July 2008 Archives
"Six months ago The Scotsman made one of those very rare and striking changes to its masthead, turning the paper very visibly green, and partnering with the SNP government on the environment.
The public were invited to make ten modest pledges, from reducing car usage to turning the taps off while brushing their teeth.
Since then the paper has provided a substantial contribution to reporting about a range of environmental crises, including the threats to Scotland's seas, to the Balmedie dunes, and to our bees. One morning, readers were warned that the nuclear weapons at Faslane could explode in sequence as part of a phenomenon called "popcorning". Hardly a single issue has gone by without some discussion about climate change.
Those same six months have, however, seen almost total inactivity from the SNP government. Where is the environmental leadership they promised? On transport, they rammed through the M74 Extension despite opposition from the local community and every environmental group in the country, while letting bus fares rise and blocking progress on the railways.
Any occasional step forward is more than offset by some new step backwards. Several new wind projects have been cleared, and last week the SNP announced a renewables research joint project with the Irish Green Party's Minister for Energy. However, the previous press release had heralded "Scotland's largest ever coal supply contract", tying us into a long-term commitment to the dirtiest fossil fuel there is.
Most scandalously, the SNP manifesto pledged binding 3% annual cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Before their Climate Change Bill even came to Parliament, that's been dropped. At best, Salmond and Swinney have gone native. At worst, they recognise that they could never make cuts even that timid with their current policies on energy, food, transport and so on.
It's now up to Parliament to improve this legislation, otherwise the best we can hope for is that SNP Ministers keep brushing their teeth with the taps off."
To pick some semi-random examples, the News of the World is down more than 7% to 279,674, the Mail on Sunday is down 8.5% to 110,357, and the FT is down almost 7% to 5,151.
Now, maybe the month of June is a bad one for sales, with people too busy watching Euro 2008 etc. I can't tell because I don't have access to their trend data.
But even so there are two exceptions to these numbers that I've spotted. The Telegraph, up 3.7%, and the Sunday Telegraph, up a fraction. Could it be some inexplicable Cochrane effect?
And why the silence? I'll let Brian's out-of-office explain:
I am currently on leave. I will be back in the UK on Tuesday July 22. Just in time for the by-election. And the Labour leadership. And the LibDem leadership. And any other vacancies which may emerge. Urgent inquiries meantime should be addressed to the newsdesk on 0141-422 7800.
Personally, I think all of Scotland's other leaders are pretty secure, even Annabel. That's despite Brian Monteith (remember him?) calling for her to be deposed in favour of Murdo Fraser or Gavin Brown. Don't worry, Brian, I don't see your holiday being disturbed by that.
I was particularly amused to put her onto the Daily Mail so they could ask her how she felt about the role she might play in finishing Gordon Brown's career. "New Labour has run its course", she said. How true.
Anyway, it was a day off because I obviously couldn't be paid for Parliamentary work when out campaigning; a proper busman's holiday. And that then meant that the odd MSP-related call I took then also became volunteer work. Lucky I love the job so much..
Drinks were taken, more by some than others (I still want to hear what Mao's point was, Mark).
Murdo's away to work for a substantial oil company in Kazakhstan, and despite him being the bane of my life when I worked for the Parliament's first two Presiding Officers, I'll miss him.
When I say "bane of my life", what I most obviously mean is this article, which appeared ten days after I started work in Parliament.
It was factually correct, except for the species of oak, their colour, the number of them, the cost (massively less), their likely country of origin, the status of contract negotiations at the time. Oh, and the final price of the project, which sadly went a little higher than £280m while I was there.
Anyway, back to oil. I corrected his impression that his new employers and my current employers have, shall we say, divergent interests, though. Pump it slowly, I advised him to tell them. If we burn all our remaining stocks of oil and gas more slowly, it'll have less of an impact on the climate. Oh, and his bosses will make shedloads more money if they hang onto what's left of their reserves until prices hit $500 a barrel or more.
I understand they are already aware of this issue, and I'm hopeful that they'll come to the same conclusions I did. Sorry, Gordon.
The source was nothing less than a US government briefing. And they should know - George Bush ticks all the same boxes, despite not actually owning the national media. For both men they could also say "he relied on circumvention of the legal system either to take power or to retain it".
It's the apology that gets me, though. Should you really apologise for telling the truth, even to a guest?
Frankly, if I were an SNP strategist, I'd be pulling some of the campaign effort back and hoping for the latter. Like Wendy, he has proved himself not to be up to the job, and I would be surprised if there wasn't a whole bucket-load of regret at SNP HQ about Standards having pushed her just hard enough to resign.
The latest newfangled technologery to confuse him is the humble teleprompter, a vital part of any Republican campaign's arsenal since Reagan first gave a press conference during a nap.
As for computers, McCain admits to being "an illiterate who has to rely on my wife for all the assistance I can get". As Frank Rich put it in the New York Times (article, bypass registration here), "Getting shot down over Vietnam may not be a qualification for president in 2008, but surely a rudimentary facility with a laptop is". Quite.
I wonder if he's as IT-incompetent as Tony Blair, who, the story goes, used to leave tippex on the screen when trying to correct typos. Heaven help us if so, and if he gets elected.
Ross Finnie (seen left phoning his nomination in) is, say what you like, a serious contender for the Liberal leadership.
He's got an absolutely magnificent bass-baritone, and those of us who attended the SPJA dinner found his jokes hilarious despite the absence of any actual punchlines.
Despite the odd appearance of scandal in his past, one incident of being seriously inaccurate with Parliament, and his obsessive support for GM crops against the will of his party, he's still probably their best bet. Having said which, like Tavish Scott, he's apparently committed to the non-constructive opposition the party has made its post-May-2007 trademark, hardly the way to change their fortunes.
Anyway, he'll probably come a respectable second to Tavish, but when the votes are counted, there is a chance we could see a scene rather like this one:
Note: even the BBC acknowledge the resemblance!