Category Archives: Scotland

Govan Graving Docks

A couple of weeks ago I had a look round Govan Graving Docks. The docks were built in the 1870s,  expanded in the 1890s, and were in use for the repair and refit of ships until the 1980s. The Buildings at Risk Register describes the site as an “outstanding complex, unique in Scotland.” They are a Grade A Listed Site and they include a Grade A listed building in the site, the Pump House for Docks 1 and 2. There was another Pump House for the very much larger dock 3 but that building has been bull-dozed. All that remains of it is a pile of rubble and a large hole in the ground alongside of Dock 3 with the remains of the pumping equipment.

The site has changed hands a few times since the docks closed down. In 2006 they were bought by New Vision Ltd for its investment potential. The owners of a Grade A site are meant to keep the site in good repair. But  Grade A Site notwithstanding, these docks are now derelict. Here’s what the remaining Grade A Pump House looks like:

The Property Developer’s Proposal 

One option for the site is to develop it for housing, offices and hotel space. New Vision – having let the site go to rack and ruin for over a decade presumably waiting for it to generate a big enough profit for them – currently have a planning application in to Glasgow City Council for a scheme that includes over 700 flats in several ten storey buildings on the site. The application was meant to have been decided a few months ago but no decision has yet been announced. There have been significant objections to the plans by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and Historic Scotland.

A postponement of the decisions by the planning committee is perhaps a good sign for those folk who want a different future for the site.

Opposing the Property Developers are The Preservationists

Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative (CPDI) are campaigning against New Vision. They have some interesting information about the company’s possibly ropey finances in their Planning History Summary. But their main concern is that despite Glasgow’s former position as a major world ship-building centre, yet Glasgow has no museum or other heritage  centre dedicated to that history. Their plans are for the Graving Docks to be the focus for a maritime history development. Indeed, as they point out,  Govan Docks is the only site left that could be home to such a heritage development. They have put up prize money for a competition open to architectural students to develop design concepts for a maritime park at the docks.

Then There is the Shipbuilder’s Proposal

Ferguson Marine Engineering, a ship-building yard further down the Clyde in Greenock, have submitted a separate notice of a very different planning application for the docks. They propose re-opening at least one of the docks and using it for repairs and refits again. Currently if Scottish-based ships need repairs they have to go south to England for suitable dry docks. Basically Ferguson’s proposal would bring ships back to the Clyde again. It would also bring jobs and apprenticeships back to Govan. Ferguson also suggest that other parts of the site, which is large, could be developed by other groups for a maritime history centre and other cultural and leisure activities and possibly some of the site could be used for affordable housing. Glasgow Life reported on the proposal here.

Meadowbank Granary

Glasgow’s Other Clydeside Developments:

There are several examples of large scale property developments which have been built on the river. The Glasgow Harbour comes to mind built after demolishing the massive and iconic Meadowbank Granary complex. By the way, it’s not a harbour by any stretch of even a developer’s imagination. The flats are nice enough, I’m sure. But they sit on their own – no shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and cut off from nearby Partick by the busy traffic of Clydeside Expressway.

Braehead Retail Park further west on the river did  have a maritime history centre in it. But the Clydebuilt Museum was closed on 16 October 2010, after Capital Shopping Centres withdrew an annual subsidy that was an original condition of planning permission for Braehead Shopping Centre. Can they do that sort of thing with no come-back? The not very memorable building is now occupied by a Krispy Kreme doughnut store which opened on 2 December 2015. 

In fairness there are some very good developments along the river. But they weren’t built by property developers. They have mostly been built and funded by public concerns like  Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government, and others. The Riverside Transport Museum designed by Zaha Hadid, the Science Museum even if its tower has never opened to the public, the SECC. And the Hydro Arena though that was funded by SSE, formerly Scottish & Southern Energy. There is a new small private development just opened immediately across the river from the Graving Docks. It’s a distillery and it’s based the renovated Pump House for the now filled-in Queen’s Docks. It’s a smashing building. And it could be twinned with the Graving Docks Pump House if it were to be similarly renovated.

What I Think

It seems a no-brainer to me.  Ferguson Engineering can get some of the docks up and running again and they are signalling that they would work with other groups, like CDPI, to develop other parts of the site.

The Graving Docks could be the site for a reopening of a heritage centre like Clydebult but much, much better. 

What is Glasgow City Council’s role for Govan in all this?

The Council have a clear concern to provide good housing for the city. Good office accommodation. Good hotels. Good leisure facilities. Attracting good jobs. It must be a thankless job at times and I appreciate the people who stand for the Council.

Govan is a part of the city that has seen much of it’s main employers – in engineering and ship-building – close down over the years. BAE Systems is there in the old Fairfield Shipbuilding Yard and there’s a small heritage centre about Fairfields. Harland Wolff Shipyards used to stretch right along the Govan waterfront. All gone now and replaced by social housing in the 70s.

During my walk round the Graving Docks I got talking to a local man who worked in a small car repair shop next to the graving docks. I asked him what he thought about the various proposals for the site. He knew about them, he’d gone to the public meetings about them. His view was that anything would be better than how the site is just now.  He also said that people need good housing and he’d try to buy a flat if any were built on the site. Clearly the Council will regard his needs and those of other Govan folk as very important. So let’s build good affordable housing stock on part of the dock site, houses that chap can afford to buy and will appreciate living in. But is he right in saying that anything is better than the current derelict state of the docks? I don’t think so.

