If there was an award for the most persistent optimist in Scottish politics it would be won by the Liberal Democrats leader in the Scottish Parliament Willie Rennie. You see Willie send me an email this afternoon claiming he wants me to help him stop an SNP majority government being elected this coming Thursday. Funnily enough, the outcome he wishes to prevent is exactly the one I want to achieve.
That said I couldn’t help but correct him on a couple of glaring mistakes he made when talking about so-called nationalist infighting in his cosy chat style interviews by the Westminster lapdogs who masquerade as journalists such as Andrew Marr and Sophie Ridge. It was in the spirit of friendship I sent him this reply. If like me your a pro independence supporter I think you’ll enjoy it
Let me set you straight on a few things with regards to the critique of the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon you shared yesterday whilst being by interviewed by those great intellectual thinkers that are Andrew Marr And Sophie Ridge. Now I hate to burst your wee unionist bubble here but it is my considered opinion that Marr And Ridge are not journalists no matter how much they may like to think otherwise. These two mediocre T.V. presenters do nothing but parrot the Westminster agenda of the organisations they are paid to represent namely The BBC and Sky News . That means they are nothing more than courtiers who will do as they are told for promise of ermine or a wee medal for services to a make believe empire which no longer exists.
Also, I feel I need to correct your claim about nationalists fighting among themselves. The fact is that if you are referring to Alba, then perhaps you need to be made aware that Alba are in fact campaigning for the SNP in the constituency seats and are hoping that voters will vote for them on the list and consign the unionist list advantage to the history books where it rightfully belongs. Whilst not being their biggest fan , I prefer the SNP / Green option myself, even I couldn’t stretch the truth in the way you’re trying to do by calling it infighting.
This is in my opinion absolute drivel and people can see straight through it. The fact is that you are perpetuating this delusional fantasy for one reason and one reason only. It is driven by your desire in common with that of Anas and wee Douglas Red Card Ross to stop an SNP Majority so I have to ask what is it about an SNP Majority that scares you ? It can’t be the people getting the chance to exercise their democratic choice can it ? I think I should remind you that being frightened of democracy is not a liberal tradition nor should it ever become one
You know there was a time in my very early 20’s just after the 1983 General Election I almost considered joining what was then the old Liberal party but I never quite got round to it. However that party had principles and would never have fought such a negative campaign against the people of Scotland. It is indeed a sad day for this dying union that instead of fighting to win an election on the merits of your arguments for change you are instead fighting along with your fellow Westminster parties to stop someone else from doing. That in football parlance is known as playing for a draw and those who adopt that tactic inevitably end up being very soundly defeated
With this being Earth Day. i thought I would write an appropriate poem to illustrate my environmental credentials. As someone who graduated with joint honours in Geography and Politics it has always been a passion of mine and I really think that we need to take brtter care of our shared planet and thanks to people like Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough the message is at last beginning to get through. I’ve given the title The Tears That Nature Weeps to illustrate that the planet is in pain and we really need to do something about it as a matter of urgency. I hope you enjoy the read
The Tears That Nature Weeps
a day for reflection
to consider what we do
what action we deem necessary
to preserve our inhabitants
and natural envrionments.
racing rats in racing cars
is a formula one route to destruction
small steps are bigger than we think
grand gestures mean nothing
in the long term scheme of things
showboats are for show
symbols of power so the rest of us know our place
who controls the wealth
and who intends to keep it all to themselves
we need to ensure we reform the laws
on who owns the land
create a registry so everyone understands
the need to create a global common weal
restore what Burns called nature’s social union
It’s time for solutions talk is cheap and costly
yet still the world’s top producers of hot air
pollute our futures by pretending to be
important players in the global league of wealth
where man and woman put profit before the health of people
and principles are cast aside
as ice caps melt and acid raindrops.
are the bitter tears nature weeps
as warnings to disobedient children
Later than ever before but in their new and permanent position it’s finally time for The 2019 Tartan Tights Awards. I’ve decided to cut a few awards this year mainly due to it being a quiet year in certain areas and the fact I’m not as active on certain scenes as was once the case. So let’s see whose brightened up my life in the last 12 months and let’s get this show on the road.
