Hi folks! You’d think we were winding down for Christmas, but despite the arrival of the Doctor Who-themed Christmas idents on BBC1, there are still twelve days, a series of dull, uncomfortable office parties and the traditional scrum in front of the cosmetics counter at Boots to go. The upshot of this is that the so-called season of goodwill hasn’t quite materialised yet.
A period of not-so-quiet reflection
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the Scottish blogosphere has kept its hands well wrung this week: look into the navel, don’t look around the navel, you’re under.
Anyway. The MSM are still paying close attention to bloggers, to the degree that two big names in the Scottish press have ventured online to make their own points about the situation: Iain Macwhirter, who is not 100% sympathetic, and Joan McAlpine, who is far more taken with what she’s seen online.
And what of the rest of us? I take a look at the two stances, while Duncan sees the stooshie as an opportunity for the Scottish blogosphere to get â€œleaner, cleaner and keenerâ€.
Lallands Peat Worrier notes that the de-activation of the blogs that have been pored over by the press has created a new problem:
One of the main sadnesses of the Wardog et seq. phenomenon is the hasty deletion of the whole history of commentary these authors produced. Under the threatening promise of writs, I can entirely understand that hasty retreat may be the rhythm indicated. Equally, however, it robs the public (or whatever clutch might be interested) of an opportunity to read the material and think for themselves. Particularly since the more lurid elements cited in the newspaper commentary string together connected material â€“ in an unhistorical and intellectually dishonest way – that turns asides (even those too spicy for most mainstream characters) into concerted campaigns in a manner which any calm read through of the whole text couldnâ€™t support. With deletion, that corrective expedient is now impossible.
Meanwhile, Ideas of Civilisation notes that this debate has overshadowed pretty much everything else (hence its place at the top of the Roundup this week):
The worst of all this is that it allows all sides to engage in a â€˜holier than thouâ€™ battle which wonâ€™t change a single thing about life in Scotland. Not a single teacher will be hired, pupil taught to read or nurse trained as a result of these tawdry and ultimately tiresome battles.
Unfortunately, there are good ways and bad ways of having a higher media profile. After the broo ha-ha over my Heaven knows weâ€™re miserable now post last year, a number of colleagues told me: â€œI was thinking of starting a blog, but after what happened to you, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll bother.â€
A lesson for us all, that whoever you are, what you post can get you into trouble at some point.
The Gravy Train rolls on
With the publication of more MPs’ expense claims, there’s a chance to re-visit that sense of exasperation we all felt a few months ago. Angus Nicolson picks up on Jim Devine’s claim for flood damage to his bathroom,and asks if MPs are failing to take out insurance cover on their second properties, or claiming for the insurance premiums as well.
Clairwil compares the claims with the support made available to those in need of state benefits:
From time to time I fill out Community Care Grant forms for my more impoverished clients to help them buy furniture and household goods. There are no Â£75 kettles for these folk. As the grants are drawn from a limited budget people are expected seek out the bargains so whilst you might want a Â£75 kettle, the decision maker will call you up establish that you own a pot and your hob works therefore you don’t need a kettle. Fancy a fridge? Not if you have a windowsill to keep a pint of milk on and no essential medication that needs keeping cool. What about an oven? No -you own a perfectly good microwave. A Duck House – no chance! A Bell Tower -piss off! Removal of that troublesome wisteria – when hell freezes over.
Meanwhile, Dave is perplexed by a 2 hour phone call to Canterbury made from Gordon Brown’s phone â€“ and paid for by the taxpayer.
Caron, meanwhile, thinks that Alex Salmond’s claim is too low, arguing that it’s a mark of how little time he’s spent at Westminster representing Banff & Buchan.
On a similar note, Tom Harris defends the right to dual mandates, pointing out that the people of Gordon knew already that Alex Salmond was MP for Banff & Buchan as well, and were still happy to vote for him.
More on money
With the Pre-Budget Report being delivered to the Commons this week, Herald journalist Torcuil Crichton describes it as â€œAlistair Darling’s welcome to the hard decadeâ€, while STV reporter Jamie Livingstone adds up the total amount of money that will not be available to the Scottish budget. Meanwhile, Stephen liveblogged the key points.
