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Posts Tagged ‘ Alex Salmond ’

Scotland’s Independence Referendum Heats Up Ahead Of Polling Day

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Getting off the train at Glasgow’s Queen Street station and stepping out into George Square, it’s hard not to get swept up in the feverish excitement that is gripping the city. Yes badges seem to adorn almost every passer by. A giant banner reads ‘Bristol Greens: England says vote Yes for a fairer society.’ A band plays an open show on Buchanan Street, with saltires and Yes billboards lining the makeshift stage.

This is in stark contrast to Edinburgh, just yesterday (Saturday), when the Orange Order marched ‘to save the union’, in their biggest showing in Scotland in over fifty years. The controversial march – many on the Better Together side were well aware of the counter-productivity of a march by a group largely eschewed by most branches of Scottish civil society – was reported on positively by The Guardian as ‘a visceral show of strength for the union’ that passed by ‘largely without incident’. Continue reading

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Scotland Must Ditch Pound If Independence Is Gained

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Seven months remain between now and referendum day, when Scots will be asked ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’. Whilst the No campaign – or ‘better together’, a cross-party alliance between Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats – have the upper hand in most polling data, the sizeable number of Scots who are ‘don’t knows’ ensures that the result of the referendum, and the future of the United Kingdom, is all to play for.

The issue of currency has been a key battleground between the two sides of the campaign. Before the collapse of the Eurozone, the Scottish National Party (SNP) argued that an independent Scotland – like Ireland – would join the European common currency. With that option now politically dead in the water, the SNP have since argued that the pound sterling could be retained in a UK currency union. Continue reading

Death Toll Expected To Rise As Helicopter Crashes Into Glasgow Pub

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At least one person was killed and 32 injured when a police helicopter crashed into the roof of a packed Glasgow pub, trapping many inside in choking dust and debris.

The death toll is expected to rise according to Scottish police.

Witnesses said the helicopter dropped from the sky like a stone onto the busy Clutha Pub in Scotland’s biggest city at 10:25 p.m. on Friday night as over 100 people listened to a live music concert. Continue reading

Scottish Cup Final is all Edinburgh affair

There will be an all Edinburgh Scottish Cup Final this year after Hearts beat Celtic with a hotly disputed last minute Craig Beattie penalty. Celtic boss  Neil Lennon was furious at the decision and confronted the referee Euan Norris on the pitch after the final whistle. He is likely to be in trouble with the SFA after tweeting “Referee told players he thought Wanyama handled…feel so sorry for players and fans. I think it’s personal myself,” and also re-tweeting a comment from a supporter which suggested that Celtic should “pack our bags and get out of this league that is run by crooked £SFA officials”.

The final will be played on Saturday May 19 with a traditional 3pm kick off, and Hearts will go into the game as firm favourites having not lost to their city rivals for over three years.

Both sets of supporters now face a scramble for tickets. In 2006, the clubs met at the semi-final stage and the Hibs board badly misjudged the allocation process, allowing season ticket holders only one ticket each which prevented friends and families sitting together and resulted in several thousand left unsold. Supporters are anxiously waiting to hear how the tickets will be distributed this time, and calls are already taking place to host the game at Murrayfield which holds 67,000 rather than Hampden Park which can only accommodate 50,000.

The SFA however are unlikely to allow their showpiece fixture to take place at the home of rugby, and both clubs should receive just over 20,000 tickets for the game, with the remainder going to corporate hospitality.

Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has dismissed the Murrayfield notion however and said: “Hampden is the home of Scottish football and that is the right place for the game.

“It’s a fantastic occasion to look forward to. It’ll be a great occasion for everyone, the city and both clubs.

“There is going to be so much hype around this game and it is important we concentrate on our job in the SPL.

“But, yes, an Edinburgh Cup Final is going to capture everyone’s imagination. We are talking about two big clubs and we’ve heard enough about Hibs’ recent history in the Scottish Cup, so it’ll be some occasion for us.