As always I start with my political awards and as tradition dictates my first award is for Politian Of The Year. Amongst those considered were SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford First Minister Nicola Sturgeon , and last year’s winner Joanna Cherry, all of whom had an excellent 2019 but my winner is the man who has without doubt shown all the unionist parties at Holyrood how effective opposition really works and who in my view will be as big an asset to the next independence campaign as he unquestionably was to the last one. He is the co-leader ofthe Scottish GreenParty and the only credible leader of any party apart from our current First Minister. My Tartan Tights Politician of the Year for 2019 is Patrick Harvie.
Now I move on to my Young Politician of the Year which for the past two years has been won by Christina Cannon. This year however sees a new name added to a list which includes among others Saffron Dickson, and Laura Doherty, and the award goes to a young man who during the recent election was out every day spreading the SNP message in all weathers in every corner of the Glasgow East constituncey his efforts helped the party hold with a greatly increased majority My Young Politician of the Year is Jack McKelvie
My Vision Of Scotland Award goes to the individual who has made an outstanding contribution to Scotland’s political or cultural life and this year this award really was a no brainer. You see the winner created what I believe will be an enduring legacy for years and decades to come when as a gay man and a traditional musician he with the support of a group of friends created the first ever LGBT + event in the history of Celtic Connections and brought the Bohga Frois which is Gaelic for Rainbow to the stage of the Royal Concert Hall and did so to critical acclaim. So having attended this groundbreaking event I am very proud to say that The Vision Of Scotland Award for 2019 goes to our very own Man of the Minsch, Pedro Cameron
From the Vision of Scotland we move to those without whom those who have those visions may never see them realised as we name our Unsung Hero/Heroine of the year. This year the award goes to someone who isn’t involved in politics but is actually a very gifted musician and one of the best fiddlers in the country. On collecting his award for the Bohga Frois being named Community project of the year at the Traditional Music Awards in December, Pedro paid a fitting tribute to our winner for her incredible support in bringing it life. This amazingly talented woman is and always has been a principled supporter of equality and a fantastic ally to the LGBT community. So, as I’m sure many of you will have been able to guess The Tartan Tights Unsung Heroine for 2019 is the brilliant Laura WIlkie
Next up we have our Impact Award for the politician who I believe has made the biggest impact promoting Scotland and our values and this year the three main contenders were Alyn Smith, Alison Thewliss, and Joanna Cherry, and it was really difficult to call it between them but eventually I had to do it and on the basis of his farewell speech to the European Parliament and the fact that he defeated Stephen Kerr who is by any stretch of the imagination one of the most right wing Tories in Scotland when he gained Stirling for SNP in December’s General Election My Impact Award goes to Alyn Smith
Now for our final political award which is the One To Watch award and believe me when I say this award had a shortlist of one as the winner blew all other contenders not to mention the leader of the Liberal Democrats right out the water. To say that she pulled off the result of the night at the recent Westminster General Election would be a wee bit of an understatement as she unseated Jo Swinson with a stunning victory which sent shockwaves right through the heart of the British establishment and I’m delighted to say that My One To Watch is the newly elected Member Of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire Amy Callaghan.
From Politics my focus switches to the Community awards and this includes blogging which at least in the past year was able to sustain a category of its own. Due to the fact the blogging scene has been a wee bit quiter than usual there is only one category in this section and that’s my Blogger Of The Year. The main contenders for this award were Charlotte Dougall for By Charlotte Ann and Amie Cadwallender for The Curvaceous Vegan and by the narrowest of margins My Blogger of the Year is Amie Cadwallender For The Curvaceous Vegan
With regards to Activism there were several contenders for My Activist Of The Year award. Among those considered were Tracy Harvie for her work with the Ayrshire writers and Ayr For Independence, Pedro Cameron For The Bohga Frois, Lesley Traynor for her continued work with Women With Fierce Words , and the Scottish Writers Centre, Ailie Wallace for Rooftop Writers, Carla Woodburn For Express Yourself , Express Yourself On The Radio, and her work at the Scots Language Centre, and Jim MacKintosh For forming the Scottish Women’s Football Poetry Collection and as you can gather picking a winner from that lot wasn’t an easy choice but in the end I decided that because of her work in so many areas my Activist of the year is the force of nature that is Carla Woodburn.
