View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 9 March 2012

Friday 9 March

Changeable cloud and rising wind today, with just the odd drop of drizzle. Temperatures were highest in the night, slowly dropping from an overnight high of 10C to about 7C at the moment. As it's cloudy, we're missing out on the aurora. Being at latitude 58 north would mean a spectacular display. Well, it's raining as I type this, no tough luck.

Completed the first batch of additional research on WW1 casualties from the town of Stornoway, their number exceeding 140 - i.e. about 10% of the total number of those lost in the Great War. I have revised the Stornoway page of the memorial site Faces from the Lewis War Memorial. All the information on one person is now contained on the one page. Sometimes it is very little; sometimes there is rather more. The outlying districts are next.

An MP who went bananas in a bar in the Houses of Parliament on 22 February has been sentenced to a fine of £3,000 plus £1,400 in compensation to his victims; two fellow MPs and two researchers. He was also banned from all pubs and bars for several months. I would have expected Eric Joyce to have stepped down as MP for Falkirk (central Scotland) after such a disgraceful performance. But it is probably not politically expedient to have a by-election.

The Convener of Western Isles Council is stepping down in May, after 28 years as councillor and 13 years as Convener. Mr Macdonald finished by making a swipe against internet bloggers, whom he referred to as scurrilous and cowardly as well as not belonging to our community. Freedom of speech, anyone?


The Scottish National Party, which is in government in Scotland at the moment, has proposed to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn of 2014. I have previously made my views on independence - I'm against.

Scotland was an independent nation until 1703, when it amalgamated with England, Wales and Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (latterly Northern Ireland). Uprisings in 1715 and 1746 were organised to resurrect the monarchy in Scotland, led by the house of Stewart. Both failed abysmally, and the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 was the last to be fought on British soil. There is ill feeling in certain quarters between the English and the Scottish, and there is no denying the historical facts that underpin that. During the latter half of the 18th century, atrocities were committed in the Highlands to suppress any further uprisings. The clearances of the 19th century were, however, not solely committed by English landowners - a lot of them were carried out at the behest of Scottish landowners, living it up down in London.

Independence for Scotland is a serious matter. Independence is a serious matter for any nation, seeking to break away. If the referendum returns a definite 'yes' in favour, mechanisms should be in place to smooth over the transition. And that is where I start to get seriously criticial.

The SNP have been in power at Holyrood since May 2007. In those 5 years, they do not appear to have given much thought to the practicalities of running a country. To what needs to be done in order to effect the separation from England. The same accusation must be leveled at the Westminster government, which has failed to plan for the contingency of independence for Scotland. Each and every day, the papers here in Scotland are full of examples of things that have not been thought about. The nuclear submarine base at Faslane. The oil revenues. Taxation. Border controls. Security. Neither side have given it any thought.

I am not having a jibe specifically against any party. Labour was in power in Westminster in 2007; the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition has been in since 2010. So everybody has had their eye off the ball. The SNP is more concerned with England bashing than seriously preparing the country for a possible separation from England. Worse than that, England will most likely be their main trading partner following independence, so being confrontational is about the worst thing they could do.
Labour can be accused of complacency, and in disenfranchising 110,000 Scottish voters in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. The Conservatives can be bothered even less, as they have the grand total of one MP in Scotland.

Anyway, we're stuck with the present mess, and I dread for the future.