Are Scotland’s Psephologists Riding for a Fall?

Aside from a computer on the desk, my local betting shop has a traditional look, complete with newspaper racing pages sellotaped to the wooden walls, stubby pencils and drawn blinds. As I entered, a man with a lived-in face and an unlit roll-up cigarette protruding from the corner of his mouth was exchanging a slip of paper for some ten pound notes. Most betting here is on the horses, but I was looking to place a bet on politics. More specifically, I wanted to place a bet against the psephologists who are predicting that the SNP could take every seat in Scotland.

After Almost Losing the Union, Does David Cameron Deserve Another Term?


A major part of the Conservative’s election campaign has been to question whether Ed Miliband is up to the job. But what about David Cameron?

He is already the Prime Minister who almost lost the Union, and he is not being all that careful with it now as he sows the wind of Scottish Nationalism in an attempt to frighten English voters.

Looking back, the careless flourish with which he signed off on a referendum with Alex Salmond in 2012 looks at best naive, at worst complacent. With hindsight, Cameron’s decision to fly to Scotland to sign it handed a great publicity opportunity to the Nationalists.

Scotland’s Pal-ocracy Makes England Look Like a Beacon of Democracy


Where civil liberties are concerned, Scotland makes England look like a beacon of democracy. Scotland does not have strong independent bodies defending individual freedom. There is less emphasis on this in its education and culture than south of the border. I recently mentioned to a young friend studying Higher History that this year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. “Who’s she?” he replied. Since then, I have asked a number of others including students at Scottish universities and have yet to find one who has ever heard of this historic document which guarantees the rights and liberties of the citizen against autocracy. They have all heard of the Declaration of Arbroath but only the ‘Braveheart’ section about the yoke of the English oppressor.

In 1742, philosopher David Hume wrote: “It is a very comfortable reflection to the lovers of liberty that this peculiar privilege of Britain is of a kind that cannot easily be wrested from us and must last as long as our government remains in any degree free and independent.”


But an independent-minded observer of Scotland must conclude that civil liberties are in retreat here since the advent of a Scottish Parliament. We appear to be losing some of the recourse that citizens of Britain have historically possessed.

Lawyer Rosalind MacInnes on Freedom of Expression in Scotland



At a recent Edinburgh NUJ meeting on freedom of expression, media lawyer Rosalind McInnes, who is employed by the BBC, was on the panel. She was speaking in a private capacity about the current state of freedom of expression laws in Scotland.

Quiz about physically disabled students.

 This is a quiz from a fundraising event for physically disabled school students at George Watson’s College. The questions are based on the short descriptions of inspiring people who overcame disability as children and young people below. Answers are at the foot.



1 Whose musical feet found a path to success?

2 Who turned out to be a lot brighter than his teacher thought?


‘Dramatising Scotland’s Past’ at Scotland’s History Festival 2014

Actor and Gaelic singer Dolina Maclennan began this event at Scotland’s History Festival ‘Previously…’ with a reading from her recently published book, ‘Dolina: An Island Girl’s Journey’. http://www.theislandsbooktrust.com/store/books/dolina-an-island-girls-journey/

Maclennan read a passage about her memories of touring the Highlands and Islands in 1973 with the huge theatrical success of that time ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’ , a play about the Highland clearances, and land rights. Dolina recalled the audience member who rose to her feet to deliver a Gaelic curse to the actor playing land agent Patrick Sellar; rolling up the gaffa tape on a pencil to use it again; travelling with pots and pans and taking £5 from the cast each Thursday to feed them for the week. She linked the tumultous reception the play received in its tour across Scotland to a surge of nationalism which sent 11 SNP MPs to Westminster a year later.
James McArdle and Gordon Kennedy. Photo: Manuel Harlan

History? James McArdle (James I) and Gordon Kennedy (Murdac Stewart). Photo: Manuel Harlan
Dramatising Scotland’s Past:  free event at Scotland’s History Festival, ‘Previously…’ Adam House on November 19, 2014.

Why I believe in Britain – on the eve of Scotland’s independence vote in 2014

From Prospect magazine website, September 11, 2014. One of Scotland’s best-known plays is Peter Pan. At the dramatic moment when the fairy Tinkerbell, traditionally played by a spotlight which flickers and then seems to go out, is close to death. Peter Pan turns to the audience and says she can only be saved if the audience demonstrates that they do believe in fairies by clapping their hands, which generally results in thunderous applause from adults and children alike.

