Carlaw’s Schooldays

This morning’s BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Morning Call’ was presented by Kaye Adams and featured Jackson Carlaw MSP debating Scottish independence with callers. During a point made about the “secret report about North Sea oil” aka the McCrone Report, both Kaye Adams and Jackson Carlaw denied they knew about it. Carlaw’s defence was that the report was published when he was a schoolboy and “before his time”. I decided to email him with a link to the McCrone Report.

Dear Mr Carlaw,

I was recently praising your speech during the Equal Marriage Bill, entertaining and well intentioned. A few months ago you said the scaremongering from Better Together was getting out of hand, I thought that was very sensible. 

But today I heard you discussing the secret McCrone Report and seemed to deny knowing about as you were a schoolboy at the time. Very hard to believe you’d never have heard of the McCrone Report even if you have only a passing interest in Scottish politics. Do events that have happened prior to you leaving school have no influence on Scotland’s history or the debate on independence? Does the Act of Union count?

Given the North Sea oil that remains represents half the value of the total stock, the McCrone Report is still relevant in 2014. I noticed the BBC’s finest journalist Kaye Adams also denied knowledge of the McCrone Report, which is a rare blind spot in her otherwise universal knowledge of politics. 

Please, at the earliest opportunity on broadcast media, acknowledge that you are aware of the McCrone Report and respond to the question asked on today’s show: “Were we better together when the Lab/Tories hid the McCrone Report in the 1970s?”.

I include a link to the McCrone Report:

Your sincerely,


A quick response:

Dear Derek

As I tried to make clear, I was cut off from the programme during this discussion and heard none of it. By the time I was reconnected all I managed to catch was a reference to what sounded like. “Secret report in the 1970s”. This was unfortunate as obviously I have heard of the McCrone Report.

Had I understood the context I would have participated in that spirit.

Best wishes


Galloway’s Airtime

I’m not sure why George Galloway gets as much airtime as he does. I just dont understand it.

He appeared on last night Scotland Tonight and appeared to be out of touch with even the basic facts of his debating points. He constantly quoted Scotland as having 71 MPs, when Scotland has 59 MPs.

He falsely made the point that Scottish MPs frequently change the outcome of UK General Elections. When corrected, he again made the wrong assumption that this research was based on share of the vote. Not true.

Despite just about every left-wing politician being in favour of independence, Galloway is against it and couldn’t deflect the point that a No vote keeps us in a Union who’s behaviour he seems to permanently criticise. The real prospect of a fairer Scotland (based on the parties Scotland votes for) seemed to be an irrelevance for Galloway.

Is he not an MP for Bradford? What do his constituents think?

Did he not consider standing as a Irish Nationalist, in West Belfast?

Why is he on our screens? Why is Nigel Farage always on our screen? Why don’t we have more Greens on TV?

Shetland’s Oil Fund

Last week I was in Shetland for Up Helly Aa, which is a very long story in itself. Very difficult to explain but really good fun if you like: fire, vikings, drinking, dancing, fancy dress, satirical theatre and harsh weather.

If you’ve ever been to Shetland you would notice that they have fantastic public amenities. The most obvious are the sports facilities run by Shetland Recreational Trust. With a population of around 22,000 Shetland has 8 swimming pools spread over its various islands. On top of that there are numerous hockey, football, rugby, bowling and squash facilities. Now 22,000 is roughly the equivalent of Musselburgh, East Lothian which is obviously much less remote than Shetland, but its explains why sports are such a big part of life in Shetland. They compete in the International Island Games, where they take on Orkney, Jersey. Guernsey, etc.

Another notable feature is the central heating in most Lerwick houses.

Hot water is pumped around Lerwick through underground, insulated pipes and enters properties through a heat exchanger, supplying their heating and hot water needs. The heat used in the scheme is generated at a Waste to Energy Incinerator located on the outskirts of Lerwick. The incinerator at the Energy Recovery Plant burns domestic and commercial waste from Shetland, Orkney and from the offshore oil industry, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

– Shetland Heat Energy & Power Ltd

That’s right, they have their own energy company, SHEAP.