Picture My 2019 Activist Of The Year Carla Woodburn Expressing herself at Express Yourself in The Project Cafe
As for my Young Activist of the Year, it’s fair to say that with talent like Alex Kerr, councillors Christina Cannon , and Laura Doherty, and of course young politican of the year Jack McKelvie the SNP have an abundance of talent in their ranks but the spoken word scene is also blessed with outstanding young activists with Ella Russell, Johnny Cypher, and the wonderful Imogen Stirling whose Soul Food Poetry night is one of the best new nights in Glasgow all being major contenders as is Rachel Cairns who successfully succeeded Jade Mitchell as host of Strathclyde University’s Live Poets Society but the winner of this award is an Aberdeenshire lass who used to grace the Blue Chair and other Glasgow venues with her considerable poetic talents and in September she organised the Rebel Rising Festival in support of Extinction Rebellion. She even read a poem of mine at the event because I couldn’t make it. My Young Activist of the Year is Molly MacLachlan
From Community I shift the focus to Culture and this will be a much shorter section than usual as my fringe was cut so short due to injury that if it was a skirt it would be so short it would make a micro mini look knee length.
I’ll kick this section off with the Best Poetry Performance of the Year. In a year in which I saw many poets share their work I think there were three performances which really stood out for me. They were Calum Rodger for his set at Words And Music In May, Emma Pursehouse for her set at Waterstones in June, and Scott The Redman Redmond for his set at Words And Music In September. As I’m sure you’ll agree choosing a winner from such a talented list was no easy task but eventually I made what was a really difficult call and decided that the winner of The Best Poetry Performance of 2019 is Calum Rodger
Calum Rodger rocking the mic at Words And Music in May as he shows why he won the Best Poetry Performance of the Year
For my next award in this catagory I focus on the Scots Language as it’s time for The Sandy Hutchison Memorial Award for Services To Scots. And though there were a number of contenders for this one such as Carla Woodburn, Janet Crawford, Jim MacKintosh and Sheila Templeton there was one member of the spoken word community who stood out and that to me was because his use of Scots interspersed with English added something to the nights I attended. It is for that reason that this year’s winner of the Sandy Hutchison Memorial Award is Jim Ewing
From language I move on to equality as I name my Equality Champion. In a year where transphobia has been more prevalent than it has for at least two decades this is a particularly important award as it highlights who is actually prepared to fight for my rights and if that sounds personal that’s because it is as I have needed more support in the past 12 months than I have in the last 12 years. I however am luckier than most and I know I have allies who will fight my corner as and when required and when it comes to allies I am fortunate to have the support of people such as Ailie Wallace, Carolyn Paterson, my Words And Music co-host and bestie Jen Hughes, last year’s equality champion Laura Wilkie, my outgoing man of the year Paddy Callaghan, Robin Cairns, Stacey McFarlane, Shaun Moore, and Stephen Watt, and that’s an impressive list from which to make my choice and believe me it wasn’t easy but in one of my hardest choices of the year that my Equality Champion is Stacey McFarlane
From equality I move on to the music as I name my musician of the year. Believe me this wasn’t an easy choice from Man of the Minsch, to Bob Leslie From Lisa Kawolski to Josie Duncan, Sarah Markey, Rachel Sermanni, Ronan Doran, and Emma Durkham there was plenty of candidates for this one but to me there was one candidate who absolutely stunned me with the quality of her voice. It is my opinion that she may be the only musician on earth who could sing the telephone book and make it sound like an artistic masterpiece. My musician of the year is the absolutely magical Kim Carnie
My next award is Band of the Year and candidates for this award included Folky Mac Folkface, Trio, a band who I thought deserved to win a Danny Kyle Award even though it wasn’t to be their fate. The Paul McKenna Band, The Southside Fiddlers, and last year’s winners St Rochs Ceili Band but it was on a summer’s evening in Glasgow city centre I saw the band who would win this award and win it by a distance as they put on a show which left me wanting to hear a lot more of them. That band has four of the most talented musicians in Scotland working to make fantastic music. My Band of the Year for 2019 is The Sarah Markey Band.