However, it’s Alistair Darling’s unwillingness to continue to accelerate Scotland’s capital spending programme â€“ a move supported by Iain Gray â€“ that causes a great deal of damage, prompting PoliticsScot to consider the position of Iain Gray as the Leader of a Scottish Parliamentary Group that’s tied to the fortunes and actions of the UK Government:
Similarly, the image being used so effectively by the SNP just now that Gray was â€˜ignoredâ€™ by Darling and is lacking influence must be replaced by the image that it is simply a disagreement between two politicians and by conceding the right for the Scottish Labour leader to openly criticise the party down in England.
Sometimes it’s depressing just what the political class gets polarised about. This week, Alex Salmond’s choice of Christmas card initiated a bunfight. Wrinkled Weasel finds it a little bit Leni Riefenstahl, while Tom Harris is less than impressed at the apparent politics behind the design.
On the other hand, Jeff is exasperated at how even Christmas cards are reduced to games of partisan one-upmanship, and Anne McLaughlin is baffled that anyone could be offended by the First Minister of Scotland sending out a card displaying the flag of the country he’s First Minister of.
Cllr David Fagan, however, isn’t a fan of the painting, but doesn’t see the card as political in the way that he understands the term:
I think it might be worth taking the FM at his word when he says (or rather his spokesperson says) that the card is not political. Assuming that there is some meaning and significance to the imagery and title of the painting then it is nothing at all to do with left or right politics. It is not an image which speaks about ideology or about access to or redistribution of wealth. Actually, it is pretty much inconceivable that any of the other big parties could use a leaderâ€™s Christmas card for such a message (they are much more likely to be attracted to an image of family unity)
No, this image is not political in any meaningful sense of the word. It is romantic, pure and simple. And for those of us on the unionist side of the debate, that makes it the perfect image for a SNP First Minister embarked on what is ultimately a romantic campaign for independence.
Class Sizes, Broken Promises and Minority Government
With one Education Secretary having to step aside as a result of the SNP’s class size pledge having to be watered down, Ian Robertson over at Liberal Scotland takes a look at whether or not there should be such an emphasis on reducing class sizes in the first place.
And with accusations that the FM set out to mislead over the pledge, Stuart Winton wonders if the charge of dishonesty will stick:
Thus Mr Salmond’s pledge seems of the pie crust variety – made to be broken, and perhaps more delusional than dishonest. In truth, if politicians had to be brought to book in some way every time a promise of this type was broken then they would all be deemed pathological liars and the whole process would never get anywhere.
However, the Government gets no sympathy from Andrew Reeves, who wonders what the point was of the SNP writing its manifesto at all.
But with the various cries of ‘Broekn promises!’ being bandied about, James wonders why those who didn’t want the SNP’s policies to be implemented in the first place are complaining.
And on a similar note, with civic groups playing a role in most policy debates â€“ even if it boils down to the politicians playing â€œMy pressure group’s bigger than your pressure groupâ€, Lallands Peat Worrier takes a look at how lobbyists are shaping the discourse fo the minority Government.
In Edinburgh, cyclists are up in arms about the new tram lines on Princes Street, with the possibility that the lines might cause them to fall off their bike. Surprisingly for someone who isn’t a lover of the trams, Calum Cashley isn’t overly sympathetic, but Jess the Dog is appalled that cyclists will need new courses to learn how to navigte them:
The tram rails are supposedly â€œright on a cyclistâ€™s natural lineâ€. Thatâ€™ll be just like pedestrians, pavements, zebra crossings, traffic lights at red, etc. So why not include this in the training package? Or is this just another excuse for lycra-louts to whinge? They wonâ€™t be happy until the world is one big velodromeâ€¦.
Meanwhile, Cllr Cameron Rose reminds us that Tram Line 3 hasn’t quite died the death yet, though now isn’t the best time to be going ahead with it. Will the madness ever end?
The continued row over climate change
Neil Craig celebrates a chance to challenge the present orthodoxy on the science of climate change on Radio Scotland.
Change in general
David Farrer marks the passing of Borders, and notes that change is a part of life. For everyone.
That’s it for another week â€“ next week, Duncan will be presiding over the last Roundup before Christmas, so don’t forget to nominate your favourite posts! As always, you can use the twiddlydoodah on the right, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re of a mind to do so, you can even follow us on Twitter @ScottishRoundup. But for now, it’s bye-de-bye!