It was the ‘silly season’ story that Scottish Roundup dreams are made of – petty bureaucrats at Argyll and Bute council attempt to censor a nine-year-old girl’s photo-blog about her school dinners, then back down live on air following a storm of protest on Twitter. Actually, we should all be duly grateful they caved in as quickly as they did, because we were getting very, very close to entering into lunacy of “Free the Deirdre One” proportions. But a thoughtful contribution was provided by Andrew Page, who urged Martha Payne not to allow the council’s actions to “undermine her self-confidence or to stem her creative talents”.
There was much “It Was Us Wot Won It” triumphalism on Twitter following the council’s abrupt change of heart, but it’s hard to be reassured by the notion that social media represents the best line of defence for our civil liberties – if Martha hadn’t happened to be such an obviously sympathetic figure as an articulate nine-year-old girl who blogs about a politically-correct cause, could the Twitter warriors have been relied upon to be quite so indignant on her behalf?
The First Minister made his long-awaited appearance at the Leveson Inquiry on Wednesday. I missed the live coverage because I was too busy attempting to learn Mandarin Chinese (literally), but Mr Salmond must have done pretty well if the general thumbs-up from the pro-independence blogosphere (“shame on me for ever doubting him” says Kate Higgins) and the deafening silence from certain other quarters is anything to go by. David Cameron had his day with Messrs Leveson and Jay as well, but he also found himself at the centre of another ‘silly season’ story, and it was the latter which attracted most interest from Scottish bloggers and Twitter users. Kevin Donnelly and others discovered to their delight that the #bettertogether hash-tag, pencilled in for use by the No campaign in the independence referendum, has the potential for an entirely different meaning when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has just absent-mindedly left his eight-year-old daughter behind in a pub toilet. For Mairi Campbell-Jack, the incident represents yet another deeply troubling example of feckless parents from the wrong class who “just don’t care enough” about their offspring, and she wonders aloud why “hard-working taxpayers” should be expected to continue subsidising a lifestyle that plainly encourages such irresponsible behaviour.
Wednesday was also the day that the Olympic torch relay arrived in the capital. Luckily, I had more or less abandoned my futile attempts to grasp the Mandarin tonal system by that point, and was able to pop by for a peek. I’m delighted to report that the Nazi origins of the spectacle dampened the enthusiasm of almost no-one, although I’d still suggest that Twitter user Stronger United‘s summary of “Union flag waving crowds for torch relay – 250,000 happy smiling Scots” might be stretching the point slightly. But you can judge for yourself what proportion of the crowds were actually waving Union Jacks by perusing the photos provided by SGMarinova at her blog. She also sums up what catching a glimpse of the Olympic torch meant for her –
“Standing with a thousand other people waiting for a tiny flame to come is a very bizarre experience. Primarily because at a point you stop seeing everyone else and all you can think of is how special this tradition is. How special it is to be part of so much excitement, pride and strength. You sit there surrounded by so many people holding Coca-Cola bottles, little bouncy strings and drum like instruments, but somehow you manage to push it all aside, however hard it might be, as this particularly annoying child behind you is accidentally slapping you in the head.”
I must say that chimes with my own experience – there was a little bit of Scottish patriotism, and a little bit of British patriotism, but there was lots of Coca-Cola patriotism, and above all else there was absolute bucket-loads of Bank of Scotland Free Balloon patriotism. Our overlapping identities grow ever more complex. Speaking of which, there have been a couple of belated but compelling responses to Ed Miliband’s “it stands to reason” musings on national identity, in which he essentially claimed that people can easily feel Scottish without a Scottish state, but can’t possibly feel British without a British state. Calum S Wright pointedly insists that “in an independent Scotland I would still call myself a Scot and a Briton, Miliband be damned”, while Lallands Peat Worrier dismisses as “candyfloss” the Labour leader’s entire characterisation of Britishness.
Tris at Munguin’s Republic reports on the estimate from Dr Richard Pike that more than twice as much North Sea Oil remains to be tapped as generally supposed – but begs David Cameron not to use that as an excuse to hold on to Scotland. After all, as he points out, the Falklands now have plenty of oil as well, and are extremely keen to stick with London rule. Indeed, to that end, the Falkland Islands Government announced this very week its intention to hold a constitutional referendum. Over at my blog, I noted that London has reacted with somewhat greater enthusiasm to this development than they did to Scotland’s decision to hold a referendum on its own constitutional future.
