t have one without the other. Until homo sapiens evolves into a greater maturity, the world can afford neither nuclear power generation nor nuclear arms. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to reject these deadly twins. Alf Young used the word ‘meltdown’ in the title of his article. I hope it does not prove prophetic in a context other than the one he intended.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A nuclear letter over three years ago …

My letter to the Herald of 21st February 2009 letter in full - it was edited in some aspects in the Letters page of the Herald. It was prompted by an Alf Young article, who then and now opposes Scotland’s independence and supports nuclear power. (Where he stands on the nuclear deterrent I don’t know.)

Since that letter, over three years ago, we have a majority SNP government, an independence referendum scheduled, and the continued implacable opposition of the SNP to nuclear weapons in Scotland, an opposition that I hope continues to include an equally implacable opposition to an independent Scotland being a member of NATO, a nuclear alliance, implacably committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Letter to the Herald of 21st February 2009

Dear Sir,

Alf Young (20th Feb) advances the case for nuclear power in Scotland, and criticises the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear. I am one of the very large number of Scots who, in 2007, abandoned my previous political allegiance (Labour) and transferred my vote and my commitment to the SNP. A major factor in that decision was precisely the fact of the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In spite of my strong commitment to an independent Scotland for many other reasons, I would resign my membership of the party instantly if that commitment ever wavered, however, I am sure that will not happen.

I will not rehearse the arguments against nuclear power generation versus alternative sources of energy in relation to the global warming priorities, for the simple reason that I would rather accept the energy deficit and all that goes with it – although I do not believe that this will happen – because of the link between the civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry. Every advocate of civil nuclear power generation I have read, heard, or met personally is either an advocate of nuclear weapons, nuclear defence policies and the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’, or, frankly, must be naive, and unaware or badly informed about this insidious linking of the civil and military aspects.

The facts are these, and in setting them out, I would remind readers of the famous quote by American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynahan – “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts ...”

Any country that has nuclear power has the undeniable potential to make nuclear weapons. This is why the West is making such a fuss over Iran’s nuclear programme, and was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq. The UK is a massive exporter of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment processes, and this is at the core (forgive me) of nuclear weapons production. If the UK abandoned this deadly trade and never built another nuclear power station it would be taking a major step towards reducing international tension, nuclear proliferation and creating a safer planet.

The International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is charged with investigating the regular, and sinister, transfer of nuclear material between civil and military stockpiles, but its powers are limited, and by the UK government’s own admission, its acceptance of inspection was not intended to provide an assurance that such material would not be used for defence purposes. In any case, the notorious ‘national security reasons’, the final refuge of totalitarian, militaristic governments everywhere, can be used to stop the inspections at any time.

In America, in Britain and in France, where one might assume that there were safe and secure procedure, unaccountable and unexplained discrepancies exist on plutonium. It is not just Russia that has problems of the theft and smuggling of nuclear material, not to mention inadequate and permeable storage arrangements.

I am a grandfather, and this status provides a special focus, a special viewpoint. I may not live long enough to experience the appalling consequences of our present nuclear obsession, but my children may, and my granddaughter almost certainly will. I was born in the 1930s, the decade of an unprecedented rise in militarism, and the lead-up to war. I sat in 1945 in the Park Cinema in Glasgow (formerly The Marne Cinema) as I watched with fascinated horror the dropping of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its appalling aftermath. I grew up in the 1950s with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over my world. I followed with apprehension the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, when that threat became real and immediate. I don’t want my beloved granddaughter to have to live her life under this radioactive cloud.

The nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms industry are conjoined twins, locked forever in a deadly embrace, and cannot be separated. You can’t have one without the other.

Until homo sapiens evolves into a greater maturity, the world can afford neither nuclear power generation nor nuclear arms. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to reject these deadly twins. Alf Young used the word ‘meltdown’ in the title of his article. I hope it does not prove prophetic in a context other than the one he intended.


Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Nuclear and Trident horror story that is Scottish Labour–the WMD party

One of two parties will form the next government of Scotland - the Labour party, puppet party of UK Labour, or the Scottish National Party under Alex Salmond.

Labour is committed to nuclear power, new nuclear power stations, Trident, nuclear weapons and WMDs - to hazard, pollution, death and destruction of all you know and love.

The SNP is utterly opposed to all of these things.

Be clear on May 5th in the polling booth where your future, the future of your families and the future of Scotland lies.