The city’s motto is “Let Glasgow Flourish” and the current informal motto for the city is “People Make Glasgow”. There could be a third motto along the lines of “Looking After Glasgow’s Heritage.” A century and more ago Glasgow’s philanthropists, some of them Govan shipbuilders like William Pearce and John Elder, gave money for parks and libraries and community halls. These days not so much.  If our Council doesn’t look after our city’s heritage, who will? 

We have an industrial heritage and ship-building was at the heart of it.  During WW2 Stanley Spencer, the UK official War Artist, spent time in our shipyards drawing the men and the ships. We have a heritage of social history associated with the shipyards as those of us old enough to remember Jimmy Reid know. We have an architectural heritage. Glasgow City Centre is a great Victorian and Edwardian building development. It’s also the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and we know just how his legacy has nearly been lost in two fires at the School of Art. 

Lachlan Goudie is a Scottish artist and TV presenter. He has made documentaries about some of Glasgow’s heritage. He presented the BBC documentary about Stanley Spencer’s Clydeside paintings, some of which are in the Riverside Transport Museum. He’s had a recent exhibition of his own paintings done in Scottish shipyards.

by Lachlan Goudie

His latest programme is a BBC documentary called “Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Glasgow’s Neglected Genius”. It’s somewhat telling that Mackintosh, a world-renowned architect, can be described as being neglected by his home town. At the end of the programme, Lachlan Goudie makes a telling comment. He is standing beside the Clyde, somewhere near Pacific Quay, looking at the riverside buildings opposite and he says this:

“But in Glasgow, even in his worst nightmare, Mackintosh can’t ever have imagined that the future would look like this. …. Mackintosh was all about designing buildings that learnt something from their environment, learnt something from the history and context of the place in which they were built .

And here we are at the very heart of Glasgow, by the Clyde, the river that gave Glasgow its identity, its pulse, its history and its future. And it’s a desolate wasteland of the most incompetent architectural carbuncles These are homes for people and they just look like bits of space junk that have been deposited here. This is the Glasgow style  of today and I think Charles Rennie Mackintosh would be deeply disappointed.”

So Dear Councillors of this Dear Green Place, remember your Victorian and Edwardian predecessors, remember the shipyards and the men who worked in them, remember Mackintosh your neglected architectural genius – and most of all remember to build in a way that learns from our environment, from our city’s history and from the context of the places where you are building. And most of all, apply all that to Govan Graving Docks. Even derelict, it is still a hauntingly striking place. Have a look at this video and just imagine how you could honour its history and its heritage. 


“In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.” Oscar Wilde

In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody – was it Burke? – called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.

Oscar Wilde. From The Soul of Man under Socialism

A few weeks ago I felt demoralised after watching First Minister’s Questions from Holyrood. Normally when I watch FMQs I’m not demoralised. I may be frustrated at the now-to-be-expected narrow party political point-scoring indulged in, by Ruth Davidson in particular. I may be recalling with nostalgia past FMQs when Annabel Goldie was the Scottish Tory leader because, although I disagreed with pretty well all of her political views, at least she articulated them in an honourable and truthful way. I think Ken Mackintosh, the Presiding Officer, should be stopping the misinformation and spin being indulged in by some questioners. But today I was just demoralised with it all.

Why? Some background ..

Continue reading “In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.” Oscar Wilde

Photo Flaneuse 6: Mary Barbour

(Posted 29Apr2018)

I was over in Govan this week and had a wee walk round Govan Cross where the latest example of Glasgow’s public art was unveiled a month or so back. It’s a statue, actually a group of statues to celebrate Mary Barbour. It’s unveiling is significant for several reasons. It’s one of only four Glasgow statues of women, the others being Queen Victoria in George Square, philanthropist Lady Isabella Elder in Govan’s Elder Park, and down beside the Clyde Dolores Ibarruri, who was dubbed “La Pasionaria” (the Passionate Flower) because of her leadership to the Republican and Communist movements during the Spanish Civil War. 

That’s quite a spread: Royalty, upper class local philanthropist, Spanish political revolutionary, and working class activist who was one of the early 20th century Red Clydesiders.

Mary Barbour became a town councillor in 1920. One of the first group women to be elected. And she served as a Baillie and then Magistrate. But she came to prominence when she led the 1915 rent strikes  when, the Govan women – many with their men away in the First World War trenches – were faced with rent rises and being thrown out of their homes if they couldn’t pay them.  Mary led marches, she led shipyard men to the factors’ offices and successfully demanded the extra rent back. Christine Finn wrote this poem for an exhibition in 2011 called “26 Treasures” in National Museum of Scotland. It was inspired by one of the treasures, the rattle that Mary Barbour used in the rent protests.

Here’s the photos:

I was in two minds about the installation. I liked the idea of the set of figures, Barbour in the lead and the others following along behind, some holding placards. The thing is though that I drove past the statues several times and my impression was of a wee, smaller than life thing. And I thought maybe it didn’t do her justice. I mean just  50 metres away from the Barbour statue is a statue of William Pearce, a 19th century ship builder and designer whose wife built and bequeathed the Pearce Institute to Govan. The Institute is just across the road from his statue and it’s a vibrant social hub.  The Pierce statue is not wee. It’s a very typical piece of Victorian larger-than-life statuary  showing William Pearce in confident pose no doubt satisfied with his latest ship launch just a hundred metres away on the Clyde. And I’m sure he would have liked his wife’s bequest in his name.

And to be honest when I walked over to it, I was still rather disappointed at the modesty of the Barbour statue. Did they not have the money for something a bit bigger? Well maybe not, a lot of fundraising was required to commission it. Did they not want something a bit more imposing? Well, again, maybe not. Maybe they wanted something human sized and approachable. 