District heating is very rare in the UK only 1% of homes are heated this way. Elsewhere its far more common, 23 million people in EU-15 countries have district heating: Finland 50%, Denmark 48% and Germany 12%.

So how did Shetland manage to build these great sports facilities and implement its own district heating system that neatly solves the problem of landfill? They used the money in their oil fund. Shetland is the only part of Scotland that already benefits from an oil fund and you can tell.

The oil fund is better known as the Shetland Charitable Trust. Its investments include their own energy company SHEAP which allows the islands to plan and design an energy systems that suits Shetland. They have already invested heavily in renewables. Many of the roads and sports facilities were built from the initial fund, but there is still £500m left, that’s approx £27,000 per man, woman and child on Shetland.

The income generated helps fund whole list of public services that are either poorly funded or don’t exist at all. From the Citizens Advice Bureau, services for the disabled, those with learning difficulties, relationship counselling, transport for the elderly, the arts, the Folk Festival – the list goes on. Just take this testimonial:

“The substantial grant made to us by Shetland Charitable Trust every year allows us to provide first-class facilities and dedicated staff to underpin sporting success among people of all ages and abilities in the islands.”

– Shetland Recreational Trust
How did the oil fund come about? The first 4 mins of this video tells the story of Ian Clark who insisted the oil fund be setup. A young account who moved to Shetland in the 1960s and just happened to become Chief Executive of Shetland council when the oil needed to be brought ashore.

Shetland could be viewed as Scotland in miniature. Using the natural resources for the benefit of the entire population, fostering a greater sense of community and cohesion. More people need to know the story of Shetland’s Oil Fund.

A Letter From Finland

Dear Friend,
I’m a bit of an outsider, not being a Scot. However, I lived in Scotland for several years and still maintain a keen interest in all things Scottish, hoping to return to my country of choice one day.

I come from a country that was under Swedish rule for several hundreds of years, then under Russian rule for about a hundred years. Finnish independence is one of the most important things in my life. I cry tears of gratitude every Independence Day (6 December) that my “wee, stupid and poor” country is independent, since 1917.

The first couple of decades were quite a turbulent ride but WWII galvanised us and now, we, a small nation of approximately 5 million, are a united country. We’ve done well from an agrarian backwater to a modern industrialised and then post-industrialised country, and still a welfare state that looks after the weak and vulnerable and educates the young to the highest PISA standards and beyond – no tuition fees in our universities. We could not have done it if we hadn’t been independent.

Of course, the case for Scotland is different. Finland has fewer natural resources (like oil), fewer opportunities for hydropower (Finland is a very flat and boggy country, imagine Caithness x 10), no chance of tidal power (the Baltic Sea doesn’t have tides), we have Arctic winters (need to sell different kinds of diesel fuel summer/winter, by law two sets of tyres (summer/winter) compulsory for every car), houses/blocks of flats required to clear snow from pavements etc. Living in Finland is a real drag. All these problems, but yet we are a rich nation and are mostly happy in our own country.

From the outside, it seems that Scotland is being hood-winked into believing that it cannot stand on its own two feet while at the same time being asset-stripped to pay the debts of a dysfunctional larger neighbour. I’m baffled as to why all Scots can’t see that. I’m baffled why anybody would vote for the unionist parties. They don’t want what’s best for Scotland; they want what’s best for the UK, which usually isn’t what’s best for Scotland. Of course, there are Scottish voters who want what’s best for the UK (read London/SE), and I cannot for the life of me understand WHY. But each to their own.

The tragedy of Scotland is that it gets bogged down by UK politics and can’t fully function, realise its potential. Look to Norway – a small nation with a multitude of potential infrastructure problems including sparse population, hilly terrain and semi-Arctic climate. But they’ve made it, because of their oil and wisely spent oil revenues. Why didn’t Scotland fare as well with the oil? Because England (officially, the UK) hoovered it up and squandered most of it.

No use crying over spilled milk (or oil) now. But I just cannot understand how so many who live in such a fundamentally rich country don’t want to control their own affairs through their own government.