“The Hibs fans would take the prospect of beating anyone in a Final. But to have it against Hearts, it’d make it more special.”

“If Celtic won, we’d have been in Europe and that would have been great. On the other hand, we wanted the occasion of playing Hearts. So we still have the chance to get into Europe under our own steam.”

Saturday’s victory over Aberdeen has justified the Proclaimers’ decision to turn down lucrative concerts in America on cup final weekend, and the die-hard fans will be hoping to see the supporters sing their anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ as the team finally parade the cup for the first time in 110 years.

As Fenlon plays up the occasion, Hearts boss Paulo Sergio is determined to do the opposite. The Portuguese boss said:  “For me to play Hibs in the final will just be the same as playing any other team.

“It’s just another game against an opponent who we respect and, when the time comes, we will be ready for it. Celtic were the favourites today but in a final between Hearts and Hibs I don’t think there will be a favourite.

“But until then, everybody at Hearts have to keep their feet on the ground because we have important things to do just now. Our next target is to make sure we finish in fifth position in the league so we have important games to play before the final comes.

“Around me the players have to be focused on the next game. If I feel that they are not focused then they are not going to play and maybe they will lose their place in the team for the final. My players know the way I am and the way I want to work. They are used to that.

“They have every right to celebrate tonight but tomorrow we start thinking about the next game against Rangers. I will celebrate too but in the same way as I always do. I will go out, have a good dinner, drink a glass of wine and then go home.

“I’m not too emotional. I’m very happy of course, it’s contagious. I’m very happy and proud of the players because it’s a great moment for us. We didn’t beat a poor team; we beat Celtic, the champions of Scotland, who have a great squad, a great technical staff and a great manager, so we should be proud of that”.

First Minister Alex Salmond who supports the Gorgie men offered his congratulations to both teams and said: “Congratulations to Hearts and Hibs on their Scottish Cup semi-final victories over this weekend. We now have the exciting prospect of an all-Edinburgh cup final – the first since 1896, and I look forward to it.

“Despite some of the stories that have hit the headlines off the pitch, this has actually turned into a very exciting season on the pitch. Celtic were the outstanding team in the SPL and the deserved champions, Kilmarnock won the Communities League Cup, Ross County have won promotion to the SPL, and we now have an all-Edinburgh cup final to look forward to.

“In addition, although it’s early days, we have seen a significant improvement in fan behaviour. All in all a much better prospect for Scottish football.”

The only previous Scottish Cup Final between the city rivals was played at Logie Green in 1896, where Hearts lifted the trophy after a 3-1 victory.

The ‘Scottish Question’

‘The Debatable Lands of history’, wrote Norman MacCaig of the hills and valleys of the Scottish Borders, which signal the dividing point between the two historic nations of England and Scotland. Whilst the geographic boundary may no longer be in question, the debate over the constitutional boundaries within the United Kingdom is very much to the fore in both Edinburgh and London.

On gaining an overall majority in the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections – an impressive feat in a system which utilises proportional representation – the Scottish National Party (SNP), under First Minister Alex Salmond, pledged that there would be a referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK within four years. Since then, the ‘Scottish Question’ has taken on a renewed impetus, as politicians, journalists, civic groups, and the public have engaged in the debate over independence for Scotland.

Yet this debate is by no means a new one. Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom was a subject of discourse for much of the 20th century. ‘There will be a Scottish Parliament’, declared the late Donald Dewar, and in 1997 Scots were given the chance to decide for themselves in a referendum on the matter in which almost 75% of Scottish voters agreed with him. This was not the first time Scots were presented with a referendum on their future. A referendum was held in 1979, with a majority again in favour. However, the referendum had been subject to the “40% rule”, i.e., requiring 40% of the whole electorate to vote in favour rather than a simple majority.