And, well, it is human sized. It is approachable. And it’s in an open space. People and kids walk by it on their way to the Underground Station, or the bus stop, or the local shops. She’s not on a high pedestal. Just a foot or so of pink granite. And she does feel like one of us. And so she was.

So maybe the statue has after all given her a fitting memorial, and restored her to the place she claimed for herself a hundred years ago.

Baroness Wilcox’s Expenses

(Posted April 2018) This was doing the rounds of Facebook the other week, especially Scottish Indy group pages. This woman apparently claims our hard earned cash to pay for her travel to the House of Lords from her house just round the corner. This appeared on the Facebook group page Pensioners for Indy and it had been shared from another FB group page called Rolling Thunder.

Continue reading Baroness Wilcox’s Expenses

Indy Meme Culture

dictionary definition: meme (noun) 

1. an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one     individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means. 
2. an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

I wrote some background about Indy Memes in a post Indy Memes: True or False. I included an example of a false meme. Good memes are definitely a good thing… they spread accurate information in a way that’s easy to understand and share. False memes spread disinformation and sometimes fake news, even if they are genuinely meant to persuade people to support Scottish independence.

Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. One selective pressure is not ‘liking’ or sharing false memes on social media. Another pressure is debunking them. 

I voice my opposition to false themes by explaining why they’re inaccurate and unhelpful. But I am also interested in why people post them on social media and how they get under our skin in the way they do. And they certainly do have an impact because they are shared round and round social media. Often the same meme re-eappearing every few weeks or so.

This page follows on from my original post and shows up some Indy  memes, asks if they are true, and wonders how they impact on us.


Click on the images to find out more....







Indy Memes: True or False?

dictionary definition: meme (noun) 

1. an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one     individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means. 
2. an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

Or this from Wikipedia:
A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

I log into various Scottish Indy groups on Facebook. There are lots of ‘memes’ in these groups. Most of them are positive, often funny, sometimes inspiring.  Here are a few taken from Yes Scotland’s Future.

There are other memes though which are attempting to communicate something but which are doing it by disseminating misinformation. I’m not going to go far as to say that their creators are deliberately lying. Or cynically trying manipulate other people. I think it’s likely that most of the misleading memes are genuinely intended to spur others to come over to the Yes side of the Scottish constitutional debate.
I think it’s only fair that whoever first creates a meme needs to have thought about and researched their topic. At least to have googled it. I think it’s also fair  that people who share a meme over social media also need to consider how likely it is to be true or false.
Having said that, it’s also true that the aspirations and emotions behind these memes are shared by all of us who want Scotland to be its own independent country. But the question is: are those aspirations well served by misleading slogans and posters?
Look at this one:
Two statements and an image.  And the “You Yes Yet?” and “The Way Forward” slogans at the bottom makes it clear what the aim of the poster is. Behind what you see here are some basic facts about Scotland and being Scottish:
  • we Scots make one of the best, most appreciated, and sought after drinks in the world. No, not IrnBru. Whisky. 
  • it’s an iconic part of being Scottish
  • it carries a great deal of cultural and social weight here. It’s what you offer your guests when they come through the door. It communicates values of friendship and trust.
  • whisky is exported all over the world and to some extent it carries those Scottish cultural memes with it

As well as those cultural associations, whisky produces a lot of revenue from the various ways those exports are taxed. It will be a significant part of an independent Scotland’s GDP and revenue stream.

This is where things get muddy. HMRC does the sums about the UK’s trade. The UK’s trade. There is no Scottish HMRC which does the sums for Scottish trade. Instead what we have are a series of estimates made by HMRC. It can’t be an easy task because although Scotch is made in Scotland, it is exported from ports all over the UK. It’s probably often sold on to secondary firms elsewhere in UK who then arrange for its export from, say, Felixstowe or Liverpool. Add to this practical nightmare, it seems that in the past HMRC didn’t count anything as a Scottish export, or a Welsh export, unless it did leave through a Scottish or Welsh port. I’m saying ‘seems’ because I have no way of confirming that actually happened. But it is widely held to have happened. And more to the point, it is still held to be happening now.

The meme works because it plays into a sense that Scotland is treated unfairly by the current tax and financial arrangements. Something that we create and which has value to us is somehow lost to us. It doesn't count, literally. And it's not a big step from that to "we don't count".

Hence the the two statements on the poster. The first statement is true. But whatever export accounting system that HMRC may have used in the past, the second statement is definitely false.

 This is what I commented when this meme appeared on the Pensioners4Indy Facebook page last month:

I’m as much in favour as anyone else in this group to get accurate figures for Scottish economic activity. But this is just not true. Or I should say it’s mostly not true, and it’s all untrue as stated in the poster above. Please don’t share it.

If a Scottish company exports its product even if it goes via a port in rUk, then HMRC classes it as a Scottish export.

What does appear to be true is that if something is exported from a Scottish company to a separate company elsewhere in rUK and then that second company exports it from rUK, then that ‘second port of export’ won’t count towards Scottish export figures.

You don’t have to take my word for it, just google “HMRC Scottish exports” and you find this on the HMRC website:

Are Scottish goods which are exported via ports from the rest of the UK counted as international Scottish exports?

Yes. The ESS publication measures the destination of goods exported from Scotland regardless of the port from which they leave the UK.

How are Scotch Whisky exports treated?

All international exports relevant to Scotch Whisky are counted as Scottish exports, irrespective of the port at which they depart the UK. The data is sourced from the HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics report.

Scotch Whisky exports to the rest of the UK are estimated based on GCS responses, as HMRC do not collect information on trade within the UK[1].