In the coming week, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant will attempt to convince Parliament’s Justice Committee that her bid to criminalise the purchase of sex does not require a consultation process, on the grounds that her former colleague Trish Godman has already held a ‘consultation’ of sorts. Sex worker and prolific blogger Laura Lee is having none of it, and issues a stirring call to arms for all those who share her views –
“Any right thinking individual can see how inherently flawed the Godman consultation was and it is my fervent hope that common sense will prevail…If the submission gets through the consultation stage though, what I will be asking YOU to do is use your voice which is as powerful a tool as can be, because you see what the anti’s rely on is that we will be too frightened as sex workers to speak up.”
The pretext for seeking to ban the purchase of sex is the hotly disputed notion that all prostitution constitutes ‘violence against women’, but a far less contentious definition of gender-based violence is at the heart of a lengthy post by Lucy Philpott, an Edinburgh University masters student who is spending six weeks in Malawi researching gender and education. She recounts her horror at being told by a group of schoolgirls that the biggest challenge faced by their community is “fighting and rape”, and documents a tribal system of initiation ceremonies for girls as young as 12 that often mark the premature end of their school careers.
Also on a gender-related theme, Happy Science vents her fury at women’s magazines for failing to “promote critical thinking when it comes to beauty and health”, and charges them with “spouting pseudoscientific guff to their readers in order to raise revenue through product placement, and advertising”.
Turning to sport, the (mostly) illustrious 139-year history of Rangers Football Club in its familiar form came to an inglorious end this week. Or did it? Rev. Stuart Campbell was surprised to learn that it would be perfectly legal for a newco Rangers to retain exactly the same name, opening up at least the possibility of “a new Rangers FC, playing next season under the old name, in the old colours, with the old history, in the SPL, at Ibrox Stadium, led by Walter Smith, with the current playing squad, completely free of debt and with a £20m bank balance from season ticket sales”. Over at The Rangers Standard, however, John DC Gow clearly takes the view that ‘business as usual’ is not a sustainable option, and identifies a number of issues unrelated to financial mismanagement that must now be confronted, such as apologism for use of the word ‘Fenian’ among the club’s support.
After the events of February and March, it feels distinctly odd to be turning to the national rugby team for better news about Scottish sport. Alan Dymock reports on how Scotland followed up their sensational away win against Australia with a solid victory over Fiji. But can they make it three out of three against Samoa?
Having referred to a Scottish view of Malawian society earlier, it’s only fair to take a few moments to see oursels as ithers see us. But please don’t be apprehensive. There isn’t a Scot alive who won’t be bursting with pride at the picture painted by Mr V. George Anthony, a recent visitor to these shores –
“Majority of the people in UK are above 40 or 50 and even old people go for work… We saw many men and women smoking maybe because of the extreme weather conditions… Many of them don’t get married, but live together and very few have children. All these are quite normal in northern UK. We could hardly see any expatriates in Scotland; it’s mainly their own people… Most men are tall and fat may be double our size and it can be because of their food habits.”
And Mr Anthony is particularly taken with the dazzlingly colourful apparel of our womenfolk –
“I think their passionate dress color is black because we saw many ladies wearing black dress most of the time.”
Now I can’t believe you’d need much more inspiration to holiday at home than that, but just in case you do, the LD Mountain Centre blog has some suggested locations for wild camping in Scotland this summer, including Rannoch Moor, the Cairngorms and Barrisdale. Or if you’re looking for a much more refined holiday experience, you could always head for two cafes at the National Museum of Scotland which serve a scone of such magnificence that Cat Dean feels utterly compelled to tell us about it, at quite considerable length.
Let’s round things off with a dash of culture and the arts. Kerry Dexter reviews Fiere, an album of songs in Gaelic, Scots, English and Shetlandic from Joy Dunlop and Twelfth Day. And an American blog devoted to Scandinavian crime fiction is thoroughly envious of the residents of Edinburgh for having access to a special event at the International Film Festival celebrating “Nordic and Scottish crime in its dialogue between Scotland and Scandinavia, as well as literature and film”.
Well, that’s pretty much it for this edition of the roundup. Don’t forget to make life as easy as possible for my successor as weekly editor by nominating your favourite blogs and blogposts. In the meantime, have a fabulous EMBB* week.
(*Eve of Murray Becoming British)