What does a “domestic extremist” look like? Someone wearing a red baseball cap emblazoned with slogans claiming to make their country “great again”? A far-right thug who uses the threat of violence in an attempt to intimidate anyone who looks different from them? Or members of a community peacefully waving home-made placards, campaigning to protect themselves from pollution?
This week’s return to business for the Scottish Parliament was an opportunity to address the hopes of people in every community across the country. Making Scotland a fairer, progressive, more democratic country is something there’s broad agreement on but it’s an agenda that has needs a far bolder approach at Holyrood.
I’m reminded of the very blunt response given by a Swedish commentator when author and National columnist Lesley Riddoch explained the convoluted and remote way that local services are currently funded in Scotland: “Don’t you trust yourselves?”
My summer holiday this year began with one last work commitment – I had accepted an invitation to speak at the Féile an Phobail – the West Belfast Festival – about independence, Brexit, and the connections between the Irish and Scottish situations in this unprecedented context. It’s pretty unarguable that both countries’ interests are being trampled on by the UK Government’s reckless approach.
This summer’s weather has been extraordinary, not just in Scotland but around the world. It has been accompanied by the usual slew of online articles about how to get to sleep in the warm weather (has anyone actually managed to fit a pillow in the freezer?) and the importance of staying hydrated.
But as the heat has continued, the advice has moved from not leaving dogs in hot cars to warnings about water levels running low in reservoirs and the two words guaranteed to strike fear into suburbia – “hosepipe ban”.
Amid the hubbub of a cabinet reshuffle, a minister-in-waiting scandal and a shelved education bill, the growing threat facing Scotland’s environment has been somewhat overlooked this week.
Powers relating to most environmental matters, such as air quality, water, energy, food and farming are devolved to Scotland. To date, these powers have been used in the context of UK membership of the EU.
If the SNP’s Growth Commission was supposed to do anything, it was to provoke debate. Debate is certainly needed about a new proposition for independence, because the one thing every 2014 Yes voter should be able to agree on is that what we don’t need is simply a re-run of an argument that failed to win a majority then, in circumstances which have already changed dramatically. That would be a recipe for a second and perhaps even final defeat.
Couples starting out their lives together, whether married or not, often face tough financial decisions, over issues like where to call home. If you’re very observant you might have spotted an occasional mention in the media that there’s a wedding taking place in Winsdor this weekend. Let’s all hope that the happy couple won’t have to face a grilling from their bank manager anytime soon as they set up home together.
When is consent not consent? This kind of question can be complicated, and when it becomes the focus of both public debate and legal process disagreements and misunderstandings can arise because of nothing more than woolly use of language. Most of us have an instinctive idea of what consent means, but until we actually discuss it openly we can’t rely on the assumption that we all share the same definition.
As the Commonwealth Games holds the attention of sports fans, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in London, there has been another round of speculation about the organisation’s future, and debate about its past. Is the Commonwealth merely a legacy of Empire, a reminder of the brutal crimes of Empire, or is it a mutually beneficial community of countries bound together by bonds of friendship?
An enduring memory from my teenage years was hearing for the first time, in documentaries to mark the twentieth anniversary of his assassination, some of the speeches of Martin Luther King. Now, as we mark the fiftieth anniversary, his words have lost none of their searing power.