How does ESS treat the situation where Scottish goods are initially exported to the rest of the UK, and subsequently re-exported?

The ESS estimates only capture the first point of export. This means if a good is exported to a company in the rest of the UK and that company then exports it somewhere else, ESS will only capture the export to the rest of the UK.

Direct sales from Scottish companies to international destinations are counted as international exports regardless of where they leave the UK.

 After a couple of days, with quite a few ‘likes’ appearing on my comment, the original post was deleted by whoever posted it. I counted that as a success. Though I have to say that before it was deleted it had been shared about four times. On that basis it wasn’t a success. And if those shares were themselves shared then by this time it will have appeared in hundreds of Facebook posts. 
Now if you’re reading this and you’re someone who does share Indy memes on your Facebook page then you might be feeling a bit grumpy or offended with me. If you are, I don’t mind that. It might be  good thing if it makes you  hesitate the next time before you click that share button. 
If you’re now wondering about other misleading Indy memes, look under the Indy Snippets tab at the top of the page. I’ll add them there as I come across them.

Indy Meme Culture: Passion, Reason & Debate

I’m linked in to a number of Facebook groups which support Scottish Independence. I see a lot of what’s posted in these groups. I reckon that there’s lot of overlap between me and the other people in the group in terms of our aspirations for Scotland. Also in terms of our sense of humour. Also in terms of our politics.  There’s a bit of mild abuse directed towards Tories in general and towards Ruth, Theresa and Boris in particular. On the whole we don’t think much of Labour’s new saviour Mr Corbyn. Nor his Scottish lieutenant, Richard Leonard. And mostly we don’t even bother to mention the Scottish LibDems or any other LibDem variety. But of course we like Nicola and her cohorts. And we also approve of the Scottish Greens.

It’s true that hese groups are echo chambers for like-minded independence supporters. There aren’t even many unionist trolls to be seen off. But we also inform each other, bring news from elsewhere to each other’s attention, promote events and fundraisers, and cheer ourselves up when yet another inaccurate mainstream media item hits the headlines. Some people in the groups are a dab hand at creating great posters. Some of us like me write on our own blogs and post to the groups.

But every now and then I see stuff that is completely wrong factually. Continue reading Indy Meme Culture: Passion, Reason & Debate

Matching Scotland to EU/EFTA : Populations and Size

Scotland makes up exactly one third of the total area of the UK. And it’s getting on for two thirds the size of England. (Actually 62%.). Population is where England massively outnumbers the other three home nations with 84% of the UK population.

Some time back I posted about my irritation with the map that BBC Weather people used. Some of my friends thought I was being overly picky. It’s only a map, they said. What does it matter if the foreshortening makes Scotland look a bit smaller that it actually is. Well OK, but it was more than a ‘bit’ smaller, it was as a certain US President might say ‘Hu-uugely’ smaller. Look below, I proved it to them by matching up the BBC version  of the UK (the green filled map on the left below) with a photo of  UK taken from the International Space Station. I matched up the south coast of England and discovered that according to BBC the Orkneys were about the same distance north as Crieff is from the ISS. Now I’ve used maps a lot and I know about the foreshortening effect. But a lot of people don’t. For a lot of people the map they see most often is a weather map. Would anyone think from that weather map that Scotland makes up one third of the UK? Aye, right!

A few weeks back the Beeb stopped using that foreshortened version and started using one (on the right below) which is very similar in proportion to the ISS photo. And picky or not, I reckon the knew map gives a very different and more accurate  sense of just how big Scotland is in comparison to the rest of the UK. 


Honey, I shrunk Scotland!!

Anyway all this got me wondering about how Scotland matches up to the EU27 and the EFTA4 countries. Obviously a few of them – France, Germany, Spain – are much larger countries with larger populations. On the other hand some of them – Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg – are pretty small with small populations. Turns out that Scotland is pretty average among the EU/EFTA countries.


We’re also pretty average when you look at populations. There’s a bunch of similarly sized populations Ireland, Norway, Slovakia, Finland, Denmark and we’re in the middle of those. And in fact of the 32 countries, including Scotland, most have populations of less that 10million people.

Of course some countries are more densely population than us. I’ve missed Malta out from the population density chart as it’s so densely populated at 1410 people mer sq km, that it skews all the rest.


Now if you notice, there's one country that Scotland matches up with pretty well in terms of size, population and population density and that's Ireland. In fact if we were in a country dating website, Scotland and Ireland would be each other's most likely partner!!

Police Scotland – Crisis Hit? Stormy? Or Crime Rates Lowest in 40 Years? You Takes Your Choice…

Crime Falling, Police Scotland Doing an Excellent Job, reported No-one.(Except John Robertson in Talking Up Scotland and possibly other online bloggers. And possibly The National.)

Recorded crime is at its lowest level since 1974. The total number of crimes recorded by the police in Scotland in 2016-17 was 238,651. This is 3% lower than the level recorded in 2015-16. Crime has been on a downward trend in Scotland since 2006-07, having decreased by 43%. This continues a generally decreasing trend in recorded crime in Scotland, from a peak in 1991 when crime reached a record high of 572,921. (ScotGov Report, Sep2017)

And what does our Scottish media tell us? (My bold emphases)

Well this week, the Scotsman said, quoting Scottish LibDems:

‘MSP urges independent review of crisis-hit police: Police Scotland today faces calls for an independent review into its operation in order to trigger an “honest conversation” about where it has gone wrong over the last five years. For five stormy years, Police Scotland has been mired in controversies that have seen the departure of two chief constables, rows over police accountability and concern over operational policing.’