If you vote Labour, you deliver Scotland into potential nuclear catastrophe - another Chernobyl or Fukushima - and to the continuation of Scotland as a nuclear dump, with WMDs (Trident) in our Scottish waters, threatening an equally appalling nuclear risk, making us a prime target for terrorists and a nuclear strike

Vote SNP - on BOTH ballot papers - for a nuclear-free Scotland, a peaceful Scotland, a clean, pollution-free Scotland - and for a dynamic new, clean era of renewable energy, revitalising Scotland with new jobs and new industry, leading the world by utilising our natural resources of wind and wave power.

Cast BOTH your votes for the SNP - no second choices, only two clear-cut votes for the SNP and the future of Scotland - your country, your homeland, your nation - your people.

Both Votes SNP on May 5th – two ballot papers -

Two votes for the SNP


Monday, 4 April 2011

Andrew Neil advances the arguments for Scotland’s independence

Andrew Neil, of whom I rather prematurely made some complimentary comments on my blogs recently, has entered the arena with all gun's blazing last night on Newsnight and today in The Daily Politics.

All pretence at objective journalism has gone in the lead-up to May 5th, and his native Scottishness is forgotten - the Union is under threat again, not to mention screw-the-poor, favour-the-rich Toryism, so the glove are off. The London media suddenly remember the postern gate to their failing empire, the Disunited UK, and scrabble vainly to understand Scotland

But, as with so many attacks on Scotland's commitment to serve its people through first-rate public services and social benefits - coupled as they always are with sneers at the UK block grant to Scotland, and cries of "How will they pay for it all?" - it is self-defeating, because it reminds Scots of what they have and how they differ fundamentally from the UK, and manages at the same time to infuriate English voters at the perceived 'unfairness' of it all.

This creates a gradual groundswell for an independent England - all grist to the Scottish independence mill.

Keep going, Andrew, keep digging in your Tory hole - and keep trotting out the bearded one, Alan Cochrane, growling in his basso profundo,  shaking his head and expressing his bewilderment at why his countrymen don't embrace Tory values of screw the poor, suck up to the rich and privileged.

Andrew Neil also says there is nothing between Labour and the SNP - no real issues. Nothing that is except Scotland’s independence, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, WMDs in Scottish waters, and the unelected House of Lords, etc.

Of course these are minor issues to metropolitan media types, especially rich ones like Neil. They are also just a little inconvenient …

You're doing a grand job, Andra - keep it up!

Saor Alba!

Monday, 21 March 2011

A 2009 view of the nuclear question - vitally relevant to May 5th election

I made these two videos almost two years ago, in April 2009. I think most of it is still relevant and pertinent to the present debate on nuclear power, and to the choice facing the Scottish electorate on May 5th.

My view are not only unchanged, they have been reinforced several times over the two intervening years.

The only effective way for Scots to say no to both nuclear weapons and nuclear power is to vote SNP on May 5th.

Only the SNP can deliver these twin objectives in the context ultimately of an independent Scotland. The Tories and the Labour Party are totally committed to nuclear power, to nuclear weapons, to Trident , to WMDs and to the policy of nuclear deterrence. The LibDems are now an irrelevancy in the political debate, stripped of their credibility, their values and their consciences by the ConLib Coalition.

Vote SNP




Thursday, 17 March 2011

Holyrood Labour and nuclear issues - and Margaret Jaconelli

The UK and Scottish news channels and media carried the story of the wonderful, world-class, groundbreaking renewable energy development in Caol Ila, the Sound of Islay. The world, the UK and the people of Scotland welcome this pivotal project, the beginning of a new era.

I will raise a small glass of Caol Isla, the little-known Islay malt to celebrate this event.



But not Iain Gray, or the Scottish Labour Party …

Iain Gray - what a negative politician, regrettably epitomising what his party has now become - a values-free, ideas-free, vision-free, talent-free, imagination-free zone of expedient political apparatchiks.



But how many of the reflex Labour voters see these performances? How many know what they will inflict on Scotland and themselves if they elect this bunch on May 5th?

But disenchanted LibDems in search of a new political home won't find it here, unless they too have abandoned everything they ever believed in.

Wake up, Scotland - and fast! Vote SNP on May 5th.

NUCLEAR ISSUES

The enormity of the suffering visited on the Japanese people by the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunamai was bad enough, but the escalating nuclear emergency is now compounding their misery, creating a humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable proportions. This latest threat may spread beyond the shores of Japan, threatening a much wider population.

A debate about nuclear power has inevitably been triggered by this, as the growing international consensus of recent years over the inevitability of nuclear power as a global response to the energy crisis. A massive rethink is underway, as government after government, nation after nation calls into question their nuclear programmes.

