On 18th of December 2014 at Area C Coffeehouse (occasionally known as “The Common”, Lesley Riddoch and Eberhard “Paddy” Bort talked about the way things are done in the rest of Northern Europe, and how we’re not doing them that way in Scotland.

It was a very engaging and fascinating evening. The evening was hosted by Jamie Szymkowiak and Sarah Beattie-Smith on behalf of The Common Weal.

Here you can hear each of the speakers, as well as the Q&A session that followed:

Lesley Riddoch talks about how the potential of Scotland compared with Nordic countries such as Norway.

Eberhard “Paddy” Bort talks about Local Government Structures and how they affect people’s real lives in countries such as Scotland and Germany.

A very interesting Q&A discussion about local democracy, and what the heck can be done about it in Scotland.


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On Sunday 23 November, Lesley Riddoch, famed broadcaster and journalist, came to South Leith Parish Church and addressed us on the subject of “Another Media”, discussing Scotland’s changing media in the aftermath of the recent independence referendum. I recorded the audio, with the permission of the organisers, Leith Walk SNP Branch.

You can listen to the talk here:

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“New brooms sweep clean” or so they say. On the other hand, what do “they” know anyway?

Labour’s Relationship with Scotland – It’s Complicated

Johann Lamont

Johann Lamont

The “Scottish” Labour Party will certainly be hoping to make a clean sweep of the 2015 General Election in Scotland, anyway, so perhaps that’s why it’s no coincidence that the “leader” and “deputy leader” of “Scottish” Labour have both stepped down this week, giving a full six months for whoever is elected to the roles to shake hands and kiss babies. Six months is, of course, long enough to do a lot of smiling, and get a lot of column inches written about you, but unless you’re completely incompetent, it’s too short a time to really stuff anything up too badly, especially if you’re not in government… isn’t it?    Read More →

Out Of The Blue

I recently attended an excellent panel discussion entitled “Changing Scotland’s Media” hosted by Word Power Books at the Out Of The Blue Drill Hall in Leith. The panelists were Sarah Beattie-Smith, Robin McAlpine and Dominic Hinde, and the discussion was chaired by Christopher Silver.

It was very interesting, and the main focus of the discussion was how Scotland’s media can and/or will change in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum, and why.

You can listen to the whole thing here:


The sound quality of the recording is a bit ropey because the place was packed to the gunwales, and the air conditioning was blasting away throughout. You should be able to hear what everybody says though, i hope. In the wake of the recent Scottish Independence Referendum that tested the media like never before, join a selection of journalist and thinkers for a panel discussion on how to build  a modern and dynamic media fit for the twenty-first century.   ROBIN MCALPINE is Director of Common Weal, Editor of the Scottish Left Review and author of No Idea: Control, Liberation and the Social Imagination. He is also the editor of Common Weal: All of Us First.   DOMINIC HINDE is one of the founders of the Post Collective, a translator, freelance journalist and doctoral student specialising in Scandinavia an Northern Europe. He is a contributor to Scotland 44: Ideas for a New Nation.  SARAH BEATTIE-SMITH is the co convener of the Edinburgh branch of the Scottish Green Party and co-editor of Bright Green. She is a former producer and presenter on Referendum TV and has written for National Collective.  CHRISTOPHER SILVER is a journalist and a film maker. With Jack Foster he has written an independent film about Scottish politics, The Fear Factor, and has produced a feature length documentary on the referendum campaign, Scotland Yet. He will chair this forum. Read More →

So as you’ll be aware, last week i emailed the Smith Commission, which anyone can do until 31 October, to voice their views about what should be devolved to Scotland in the wake of the immense promises of federalism and home rule that were doled out like sweeties to the No voters in the run-up to the recent Scottish independence referendum. Please do it now, if you haven’t already.

I thought some more about it and realised there were a few more things i wanted to suggest. I also read somewhere that since submissions from the public were likely to just be skimmed, it might make sense to send each point you want to make in a separate email. I just sent my additional concerns in one further email, but please feel free to send several emails if you wish.

I still think full devolution of all aspects relating to Scotland's oil fields, on and offshore, is the only way forward.

I still think full devolution of all aspects relating to Scotland’s oil fields, on and offshore, is the only way forward.