Israeli Performers and the Edinburgh festival: A Personal View

Also published in the Scottish Review on 27 August 2014

Jerusalem’s Incubator Theatre company

This year’s theme for the Edinburgh International Festival – ‘War’ – was more apposite than planned, disturbed as the city was this summer by the rumble of distant guns.

The Fringe, which took shape along with the festival in the years after the second world war, is an open access event, with every church hall and pub backroom being turned into a venue, along with temporary pop-ups, from the glamorous ‘Famous Spiegeltent’ to a tiny two-man housing the Thermos Museum. This year someone even put on a one-woman show in a Fiat, luckily a stationary one.

A defence of the Red Road flats demolition plan

Destroying the unwanted flats and using them as a metaphor for change is not a bad message to take from Glasgow’s Games, writes Jackie Kemp From the Scotsman April 8 (this plan was later abandoned). THE Red Road flats are coming down – should it be with a bang or a whimper?

How to heat ourselves and not the spaces we occupy

From the Scotsman, Dec 13, 2013. Attacking those who dare to suggest alternative ways of affording to heat homes limits the discourse, writes Jackie Kemp. A FAMOUS Punch cartoon shows a stately lady showing a guest to her room. “It’s a little chilly,” she is saying kindly. “So I’ve put another dog on your bed.”

Rome listens to flock at last

Quizzing parishioners on faith and daily life could be a turning point for the Catholic Church, writes Jackie Kemp. Published in the Scotsman November 5 2013. It is a document that may have momentous implications for the future of a venerable institution which is recognised throughout the world. Tens of thousands of Scots are poring over it, considering their own responses and how to articulate them. No, it is not the white paper on Scottish independence. It is the Catholic Church’s questionnaire on social attitudes to the family, which for the first time asks for the faithful’s thoughts on the thorny issues of gay marriage, divorce and contraception. Across the country, it is sparking discussions of difficult subjects which for many years have been no-go areas. It as if a door which had been locked tight for many years had suddenly creaked open.

You understand it? Remembrance


Published in the Scotsman Nov 9, 2013


Jackie Kemp: Honouring social remembrance

There is an argument that Scotland never really recovered from the First World War. Picture: Getty

There is an argument that Scotland never really recovered from the First World War. Picture: Getty



Recalling the devolution vote of 1979.

The current winner-takes-all referendum campaign for Scottish independence is reminiscent of the febrile politics of the late 1970s, when a minority Labour government called Scotland ’s first constitutional referendum on…

Should hospital food be free?

Spending money we don’t have on food for patients who don’t enjoy it makes no sense. There is a better way, argues Jackie Kemp. Published in the Scotsman op-ed section on August 29, 2013.

Guantananmo: bloody stain on US values.

From The Scotsman, Published on 21/05/2013 00:00

Obama’s broken promises may prove a turning point in support for US, says Jackie Kemp

EITHER the office of the president of the United States is a powerless cipher, or Barack Obama is a charlatan and a coward. I have often spoken up for America, arguing that its leadership offers the world a better future than the alternatives, so it saddens me to write these words. But no other conclusion can be reached, given the current situation at Guantanamo.

Is access to online porn harming our children?

A version was published in The Scotsman Wednesday 31 October 2012. This sentence did not appear in the Scotsman article

“Relate this week said that large numbers of young people are ascribing problems with intimacy and relationships to their early introduction to the porn industry. Covering  this, Radio One newsbeat featured a young woman discussing how her university boyfriend insisted on having rough anal sex with her while watching porn on a handheld device. She said she thought she was “weird” for not enjoying it.”

I was saddened but not surprised by a Plymouth University survey published earlier on this week showing that it has become “common practice” for children to view pornography from age 11. The academics involved called for sex education in schools to include pornography.

England’s self-obsession unwittingly revealed

Jackie Kemp’s opinion piece on National Theatre show “this House” from “The Scotsman”, published Friday 12 October 2012 

 A CRUCIAL period for Scotland has been virtually erased from history in a play about Labour’s bid to stay in power in the 70s, writes Jackie Kemp

Reading newspapers is vital.

Friday comment column from the website allmediascotland 14/9/2012

READING a quality Scottish daily newspaper remains indispensable for anyone who wants to be well-informed about Scottish affairs.