Lessons from Scotland for the European referendum

Could Britain really vote to leave the European Union? That question is rattling around the minds of the liberal intelligentsia, after a new pollĀ from Lord Ashcroft put the Out vote nine points ahead of In. Lord Ashcroft, like other poll purveyors, has work to do to rebuild his reputation after May. His research was, however,…

James Kelly should show more respect to presiding officer

‘Members shall at all times conduct themselves in an orderly manner.’ That’s what the standing orders of the Scottish Parliament say. The standing orders are Holyrood’s rulebook, intended to ensure the smooth running of parliamentary business. Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly fell foul of this instruction on Tuesday afternoon when he became confrontational with presiding…

Scotland has lost a great writer with the passing of Ian Bell

When I learned of Ian Bell’s death, just past midnight, I was in the middle of writing an obituary. It’s something I do when I can’t sleep. Ghoulish perhaps but in journalism you have to think ahead. My tribute was to a much older man. Ian Bell was just 59. It is no age to…

Alistair Carmichael should do the decent thing and resign

It might be the only interesting thing ever to come out of the Scotland Office. The memo leaked by former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael through his special adviser in April was dynamite. The notes on a conversation between SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and French ambassador Sylvie Bermann recorded an admission from the First Minister that…

Don’t judge The 56 by the worst of their number

You wait years for an SNP scandal and three come along at once. First it was Michelle Thomson, she of the totally-not-an-SNP-front Business for Scotland who stood for the Nationalists in Edinburgh West in May. Barely had she planted bum on green leather before the boys in blue started looking into a series of property…

The Oldham by-election result is a disaster for Labour

There was a glimmer of hope for the Labour Party this week. Hilary Benn captivated the House of Commons with an impassioned proclamation that democratic socialism still lives. Closing the debate on Syria, the Leeds Central MP called on his comrades to stand against Islamist terrorism, a monstrous and fascistic conspiracy against liberal democracy. It…

Syria, solidarity, and virtue signalling from 40,000ft

It turns out we stand with France after all. By 397 votes to 223, MPs gave their backing to the Prime Minister’s motion for air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria. The decision came at 10.30pm on Wednesday after a marathon debate in the House of Commons. Speeches were measured, angry, passionate, clinical, accusatory…