And BBC Scotland said, quoting Scottish Conservatives

‘Police Scotland in particular has faced criticism over a number of issues. The service is currently looking for its third chief, while the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – one of several bodies created by the legislation – is on its third chief and third chairperson.’

And STV News said, quoting Scottish Labour

The committee must assess how this turmoil has affected policing and public safety.The SNP Government must acknowledge these issues and their own mistakes to improve Police Scotland over the next five years, rather than the same old intransigence they have shown over the past five years.’

Though STV also said, having done a bit of research and quoting Scottish Government official figures:

‘Despite criticism, national statistics published this week show crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third and 58% of respondents said police were doing a good or excellent job.’

"..assess how this turmoil has affected policing and public safety"...says Scottish Labour

Oh please yes, let’s do that. Though it makes you wonder why Scottish Labour didn’t do it for themselves since it only took me a minute to google Scottish Crime Figures. But they will have their reasons, I dare say. 

So here are the facts about crime in Scotland

There’s an upwards blip in the Scottish crime figures in 2004. This is because the criterion of what constituted a serious crime was changed and some crimes, which hadn’t been categorised as serious before 2004, were recategorised as serious. 

And just for interest here are also the crime figures for England and Wales. Spot the difference?

This first thing that struck me about these two sets of figures is how similar they are! And then how much crime has decreased in the whole of the UK in the last 15 years. So really police forces everywhere deserve a bit of praise, eh? Or at least if our Scottish Conservatives, LibDems and Labour politicians – let’s call them Scottish Unionists for the sake of brevity – are worried about Scottish policing they should also be feeding equally concerned stories about the state of policing in England & Wales to the media.

If you look carefully at the two sets of figures though you’ll soon see evidence that in fact our Scottish Unionist politicians should really be much less worried about policing in Scotland. Or to put it another way, perhaps they should more concerned about policing in their beloved Union. 

Look at 2016: in 2016 there were just under quarter of a million reported crimes in Scotland. And there were about six million recorded crimes in England wales. Yes, if you read this blog you can probably tell there is a comparison pie chart about to appear. (See here for other pie charts.)

and here’s another one I did earlier:


So let’s do some assessing of policing and public safety:

  • has there really been ‘turmoil’ in Police Scotland? Well it’s not good that two Police Chiefs have come and gone in five years. And it’s not good that the Scottish Polics Authority is on its third Chairperson. I don’t know how this compares with rUK but that doesn’t really matter. It’s clearly been a tough five years bedding in our new nation-wide Polis unitary force.
  • reported crime is down to its lowest level in 40 years in Scotland, and it’s much the same in England and Wales.
  • per head of the population, reported crimes in Scotland are half what they are in England.
  • per head of the population, there are one and a half times as many polis men and women in Scotland as in UK as a whole.
  • What do people feel about safety and crime? 58% of Scots say that the Polis are doing a good or excellent job.

I rest my case!! But I’m not holding my breath waiting for this is be reported in the Scotsman, BBC , Herald, or even STV though at least they did a bit of research themselves. Wouldn’t it be great to have a Scottish media who are even-handed in their reporting?

38 Degrees: Why I’ve Stopped Signing Their Petitions

Over the years I’ve responded to many a plea from the online petition organisers 38 Degrees and added my name to many of their petitions. And I’m sure that they have shone light on unfair practices, targeted unethical actions, and righted wrongs. But I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with them.

The Self Congratulations

It started about a year back when it seemed to me that they began sending extremely self-congratulatory emails with statement of this ilk:

We’ve done it! After months and months of campaigning by 38 Degrees members and many others, the Scottish Government have said: “Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland“. (Link)

The one about fracking particularly annoyed me. It certainly implied that 38 Degrees with some months campaigning could take much credit for the ban . Whereas in fact the ban came about after some years of an interim moratorium on fracking, applied by the Scottish Government through its planning powers. During those years, ScotGov set up a body of advisers to examine scientific evidence on how fracking would impact Scotland given the particular geology of the fracking areas,  to identify any problems likely to arise from opening fracking wells, and to look into the  legal situation of imposing a complete ban. There was an official public consultation process so that anyone in Scotland, individual or group, could add their views. Local communities in areas likely to be impacted by fracking were consulted. So yeah, over the space of some months 38 Degrees organised an online petition and added it to the body of evidence being collected. But ScotGov hardly needed brought to its senses by 38 Degrees. 38 Degrees didn’t put up the money involved in all these years’ background efforts. And 38 Degrees won’t be paying the legal fees if fracking companies take ScotGov to court.

The Over-Statement

Then in January, they sent out an email implying that NHS Scotland was on it knees.  This is what it said (bold fonts as in email)

Dear Marlene

Scotland’s NHS needs our help. New figures show that in one week this year almost 1,500 Scots were forced to wait more than 8 hours – and some as many as 12 hours – to be treated in A&E departments. [1] That’s just not good enough.

The Scottish Government say the flu crisis is to blame. [2] But this is a problem that’s been bubbling under the surface for a long time. [3] Scotland’s NHS simply needs much more money to provide the world-class service our country deserves.

The Scottish Government is working out the details of its new budget at the moment. [4] That means there’ll be intense conversations behind closed doors to iron out the details of where money will get spent. If we can get our voices heard in those debates,we can make sure our NHS gets the money it needs.

Will you sign the petition telling the Scottish Government’s health minister to make sure our NHS gets the funding it needs?

Things might not be as bad up here as they are down south. But that isn’t much consolation to someone stuck in a waiting room for 12 hours.