Picture The Sarah Markey Band brightened up my summer as they played an excellent set at the Griffin Bar in June
My Song of the Year was chosen not just for the song itself but for the story behind it. My choice was one of the highlights of the first ever Bogha Frois. It’s a song I’ve heard before and often play on my YouTube but when I heard the story of how it could be interpreted as a song of forbidden love it was as if I finally got it after all those years. My Song of the Year is The Ferryman By Rachel Sermanni
From songs I move on to events as I select my Event of the Year. In a year which was in some ways not quite as busy as usual there were three main contenders for this award. The events I considered are Bohga Frois LGBT Voices In Folk, The Sarah Markey Band At The Griffin, and the Ayr For Independence Words And Music Day. Despite having only three events on my list it wasn’t an easy choice as all of them would have been very worthy winners but on this occasion I decided to be guided by the hand of history and because of what it meant to me and many others in a personal capacity I decided that my Event of the Year for 2019 is The Bohga Frois LGBT Voices In Folk.
Picture The Bohga Frois LGBT Voices In Folk
Having looked at events it’s now time to think about the venues that host them and over the years I have attended some brilliant events in some truly amazing locations. From the old Sammy Dow’s which was the original home of Words And Music to the Banshee Labyrinth my Edinburgh local when the fringe comes to call. From The Royal Concert Hall which lights up the winter skies as part of Celtic Connections to the wonderful Cafe Rio, the much loved and missed Blue Chair. and of course the iconic Scotia Bar I’ve made memories in some truly wonderful places but there is one venue which has been a constant in my life since it opened its doors in 1989. This is a place I’ve enjoyed everything from slams to soup from diet cokes to caberet nights and that’s why my venue of the year is that Glasgow institution otherwise known as The Tron
From venues I move on new voices for my Discovery of the Year. Like every year 2019 threw up some new talent for me to enjoy. I qualify this by saying that whilst some of those selected may already be established in their field they were new in the sense that this was my first opportunity to see them. This impressive list includes poet comic and burlesque performer Angela Legg aka Miss A Leg, from the world of music we have Elaine Lennon, Emma Carr Martin, Kim Carnie, Mischa MacPherson, and Man Of The Minsch, and from spoken word Georgia Francis, Morag Steven, and Florian Neiderseer are names that come to mind. However, after a lot of consideration my Discovery of the Year award goes to Elaine Lennon.
From Culture I move to sport and and my Sporting Moment of the year. As a Celtic Supporter I have to say that this one came on a very historic day for our club when on the 25th of May 2019 exactly 52 years after our greatest ever victory we were able to deliver the domestic treble to paradise for the third successive season and say the immortal words Glasgow Celtic Treble Treble Winners
Now I move on my Team of the Year and despite Celtic’s great achievements I think there is another team who may just have done to shade it when it comes to winning this award. Well , when you supply a substantial number of the most successful Scotland team in decades win the league for the 13th successive season, become the first Scottish club to qualify for the last eight of the Champions League and clinch a league and cup double in the most dramatic fashion imaginable with a goal worthy of winning the World Cup itself then I think you might just be the appropriate choice for the award. It is for that reason and for proving that football can be more than just a boy’s game that my team of the year are Glasgow City
The next award is my Lifetime Achievement award. This one goes to someone who has made a significant contribution to either my life in a personal capacity or to Scottish Life more generally. This year’s recipient is someone who has done both of these and is a wonderful poet and performer and has been for more decades than I care to remember. After moving to Scotland from his native North East of England in the 1980’s he was a major force in both the Edinburgh and Scottish poetry scenes hosting and organising various but most notably 10Red at which so many of us were privileged to appear over the years and a poetry marathon which smashed the Scottish record for the number of poets appearing at a two day event with more than 150 poets including yours truly attending this two day gathering. A man not only of great talent but also known for his kindness and encouragement of others my Lifetime Achievement goes to Kevin Cadwallender
Moving on to my last award before the main events means it’s time to name my winner of The Beyond Call Of Duty Award. This is given to the friend who without even asking will go that extra mile for you and make sure you are in a good place before concluding your chat. Amongst those I considered for this one were Ailie Wallace, Emma Mooney, Hannah Cooper, Laura WIlkie, Joanne Burrows, Paddy Callaghan, and Stephen Watt. A pretty impressive list if I say so myself. I would have chosen Jen for this one but since she’s banned me from choosing her as a winner on the grounds of blatant favouritism of which I plead guilty. My winner is a cracking make up advisor and confident who is a far more talented poet that she realises. Well she’s still to make her spoken word debut though hopefully that will come in 2020 my winner of the Beyond The Call Of Duty Award is the lovely Hannah Cooper