The successful devolution referendum in 1997 was on the back of nearly twenty years of Conservative rule in Britain. During those years, the delegation of Conservative MPs crossing the Tweed to Westminster was uniformly minimal, prompting many to question the mandate held by Westminster over Scottish affairs. Margaret Thatcher’s governance, moreover, alienated many in Scotland. In 2012, there are only two Conservative MPs representing Scottish seats. David Cameron’s Conservative government finds little support north of the border. The conditions which fostered burgeoning support for devolution in the run-up to 1997 are being mirrored in the political climate in which the current debate exists, and Salmond is keenly aware of this.

David Cameron took an early foray into the debate, attempting to call Salmond’s bluff. “If Alex Salmond wants a referendum, why wait?”, Cameron told the Commons in January. This proved to be a costly error. The SNP Government hit back with claims of Westminster interference in Scottish democracy, a sentiment that many Scots found themselves agreeing with. In a matter of such historical importance for Scots, a Tory Prime Minister callously urging “get on with it” from London did little to help the unionist position in Scotland.

The debate has been further tipped in favour of independence by the manner in which it has been argued against. The argument to a large extent has thus far centred on why Scots can’t go it alone, rather than being built on a positive argument for the Union. Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, partners in the coalition Westminster government, have been amongst those eager to stress some of the apparent gaps in the finer details of the independence plan, such as the armed forces, currency, and border control.

These details are undoubtedly important, yet such a focus is detrimental to their stance in that it fails to set the unionist position on any positive footing. Salmond has seized this opportunity to hold ownership over the language of positivity. He told a London audience in January that an independent Scotland would be a “progressive beacon of social democracy” based upon “universal values of fairness”. Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour party, has long understood that the best way for her party to garner support for the union is on those very values which Salmond espoused. Nevertheless, Labour have failed to effectively convey this.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, recently sought to rectify this in a visit to Scotland.

I support Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, not because I think Scotland is too poor or too weak to break away. But for a profoundly different reason: Because I believe that Scotland as part of the United Kingdom is better for the working people of Scotland, and better for the working people of the United Kingdom as a whole.

He cited the NHS and the history of British Labour as being a shared success, with the rallying cry: “let’s confront the real divide in Britain… between the haves and the have-nots.” A strong speech, but given his party’s failure to competently confront that very divide as Opposition in the Commons, its sentiment was all but lost.

Yet there is another aspect to the ‘Scottish Question’, away from the tit-for-tat politics of the debate. Miliband attempted to conjure a shared identity in his appeal to Scots, and both Cameron and Clegg respectively have reiterated those “common values”. Yet a uniqueness of culture and identity is something that we cannot ignore in the question over Scottish independence. This, it must be stressed, is something aside from nationality (the recent calls, for example, for expat Scots to be included in the referendum electorate was folly; an electorate should not be defined along ethnic lines). The Economist recently chided those in Scotland who seek independence as anti-English. Conversely, a fairer political relationship between the two countries could, as Salmond has argued, help cultural bonds between the two nations to prosper.

There are, undoubtedly, shared identities within the United Kingdom. Yet, since the end of the Second World War, there has been a growing sense of a re-defined Scottish identity in its own right. This expressed itself partly through the formation of the Scottish Parliament at the end of 20th century. The political and constitutional make-up was reconstructed to reflect the changed needs and wants of Scotland. The independence referendum, including the devo-plus and devo-max options (which involve a much greater transfer of power from Westminster to Edinburgh), offers the chance for this process to continue. The referendum will further empower Scots to re-define their cultural identity.

As the debate rages on, opinion polls fluctuate in levels of support for either side. When it boils down to it, there will be many Scots – in spite of the political to-and-fro, the arguments over the economy, and bickering over North Sea Oil – who find themselves having left the polling station having placed a cross in the “yes” box. Hugh MacDiarmid’s 1926 work, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, hinted as to why this will be the case:

 I’ll ha’e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur

Extremes meet – it’s the only way I ken

To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt

That damns the vast majority o’ men.

There is an element of this appeal which can only be described as a hedonistic leap of faith, allowing a break from MacDiarmid’s “cursed conceit of being right”. The ‘Scottish Question’ may yet find an answer.

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