People in Scotland deserve the best healthcare possible – and right now, that isn’t what we’re getting. Whether it’s waiting times, or local hospital services facing cuts, it’s clear that our NHS needs much more funding that it’s getting right now. [5]

It doesn’t have to be this way. If enough of us speak up, we can show the Scottish Government that they need to take bold actionand give the NHS the money it desperately needs.

Will you sign the petition now to get our NHS the funding it deserves?

[1] Daily Record: A&E 12-hour wait shame continues as flu chaos continues to strain NHS.
[2] The Telegraph: SNP Health Minister: Scottish flu cases have doubled but NHS problems here not as bad as England’s:
[3]You can read more about issues the NHS is facing in Scotland here:

The Independent: NHS winter crisis: Lanarkshire health trust drafts in office workers to help with cleaning amid soaring demand for A&E services:
BBC: Scottish NHS ‘urgently’ needs long-term staffing plan:
Scotsman: NHS Scotland staffing time bomb as one in five Scots nurses over 55
PlanetRadio: Highland hospitals closure threat sparks huge demonstration:
The Scotsman: Hospitals and NHS Scotland facilities ‘may need to be axed’:


[4] BBC News: What does 2018 have in store for Scottish politics?:
Summary of draft budget: Key points at a glance:
[5] The Telegraph: A&E chiefs from 68 hospitals warn patients are ‘dying in hospital corridors’ amid ‘intolerable’ safety risks:

I keep in touch with what’s happening in NHS Scotland, mostly via John Robertson’s excellent website “Talking Up Scotland”. I know that NHS Scotland is more than keeping to it’s targets for waiting times. It’s doing much better than NHS in other parts of UK. I get highly irritated with statements such as :

“Scotland’s NHS needs our help. New figures show that in one week this year almost 1,500 Scots were forced to wait more than 8 hours – and some as many as 12 hours – to be treated in A&E departments. [1] That’s just not good enough.”

Things might not be as bad up here as they are down south. But that isn’t much consolation to someone stuck in a waiting room for 12 hours.

Well, 38 Degrees, that’s just not good enough. The waiting times are not about being stuck in a waiting room. They are the time for the complete process of being admitted to A&E to be discharged after treatment or transferred to non-A&E ward. If the total admittances to A&E on some unspecified one week this year  were 1501, well yes then clearly, 1500 of them waiting more than 8 hours to be seen, treated, transferred or discharged would not be good enough. But if the total weekly admittances were 30,000 then 1500 is  5% of the total meaning that 95% of patients were seen, treated, transferred or discharged within 8 hours. And yes, 38Degrees, it’s good to give references but your reference for this figure is the Daily Record. Now, call me picky but if you’re going to bandy about numbers then OK you might begin by reading something in the Daily Record but you really need to delve into the official statistics to verify it.

For example here are the A&E statistics for A&E admittances in first three months of 2018:

To put that into perspective, in the week which began on Hogmanay, 21% of A&E admissions had to wait more than 4 hours before either being treated and sent home or being admitted to a non-A&E ward. That 21% corresponded to 5600 people. The other 19,700 got treated in less than 4 hours. Of that 5600 people, 1461 (about 6% of the total) had to wait more than 8 hours and of those 1461 folk 463 (about 2% of the total) waited more than 12 hours. So that first week of 2018 is roughly comparable to the state of affairs that 38Degrees is starting a petition about. But we know what we Scots get up to in and around Hogmanay. We get drunk. We fall over. We head out on office parties in the snow and ice. And the rest of us get the flu! Come on 38Degrees, Is it  fair to use statistics that are comparable to the effects of our favourite 2-day holiday break?

By the way the average NHS Scotland A&E performance so far this year is :

13% wait more than 4 hours.

2% wait more than 8 hours.

1% wait more than 12 hours.

And remember that’s not how long someone waits in the A&E waiting room. That’s how long it takes to get admitted, treated, and either transferred or discharged. You can check the figures at ISD Scotland. PS You won’t find them in the Daily Record

Context, Context, Context 

Context is important. It’s only fair that if you ask folk to sign a petition you tell them about the context for your concern. You know, like telling me that on one week it taking more than 8 hours to be discharge 1500 patients from A&E is comparable to what our A&Es has to deal with at Hogmanay! 

So let’s have a look at some other context about NHS Scotland. Oh look, it seem that we have twice the number of nurses per head of population as the rest of the UK.

What about GPs?

Not quite as good as the nurse numbers but still a quarter more GPs for us Scots than my English friends and relatives have access to.

The Nuffield Trust has done a detailed study of called “Learning from Scotland’s NHS“. Here are some of it’s conclusions:

  • Scotland has a unique system of improving the quality of health care. It focuses on engaging the altruistic professional motivations of frontline sta to do better, and building their skills to improve. Success is de ned based on speci c measurements of safety and e ectiveness that make sense
    to clinicians.
  • Scotland’s smaller size as a country supports a more personalised, less formal approach than in England. e Scottish NHS has also bene ted from a continuous focus on quality improvement over many years. It uses a consistent, coherent method where better ways of working are tested on a small scale, quickly changed, and then rolled out. Unlike in the rest of the UK, this is overseen by a single organisation that both monitors the quality of care and also helps sta to improve it.
  • There is much for the other countries of the UK to learn from this. While comparing performance is very difficult, Scotland has had particular success in some priority areas like reducing the numbers of stillbirths. Scotland’s system provides possible alternatives for an English system with a tendency towards too many short-term, top-down initiatives that often fail to reach the front line. It also provides one possible model for a Northern Irish NHS yet to have a pervasive commitment to quality improvement, and a Welsh system described as needing better ways to hold health boards to account while supporting them in improving care.
  • Scotland faces particular issues of unequal health outcomes, and very remote areas. There are pioneering initiatives to address these, like the Links worker programme and Early Years Collaborative to support people in very deprived areas, and use of video links for outpatient care on remote islands. These should be considered in other parts of the UK facing similar issues.
  • Scotland has a longer history of drives towards making different parts of the health and social care system work together. It has used legislation to get these efforts underway while recognising that ultimately local relationships are the deciding factor.  There is much for England and Wales to learn from this.