Now at long last it’s time to move on the main event of the night as I name my man and woman of the year. As usual I’ll start with the guys and there were no shortage of candidates for this year’s title Among those in the frame were poets and writers including Charlie Gracie, Jim Ewing, Robin Cairns, and Stephen Watt. From politics we have Ian Blackford David Linden and Stewart MacDonald and from the traditional music community Bob Leslie. So as you can gather picking a winner from such. an impressive list was no easy task and though all candidates were given serious consideration I eventually made my choice. Our winner is a man renowned for his innovative and thought provoking poetry on topics from football to crime. He has by any stretch of the imagination a brilliant year in which he was Maker for the Federation Of Writers Of Scotland poet in residence for his beloved Dumbarton where he continued his groundbreaking football poetry videos as well his other work for the club and more generally. He also became the first poet ever to write a crime novel completely in rhyme and those who know me well will know that Fairy Rock has like all his other collections a place on my bookshelf. Between doing all this and so much more he took the time to perform a steller set for Jen and I at Words And Music in July which was enjoyed by all in attendance. It has to be said that succeeding Paddy Callaghan was never going to be easy but if anyone it’s this guy My Tartan Tights Man of the Year is Stephen Watt
Our 2019 Man of the Year Stephen Watt showing us why he’s one of the best poets in Scotland as he graced the Words And Music stage last July
Having named my Man of the Year it’s time to name the winner of the most important award of the lot and find out who I’ve selected as my tartan tights Woman of the Year. Just like the men there was a brilliant selection of candidates. Amongst those considered were, from the world of poetry, Ailie Wallace, Finola Scott, Molly MacLachlan, Imogen Stirling, and Tracy Harvie , Whilst traditional music saw Elaine Lennon, and Sarah Markey very much in my thoughts. There were also strong cases to be made for three of country’s best female politicians and Alison Thewliss, Angela Crawley, and Laura Doherty are the kind of women who will fight for a better Scotland and more than that a brtter, kinder world. With Hannah Cooper, and Stacey McFarlane completing a top quality list of nominees you can see this was always going to be a very close call and believe me it was. In the end however I made my call based on who I felt had the most influence on my life in the past and for that reason and only that reason I choose a woman who not supported me whenever neccessary but challenged me whenever she thought I needed it. She not only inspired me to write new poems she pushed me to improve my language skills and I’m a better Gaelic speaker than I’ve ever been because of her. She is my opinion one of the best poets in the country and a feisty voice for fairness. My tartan tights Women of the Year is the amazing Ailie Wallace.
So with all the awards given out we’ve reached the end of the Tartan Tights Awards for 2019. So with that in mind I offer my congratulations to the winners and if you weren’t so lucky then remember next year could be your year. Whatever the coming year holds for you I wish you all you wish yourself and I hope you’ll keep reading tartan tights throughout 2020 and beyond .
(Picture Our amazing Tartan Tights Women Of The Year the brilliant Ailie Wallace shares her words at the Burns Night Express Yourself.
This poem reflects my concerns about the destruction of natural habitats by multi national corporations in pursuit of lands I’ve given it the title Sharks. I hope you enjoy the read.
A nest lies in ruins
destroyed not by winter winds but by man
as part of a plan to help developers
build for profit
purchasing land for portfolios
just to claim it’s theirs
as nature weeps and humanity despairs
the parents flap their wings
singing lullabies to fledglings
still unable to fly
the young birds know
it’s songs of sorrow being sung
as sadness for devastation
which they never caused
their elders call sounds weak
to those who listen in the night
homeless they panic
they want to take flight but can’t
the newborns still need their family
they couldn’t survive by themselves
the elders search for a place to rest
seeking shelter will test them
as they flock together seek a new beginning
they realise decisions must be made
knowing the fate of their young
lies beyond their control
in the hands not of nature
but her enemies
who decimate all which stands in their way
and turn green fields into big gray offices
this is democracy corporate style
where sharks wear suits
and birds migrate to less hostile environments
as soon as they learn to fly
As this is the 20th anniversary of the reconvened if devolved Scottish Parliament I decided that as befits such an important occasion to write this poem to commemorate it. I’ve given it the title Settled I hope you enjoy the read.