Some questions may legitimately be asked about the objectivity of many of the commentators who now abound on the media. They may reasonably be divided into those opposed to nuclear power because of scientific and environmental concerns, those who support nuclear power because they believe that the safety and environmental concerns are exaggerated,  that nuclear technology has now developed to the point that it is essentially safe and clean, and there is no real alternative to the energy crisis.

But the old, old question must be asked when considering those advancing the arguments - cui bono? - who benefits?

It can reasonably be said that no one benefits, in the sense of career, profits or narrow self-interest from opposing nuclear power. An argument could be made that companies researching and manufacturing green technology and renewables benefit, but since this research technology is also supported by the proponents of nuclear power, it is a rather weak argument.

But the nuclear industry itself is a vast, global aggregation of self-interest - economic, political, research-based and career based, and most importantly of all, is linked inextricable to the defence industry and to nuclear weapons and the policy of nuclear deterrence. It is bad enough for nuclear politicians that the public may distrust civil nuclear power because of its potential to fatally damage the environment and the health of the nation through generations, but when they inevitably follow-though on this logic to distrusting the manufacture, movement and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction within their borders, and the basing and movement of these agents of unimaginable destruction in and through their bays, lochs and international waters, then they know they have a problem on their hands.

And there is the self-interest of those whose finances, jobs and careers are intimately bound up with the continuation of nuclear energy generation and also nuclear weaponry. The danger with such people is denial, doublethink, and the insidious loss of objectivity and judgement. Asking them if they believe in nuclear power and nuclear weaponry and a defence policy based on nuclear deterrence and WMDs is akin to asking a priest, a minister of religion, a rabbi or an imam if they believe in God and churches, synagogues and mosques - if they answer no, their whole raison d’etre vanishes.

Let’s consider, as an example, Jamie Reed, Labour MP for Copeland and a shadow environment minister. One interesting aspect of Jamie Reed is that, according to a recent BBC programme - if I heard right - on which he argued in favour of nuclear power, is that he is a 3rd generation Sellafield worker. I would not dream of suggesting that this pedigree influenced his appointment by a party firmly committed at top level (rather different among the grassroots supporters) to nuclear power, nuclear deterrence and WMDs, nor that the fact that he and two previous generations of his family were dependent for their livelihood on the nuclear shilling might overtly affect his decision making.

What I do say is that in any other area of politics or business, this would have required a declaration of interest, and that his objectivity might just, wholly unconsciously, be affected by this familial background.

Or we might look at a piece in today’s Herald by Anne Johnstone, headlined Why I will speak up for nuclear power.

She makes her case, as she has a right to do, albeit with some rather coloured terms, and her closing paragraph starts with “It’s time we got real.” I agree with that, if not with Anne’s interpretation of getting real.

About half way through, Anne says -

My father, a nuclear physicist,  died last month content in the knowledge that after a generation out in the cold, nuclear power was back on the global agenda.”

I’m sorry for your loss, Anne, I respect your loyalty and your respect for your father’s memory, and don’t want to seem insensitive, but since you refer to his profession and his views, I must retain the same scepticism about your ability to remain objective about nuclear power, the industry that presumably delivered a large part of your family’s income during your formative years. Had you been the daughter of an anti-nuclear protagonists or a Greenpeace activist, I might have been more  inclined to pay significant attention to  your arguments in favour of nuclear power.

Another piece in the Scotsman in the last few days was headlined, with a crassness that defies belief in the light of what Japan is going through - Such accidents may be the price we pay to keep the light on.

This comment was the work of one Malcolm Grimston, described as ‘an energy expert at Chatham House and Imperial College London’.

He trots out the now familiar, feeble, and entirely irrelevant argument that renewable technology such as wave, tidal or offshore wind power ‘would simply have been ripped from the floor of the ocean bed by the earthquake, and washed away by the tsunamai …’

No anti-nuclear protagonist or advocate of wind and wave power has ever suggested otherwise.

What they can say with absolute certainty is that they would not have also represented a nightmare threat to the environment, with evacuation zones measuring tens of miles at minimum, exposing human beings to radiation sickness and cancers that almost certainly would pass through the generations, and pose a threat to the wider global community.

Is this expert, and those of his persuasion, deaf and blind to what is happening in Japan and to the agonised and fearful comments of the ordinary Japanese people, and those beyond its shores who are also at risk? Or are they too ‘part of the price we pay to keep the light on’?

MARGARET JACONELLI

Yet again the law has found for Glasgow City Council and against Margaret Jaconelli, today at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Is this the end for Margaret? Not if she can help it, not if Mike Dailly her solicitor can help it, and not if her friends can help it.

Somehow, the law must be made to see the gross nature of the injustice perpetrated against this Glasgow grandmother by the City of Glasgow.