In the face of this in depth analysis, maybe 38Degrees should be asking us Scots to support a campaign to improve NHS England?

Is there nothing wrong with NHS Scotland then?

As the Nuffield people also point out, NHS Scotland is grappling with some hard pressures and has to make some hard choices. One is the pressure of providing care out of hospitals so that bed-blocking doesn’t add to waiting times for operations. That’s a pressure facing the NHS everywhere. Audit Scotland has quite a lot to say about taking action on integrating health and social care in its NHS in Scotland 2017 Report. Not heard of the Audit Scotland? Maybe 38Degrees haven’t either since they don’t include them in their references. Here are some of the Scottish Auditor General’s responsibilities are: 

  • examine how public bodies spend public money
  • help them to manage their finances to the highest standards
  • check whether they achieve value for money.

Have a look on page 6 and the following pages on their views on integrating social care.

Finance is the other problem for NHS Scotland. According to Audit Scotland

  • in 2016/17, the health budget was £12.9 billion, 43 per cent of the total Scottish Government budget.
  • Health funding continues to increase but NHS boards had to make unprecedented levels of savings in 2016/17, at almost £390 million, as operating costs also continue to rise.

Scottish health budget is primarily funded from the Westminster block grant to Holyrood. The amount calculated and allocated to ScotGov is a ratio which depends on the amount of NHS spending in the rest of the UK. That’s all and well, except that NHS England is privatising more and more of its services – eg a GP Practice may be owned by Virgin Health. So if the amount of public health spending is being reduced proportionately in England then that is reflected in the amount allocated to Scotland despite there being no such privatisation of NHS Scotland’s services. And on top of the effect of privatisation in health services, there is the general austerity policy of the Westminster government which beings about decreases in ScotGov’s budgets overall. 

All NHS has performance targets. Here is how NHS Scotland is getting on. It’s taken from the Audit Scotland report, page 22.

I’ve looked diligently for an equivalent chart for overall NHS England performance but I can’t find one. However here is a King’s Fund report on how England’s A&E Depts are getting with reaching their 95% target for seeing people in less than four hours.

 In December 2017, 77% of A&E admissions to Type 1 Depts had to wait longer then 4 hours to be seen. All Scottish A&Es are Type 1 Depts. Note that this report talks about  waiting to be seen. It doesn’t say anything about how long to be treated and discharged or tranferred. It’s possible that the performance is the same as in Scotland and it is about being seen, treated and discharged from A&E. I haven’t been able to find out. However it is clear that NHS Scotland reaching 90% is doing better on reaching the 95% target than NHS England is hovering around 85% on average.


NHS Scotland is bearing up. It has problems. It also has a very proactive Government at Holyrood who are trying their damndest to support the NHS and help it stick to its original vision set up 70 years ago in 1948. That in itself is a big advantage over NHS England where chunks of its services are being tendered out to private interests who are in it to make money.

38Degrees people may be trying to support NHS Scotland. But they need to:

  • give proper context to their assertions. It’s not on to create a whole campaign on the basis of quoting one bad week for NHS Scotland.
  • make sure they know the definitions of the terms they are using. Waiting times in Scotland are not about how long someone is sitting in the A&E waiting room. They cover the whole process from arriving at A&E through being treated to being discharged. 
  • cut back on the emotive language. In other words don’t ‘Cry Wolf’ unless there actually are wolves.
  • provide accurate facts and figures to back up their assertions. It’s not difficult. I found the references in this post in a few minutes of googling.

I’ll stop there. Up your game, 38 Degrees, if you do I might sign your petitions again.

Scotland 8% of UK Population: Too Wee, Too Poor?

I’m a fan of John Robertson’s website Talking Up Scotland. If you search for ‘8%’ on his website you get a list of his posts where he gives various examples of how Scotland, with 8% of the UK population, repeatedly achieves much more per head of the population than rUK. 

I used one of his posts, about the number of nurses in Scotland compared to England , to make up this visual: 

It proved popular on various Indy supporting Faceboook groups and I know that it’s been shared around quite a lot. So I thought I should produce a set of such visual aids for other examples where Scotland punches above its weight. All of them give a reference for how you can find the original data if you’re so minded. Most of them are taken from Talking Up Scotland, some I’ve found myself. 

I’ve tried to compare Scotland with whole of the UK. But to be honest, England is so much the biggest share of UK, that adding in Wales and NI doesn’t make that much difference to the overall percentages.

Here they are. Don’t know about you but it makes me think that the “Scotland’s too wee and too poor to be an independent country” slogan is just not true. Well I’ve never thought it was true but it’s good to have some examples of just why that slogan is such as insult to what we’re already doing for our society, never mind what we could do if we held all the political lives of power in our own hands.


Siberia Comes to Glasgow

It’s not often that Glasgow gets snow, snow and more snow. But it has just happened. Siberia came to us. Here’s the proof.

Things are slowly getting back to normal. Slowly being the operative word. I got my walking boots and crampons on yesterday to venture out for some milk. Nae milk to be had! McColls had none. Coop had none. And somebody told me that Sainsbury was still closed. Fortunately this morning, McColls had had a delivery and my coffee is white again.