On the first of July 1999
The day after my graduation
a declaration was made
there shall be a Scottish Parliament
and our Presiding officer proclaimed
the long adjournment was over
our national democracy at last reconvened
not with full powers of sovereignty
Westminster would never have allowed that
and Donald Dewar our first ever First Minister
a Westminster man to the last
was only too willing to comply with his masters orders
6,000 square miles of Scotland’s coastal waters
made English by the stroke of a pen
the rent Britainia demanded
in exchange for a parliament
where some preening like peacocks
could at least pretend to be important
not him, that was an act
he would never have been able to carry
his acting skills more fitted to Holyrood than Holywood
this deeply conservative man
could never quite convince himself
the Labour Party were even remotely socialist
when he knew a very different reality
but even with limited powers
this parliament made changes
and Scottish society benefited
Section 28 was repealed and the LGBT community
felt safer because of it
from land reform to free travel
for those most in need
a reluctant leading man
never commanded centre stage
it didn’t suit his style
smiles were seldom seen
from a lawyer who knew
politics was a serious business
as we look back with rose tinted glasses
on the achievements of our parliament to date
we shouldn’t dismiss the contributions made
by our first ever first minister
in winning reluctant converts to devolution
in times when hard line unionism
was a much stronger force
those who followed the course he started
are walking the path he set
we are governed by consent of our people
and despite roars from leopards
who will never change their spots
Scotland has embarked on a road
from which there can be no turning back
at some stage there shall be an independent Scotland
I can’t believe it’s been five years since that never to be forgotten march when we gathered at Calton Hill in support of our country’s independence and the restoration of Scotland to the global community of nations. It is in memory of that march and all of us who were proud to be part of a truly magnificent day that I have written this poem which I have given the title Restored. I hope you enjoy the read.
Calton Hill September 2013
in our thousands we marched
in a persuit of a dream
a vision of our country
being the best it could be
Independent and free from Westminster
and the burden of rule by governments
we didn’t elect
our march was not about highlighting division
it was promoting self respect
believing we could be the equal of all other nations
as we filled the hill we were treated to inspirational speeches
from poets, campaigners and politicians
songs from musicians who got the crowd singing along
we weren’t wrong to believe
in a land where our children not weapons
would be the priority of our country
when we were restored to the global community
and allowed to speak with our own voice
no longer waiting for others to say
what they wanted us to think
in the interests of a few self serving types
who are only ever Scottish
when it suits them to be
we were right on that day and we are still right now
This poem is written in memory of Scotland’s first ever First Minister Donald Dewar. Though both a member of The Labour Party and a staunch unionist Dewar as this poem shows was a man I could respect even though I disagreed with his Scottish-British Identity. I have titled it Small Victories as a testament to a man who I believe could have achieved so much more both for himself and for Scotland had he just been a bit bolder and embraced independence. That said I respected the man though I didn’t agree with his unionism. I hope you enjoy the read
A crowd gather at the statute of a man
who would have opposed his statue being built
the man whom his acolytes
called the father of the nation
till the Wallace society called them out
a quiet man who disapproved of shouting
he preferred more measured tones
but he would have raised his voice on this occasion
in the name of fairness and the faith
in which he was raised
the dour Presbyterian
the mask he hid behind
to cover political disappointments and private hurts
we will never know nor need to
a Glasweigan from comfortable kin
he used his pragmatic conformity
as a way to win small victories
his dual Scottish-Britishness sat uneasily with me
but I got it even though I didn’t agree
and later joined the SNP
to make progress on what he clained to be
the settled will of the Scottish people
raised on faith Donald Dewar knew his commandments
he would have smiled at the fact
we were delivering Scotland’s asylum seekers
from the evil of exploitation
as we stood united SNP, Labour, the Greens
to say as our first ever first minister would have said
every small step is a landmark on the road to progress
and a testament to the kind of country we aspire to become
Many of you, particularly those of you from outside Scotland will not know how much it saddens me to write the post on which I am now about to start.
Tonight at around 7pm GMT I received an e-mail from Bella Caledonia editor Mike Small informing me that the online magazine which played such a prominent role in supporting yes vote for an Independent Scotland and has been such a significant part of the Scottish cultural, social , and political landscape for the past 10 years would more than likely be no more.
To say I was disappointed to receive this news would I think be understating my reaction by a county mile. I was and this is putting it somewhat politely absolutely heartbroken. Eventually my heartbreak gave way to rage as I asked myself the question How could we let this happen?