Incidentally i also read that on Friday 18 October only 4,000 submissions had been received by the Commission. To me this means that 1,613,989 people who voted Yes have not sent anything in, and that’s assuming all the submissions are from Yes voters (which is unlikely). Perhaps all the Yes voters think it’s a waste of time, and they won’t bother. I have also seen people saying they couldn’t possibly add anything to the what 4,000 people that have already emailed in have already said.

Look, we all know we’re not going to get anything like home rule, so when this process breaks down and Scotland gets stitched up, we need to show that Scotland engaged with the process. That means taking five minutes NOW, THIS WEEK, before it’s TOO LATE, to send in your submissions. ALSO, if it does deliver a better system for Scottish government, how can you honestly pass up the chance to positively affect that process?  Read More →

If you live in Scotland it’s pretty much your duty to email the Smith Commission and have your say on what you think increased devolution for Scotland should look like.The deadline for you to send your thoughts in is 5pm on 31 October so do it now, and don’t be late.

I just did, and here’s what i said (below). I didn’t mention every single thing, for example i didn’t mention fracking or borrowing powers, i didn’t go into detail about Education, Health or oil, for three reasons, firstly i know plenty of people will mention those issues, certainly there are plenty of petitions specifically asking the Smith Commission to consider each of these issues, and secondly issues such as fracking, which are very relevant at the moment, are certain to come up during the Smith Commission’s deliberations. While the SNP’s submission to the Smith Commission does not contain any mention of fracking specifically, it is a hot topic for the Green Party, and the news has been full of people’s concerns and more specifically the Scottish Government calling for a halt on fracking activities within Scotland until the outcomes of the Smith Commission are known. Thirdly, my position is pretty much that more or less everything should be devolved, and i spell that out quite a lot in my letter, so it seemed a little pontless to go into every specific area individually. Read More →

It’s three weeks now since Scotland had its independence referendum. 45% of those who did vote (1.6 million voters) voted Yes to independence, and 55% (just over 2 million) voted No, although polls suggest that one in four of those voted No on the understanding that substantial additional powers would be devolved to Scotland (the leaders of all three UK unionist parties, in Scotland and at Westminster, as well as backbench MP Gordon Brown “guaranteed” this).

The Smith Commission has been set up to consult on what additional devolution for Scotland should look like, and if you are reading this prior to 31 October 2014, i strongly suggest you put your views forth now on what that devolution should consist of.

Hope Over Fear, Glasgow George Square, 12 October 2014

Hope Over Fear, Glasgow George Square, 12 October 2014

Massive demonstrations have taken place since the vote, in Edinburgh and in Glasgow, and it is clear that the Scottish independence movement has gone from being a minority cause, to a mainstream movement over the last year or so. For the pro-independence supporters, the result of the referendum may have been disappointing, but the result of the campaign has been a resounding success. Read More →

I’ve heard it said a lot recently that Labour are “finished” in Scotland, but what does that really mean? Are they really finished in Scotland? Should they be?

The History

It can’t be denied that for generations now the Labour Party has commanded a huge share of the votes, and parliamentary seats, in Scotland. Recent years have seen the Labour Party’s popularity decrease sharply, however. The Labour Party has turned its back on its own values as well as the needs of the people it claims to represent. Times have changed, since the Thatcher years. We all in Scotland breathed a sigh of relief when Tony Blair’s government won in 1997, but by the time he was illegally invading Iraq, despite the vast majority of the whole UK being against it, it was clear to most that Labour may have changed with the times, but not necessarily in the way we wanted.

Vote For Keir Hardie - Labour Party Values

Vote For Keir Hardie – Labour Party Values

It is often said that Scotland is predominantly left wing. I’m not sure. Even if that is true, i think it’s more accurate to say Scotland is predominantly social, politically speaking. We favour values which allow the whole community to thrive, because we know this is best for all of us. Throughout the 20th century, it was easy to see that Labour epitomised that, with their pro-working-class ethic and power-to-the-people attitude, not to mention their stranglehold on the trade unions. But with the working class being at least conceptually replaced by the middle class(es), so to speak, the class based structure of politics had broken down by the beginning of the 21st century, at least in the minds of many voters. Read More →