And my car is appearing from under the 25cm of compacted snow it’s been hiding under. And she’s all charged up again, bless her!

And one from the BBC The Social YouTube channel : The Snow Day

Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It.

Why are Holyrood and Cardiff introducing EU Withdrawal Bills of their own when Mrs May has one Ring to Rule Them All (except for the DUP) in Westminster? Sorry, I should of course have said she has one Bill for the strongly and steadily united United Kingdom.  I watched the introduction of the Scottish Bill to find out more. After Mike Russell spoke on behalf of the Scottish Government there was a series of responses from party spokespeople and from individuals. The clips shown here are a breakdown of various statements and questions and each clip should play for a few minutes but in case they don’t,  then I’ve given you the start time for that question.
Mike Russell (photo from his website) is Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, usually shortened to Brexit Minister. Here he tells MSPs what the Bill is intended to do, why it is necessary, and why it is urgent. (start time 16.17)

Below: Adam Tompkins of Scottish Tories declares the Scottish Tory opposition to the Bill on the grounds of it being unwelcome and unnecessary and then  asks three specific questions of Mike Russell:

Below: Neil Findlay pledges Scottish Labour’s support for the Bill and lays the blame squarely on the shoulders on David Mundell and ruth Davidson for the current unsatisfactory situation regarding the UK Bill. He has some concerns regarding the time available to debate it. Don’t know why he apologised for his shambolic keyboard skills! (Start time 16.37)


Below: Patrick Harvie pledges the support of Scottish Greens, describes his view that UK Parliament has handled Brexit utterly incompetently and already eyeing up various powers to retain to themselves. He expresses his appreciation that further time for debate has been included, and asks Russell to confirm that any withdrawal of this Bill – assuming that agreement is reached with the Westminster Withdrawal Bill – will be a decision for Parliament and not only for the Scottish Government. Russell confirms that it will be a decision for Parliament. He also informs Patrick Harvie that this Bill reintroduces  the Charter of Fundamental Rights unlike the the Westminster Bill. (Start time 16.42)


Below: Joan McAlpine, SNP, asks for some more details about reintroducing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. (Start time : 16.47)


Below: Not sure if Tavish Scott pledges Scottish LibDems support or not but he does deplore the lack of an agreement emerging from talks with Westminster. (Start time : 16.44)


Below: Then we get Bruce Crawford’s heartfelt reaffirmation of the  basis of devolution as set up when Holyrood was reestablished in 1998 and his request for a statement that there will be no agreement to any diminution of Holyrood’s powers.  Mike Russell does not hesitate in giving him that assurance. (Start time: 16.49)


Below: Mairi Gougeon, SNP, asks how Mike Russell will work with the other devolved administrations to ensure no diminishing of devolved powers. Russell speaks about the identical interests of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and regrets that no Northern Irish voice is now present at the Joint Ministerial talks in the absence of a Stormont Adminstration. (Start time: 16.52)


Below: Donald Cameron Scottish Tory asks something. Can’t be bothered to listen again to find out but don’t want to be accused of not including Conservative opinion.  (16.54)


Below: Richard Lochhead states his support for the Brexit Secretary but asked him to play close attention to any special Border arrangements that may be made for the Republic of Ireland that could leave Scottish economy at a disadvantage in international trade if we are not also part of that. (16.56)


Below: Two questions from SNP members Christine McElvie and Ivan McKee which give Mike Russell a chance to spell out the difference between a UK single market which he says does not exist and a UK uniform market which is what we have at the moment which has different powers in the four UK countries as required. He takes minimum alcohol pricing as an example of how Scotland in some instances diverges from UK and hence needs its own arrangements. Another example would be fracking. (time: 17.00)


Below: And finally Alex Neil, SNP, asks for a guarantee that the Scottish Government will fight tooth and nail any challenge by the UK Government to this Bill in the light of the Presiding Officer’s view of its lack of legal constitutional competency. (Start time: 17.03)

#DebunkingUnionism_001: NHS Scotland

I’m a fan of John Robertson’s blog Talking Up Scotland. He scans stories in the Scottish media and where it’s needed – and it’s often needed – he debunks pro-Unionist propaganda: first of all by making it plain where the media outlets are using Labour, Tory or LibDem press releases verbatim and without any fact-checking and secondly by putting the information into context.

One of his posts  on NHS Staffing is about the run of anti-NHS Scotland stories about what a shambles the SNP is making of it. These stories are appearing all over  the Union-supporting Scottish media, which is to say most of the Scottish media.

I quite enjoy taking his info and putting it into visual format. Here are a couple I’ve just done. 

Denying the Facts

A couple of years back I did a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called Denial101x run by the University of Queensland. It is a very, very good introduction to how climate change deniers misrepresent and twist information about climate change to suit their agenda. Their agenda being that “it isn’t happening”, or at least “it’s not happening very quickly”, or “it’s not happening where we live”.  This will take you to my post on Denial 101X if you want to find out more.

These days that climate change denial industry has expanded to other subjects. Donald Trump is a master of using outright lies and misdirection to get his agenda across. Unfortunately social media allows his followers to spread that misdirection to a huge audience. In fact to a huu-uuge audience. Of course he has his own denial about climate change too: “It’s a hoax invented by the Chinese

Even more unfortunately, pro-Union supporters employ the same sort of tactics against the Scottish Independence campaigners. They’re just not so good at it.  Or maybe they think we have the attention span of a gold fish and won’t remember what they said on Twitter before they deleted what they said. Or maybe they just think our heid buttons up the back.