Be under no illusions my friends this is a massive blow for those of us who support not only independence but the vision of a fairer more equal society which attracted us to independence in the first place. For many of us Bella Caledonia represented those values and gave us an outlet which expressed those values in the face of a very hostile print and broadcast media which seemed to oppose any kind of reform to Scotland’s constitutional settlement which it took great delight in telling was the settled will of Scottish people and could never be changed so it impossible was to even consider attempting it.
Thus went the prevailing unionist orthodoxy as we started 2007 and yes the more entrenched members of unionist political class still hold to those beliefs but be in no doubt the stage Bella Caledonia now exits is a very different one from that on which it first appeared 10 years ago.
During this period in our history in which Bella played its part Scotland has changed and changed for good. We are a more confident nation than at any time in our recent history and despite the shrill, almost hysterical whinging from the more deluded unionists we will not be going back in to what they think is our wee parochial box where we can be put away and ignored ever again.
This confidence did not come overnight. Like the best and most beautiful of nature’s creations it took time to grow, and had to be nurtured in the correct and appropriate way and that is what Bella was so good at doing. From its earliest days, it urged to us live as if we were living in the first days of a better nation.
This was much more than a slogan it was a request to the people of Scotland to behave in a certain way. The thinking behind it was that if we act in a manner which is independent then independence will eventually become dominant social and cultural norm. When Bella first started such an idea could and I’m sure would have been considered dangerously radical by our ultra cautious political establishment. It is perhaps one of the magazine’s greatest achievements that this mantra is now part of our country’s political lexicon.
The last 10 years have been a time of tremendous political change in Scotland. When Bella first started many Scots were in the process of switching what seemed like a lifetime of loyalty to the Labour Party to the SNP and they did so in enough numbers to give the party more fanatical unionists such as George Robertson and Brian Wilson claimed would never govern Scotland the chance to do so as the party won the Scottish Election of that year by the narrowest of margins winning 47 seats to Labour’s 46.
On winning the election the outgoing Labour leader Jack McConnell pledged to make governing Scotland difficult for the incumbent SNP administration but in Alex Salmond the SNP had a far shrewder leader than any of his predecessors and while Labour went through leaders faster than I go through after eights at Christmas, Alex Salmond got on with the business of governing Scotland and it came as no surprise to anyone outside the Labour Party when he was re-elected First Minister as the SNP were returned to power in 2011 and this time with a landslide majority.
I bring up this matter of historiography purely to illustrate that after an election which saw the route of both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats it was Bella who provided a voice for authentic political progressives and despite their opposition to its pro independence stance many of the more politically aware amongst their number knew the value of such a liberal left site speaking for many of the more culturally and socially radical voices of the yes campaign. It was a place where principled disagreement could be had without the same rancour of some of more dogmatic yes sites like Wings Over Scotland.
After the referendum was lost by a far narrower margin than many unionist commentators had predicted, Bella continued to represent all the various strands of what had been the yes campaign and continued to give support to SNP government where appropriate and criticism where necessary. Whilst this may not have been appreciated by some within the ranks of my party to those of us who put the long term interests of the people of Scotland before short term party political gain not only welcomed this we actively embraced it.
Unlike others who would hear no criticism of the SNP or Yes Scotland I had realised that however much it may have pained me and believe me it pained me more than you’ll ever know that we lost the referendum and if we were to win the next one we needed not to pat ourselves on the back but examine why we lost what could do to persuade those voters we didn’t manage to convince in 2014 and set about doing it. The fact that Mike Small and his team of writers were able to challenge us to challenge ourselves to think bigger than we would previously have dared to is in my considered opinion no mean feat especially at a time when we could have got too self congratulatory for our own good.
Since reading on the demise of Bella I have read many comments online the vast majority of which have been very positive but one which stuck out for me was from a yes supporter who seemed to damn it with faint praise by stating that we should never forget the small part it played in the 2014 referendum. As someone who though not in the position to contribute to its financial security was a regular reader of the magazine and often pointed others in that direction if they wanted to see the news from a sensible well argued yes perspective I found this comment to be both insulting and infuriating.
to me Bella should be given enormous credit for the role it played in the years leading up to the independence referendum and indeed those in articulating the voices of some of Scotland’s most creative and talented citizens and giving them the chance to air their views on the future of our country.