Maybe Finnish independence wasn’t so “financially viable” in the beginning, but sometimes you have to think with your heart, not numbers. As to Scotland, Scotland is richer in natural beauty, natural resources, education, history, just about anything (except land area) than Finland. Begs the question, why isn’t Scotland independent again? You’ve got more going for you than we ever had, and we made a success of it.

Come on in – the water of independence is lovely!

Yours fraternally,


Call Kaye

Call Kaye is the number one radio show that will drive me crazy. Its the most disgraceful example of journalism I think the BBC produce. Instead of debating an issue and spreading some light, it descends into a load of narrow minded comments usually from Kaye Adams herself.

The political debates are (as you might expect) a total travesty. Kaye herself is currently debating Ed Milliband’s speech yesterday. She is editorialising that he is a great man, with a great speech and great ideas and the media filter and the digested prevent that message getting through. I say she’s debating it, she’s pretty much complaining that Labour politicians don’t get a chance. Of course, her worst nightmare is debating an SNP policy, esp independence. Like a lot of Labour supporters in Scotland, she annoyed at the very idea of the SNP’s success.

The political debates are one thing, but one of the most shocking shows I heard recently was the show on cycling. No more a mild-mannered national hero than Scott Hastings was charged with advocating a change in attitude towards cyclist in Scotland. Its a simple idea that we should cycle more to keep healthy and cut congestion, but with that drivers need to bear cyclists in mind. Simple. But the show became an series of calls complaining about cyclists cycling on pavements, going through red lights, etc. Despite all the pro-cyclists condemning such behaviour they kept having to defend these calls. The stories became more and more incredible. One essentially accused a cyclist of knocking over his wife in such a way she was seriously hospitalised. Despite police being involved and the cyclist being known, nothing was done. Implying that the police had some how sided with the cyclists. This then lead Kaye to start raising her voice at Scott Hastings who was getting increasingly exasperated with the show given he’d hardly had a chance to make his points.

The show lacks any control. People make outrageous comments and they are effectively allowed to pass unchecked. A significant amount of callers are nakedly partisan supporters of one party or another and this is also not called into question. If comments pass unchecked, then I can totally understand that Call Kaye becomes a place for partisan caller to shout at each other. Leaving the audience none the wiser. It personally enrages me and depresses me in equal measure.

As we are less than one year from the independence referendum, its not really good enough to have this as BBC Scotland’s flagship call-in show.

Yes Newspaper


Yes Newspaper, Sept 2013

I was out today delivering these newspapers. Its actually a really good idea. I think we forget (well I do) that many people don’t get news online and newspapers are still popular amongst certain sections of society. Recently, I read a poll by Wings Over Scotland that showed very low levels of recognition for some of the most popular Scottish political blogs. I think the highest was 8%, suggesting that much of the online debate is not reaching your auld auntie. While people like me read these sites, most online news media still comes from the BBC and newspaper sites. Face to face debate and social media are where this debate will be won. 


The Fear Factor

In a series of videos by Jack Foster, he attempts to show how the debate on Scottish independence is often framed using fear. I’m glad he chose the examples he has in this episode: Joan McAlpine’s “anti-Scottish” comments and Nicola Sturgeon’s “crazy” comments. Its tragic that these comments were allowed to pass unscrutinised by the media. It’s media behaviour like this that deny us the chance to actually debate the question.

This is the third episode but all are worth a watch.

I once read how fear is the perfect emotion for a news media trying to capture your attention. This makes it perfect for a politician trying to convince you to stick with the status quo. If I talk to you in a pub, you probably won’t be concentrating too hard on what I’m saying. You might be happy, might be sad, all kinds of emotions might not change how you think. But if I said “I’ve got some really bad news for you”, you are immediately focused on what I next say. The thing is, I do have some bad news for you…

The media is not the best place to get your news and facts on Scottish independence debate. No newspapers are in favour of independence, almost all are against. Reporting Scotland and Newsnight Scotland have never lead on a positive story about independence.

That means people will have to find out some facts by themselves. Discuss independence with friends and family, engage with someone else. Considers opinions and the reasons behind them. Be open minded. Find out more. Question everything.