It is I think a fitting tribute to what was a ground breaking magazine to say that as Bella reaches the end of it’s journey. The future of pro independence media has never been brighter even if I exclude the controversial site Wings Over Scotland whose vision of the kind of society it wants to see in a post independent Scotland is shall we say very different from mine.
With regards to blogs we have sites like Wee Ginger Dug , and the multi media based Common Space to fill at least part of the void which will be created by Bella’s loss. With regards to, the more traditional printed media we now have both The National and the Sunday Herald to put forward our views to those less familiar with the internet.
However in darker less enlightened times than now, before we had these quality news outlets to state the case for Scotland, Bella was the first to stick it’s head above the parapet and encourage us to be bolder in our thinking. In the days when we as a movement were at the beginning of our yet unfinished journey Bella encouraged us to be the best we can be and its call to live as if we were in the first days of a better nation was one I was proud to take up. Speaking from a very personal perspective I owe the team at this amazing magazine a debt of gratitude for giving me ideas above my station and for me and many others like me that will be the legacy of Bella Caledonia.
In memory of and with thanks to
Bella Caledonia 2007-2017
In her recent speech to the Conservative Party Conference British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to be under the delusion that she could stop Scotland from holding a second independence referendum should we choose to do so, simply by sneering at us and shouting Brexit Means Brexit. Now far be it from me to put an unelected tyrant with no mandate in Scotland in her place but she needs to be told if there’s any sneering to be done we’re the ones who are going to do it. Well at least we have a First Minister who has been democratically elected by our people and who but for a corrupt system of PR would be heading a second majority government. It is as a reminder to the Right Honourable Lady that she will never stop the people of Scotland exercising our democratic will that I have written this poem which takes a satirical look at the sinister anti Scottish undertones in her speech. I have titled it Breakfast Means Breakfast , I hope you enjoy the read.
Breakfast Means Breakfast
I had to tell them no
you can’t have lunch I forbid it
you must understand I’m in command
there is just one meal you’re getting
so don’t go forgetting
Breakfast means Breakfast
Now where are my chocolate digestives
I hope that Nicola and others
haven’t been helping themselves
I’ll need to put their favourites on the top shelves
with that stuff I have to stash away from Boris
no wonder I gave him the job of dealing with Johnny Foreigner
but for now breakfast means breakfast
now where is my Belgian chocolate
damn I can’t remember where I hid it
all I know is I placed it
out of the reach of the children
this is my kingdom not theirs
It’s not fair they don’t like me
well except Ruth
the only one who accepts
lives by my rules
the rest will just have to learn
what I say goes
I’m replacing Thistles with Roses
and Haggis with Tripe
I don’t care if they don’t like it
I’m banning shortbread and Irn Bru forever
this family is better together
they will not be allowed to leave home
I’m putting my foot down and stamping it loudly
because I’m proud to be head of this house
and no-one will take my position
this is my kingdom
and some tartan agitators
SNP Greens and and Leftie Labour
need to be told
nobody mocks my golden ambition
of a new Victorian age
where those who ruled commanded the stage
and those we ruled knew their place
we got the nice plates and
and they got the scraps but were content with their lot
why can’t the Scots see
this is the way it’s meant to be
I take holidays to Greece
whilst they have greasy diets
which will make them too fat to riot.
I need to keep them quiet
and remind them that no matter the time of day
they will do as I say
and breakfast means breakfast
they are getting no free lunches
yes I know their revenue pays
for my attack of the munchies
but that’s irrelevant
like the Welsh and all others I don’t like. they live in the servants, quarters
my world does have borders
to keep the foreigners out
they may be nice in there proper place
I wear French lace
and Italian leather
but my family are better together
and they will come first at all times
I can’t decide whether to have
French or Spanish wine
with my Italian meal
It’s a tough decision
but I will make it my way
and the United Kingdom
will rejoice whatever do
as for the Scots they’ll be too busy finishing their cereal to care
eventually they’ll give up in despair
content themselves with one meal a day
and concede their irrational demands
they will love the breakfast menu
it will come decorated in red white and blue
what’s that ?
I heard the door shutting
someone’s left a note
it says thanks for nothing
we’re off out to the Cafe Euro
so don’t wait up we’re not coming back
we’re moving on
the diet is less restrictive
has more choice
and the menu is written in multitude of tongues
it’s the kind of place where breakfast is only served once a day
and doesn’t come with a side of attitudes