The drugs really do work. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today

Let’s talk about depression. Last week, The Lancet published research into the effectiveness of antidepressants. The study was vast, taking in 21 drugs prescribed to nearly 120,000 patients in more than 500 trials across almost four decades. And the results? Every single medication was more effective than a placebo in treating adults with major depressive…

Justin Trudeau takes his Captain Snowflake act to India

If your week was less than fun, spare a thought for Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Prime Minister’s seven-day visit to India went down like an undercooked biriyani on the subcontinent. When he landed in New Delhi last Saturday, Trudeau was greeted on the tarmac, not by the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister but by the…

Telt! The day Mr Nice Guy snapped at Nicola

Remember that terribly progressive teacher at school? The one who insisted you call him by his first name and worried that homework might be a human rights violation?  Ken Macintosh is the trendy teacher of the Scottish Parliament. As Presiding Officer, it’s his job to keep order but he just can’t bring himself to stamp…

Bring back military service? We would need to bring back the military first

‘The British are good at paying taxes but detest drill,’ Winston Churchill once observed. ‘The French do not mind drill but avoid taxes.’ France’s president Emmanuel Macron has reminded us of the wisdom of Winnie by announcing the return of compulsory national service, 17 years after it was abolished. Les jeunes français will be obliged…

Did Jeremy Corbyn bring down the Iron Curtain?

There are two competing theories about how the Soviet Union collapsed. One holds that Ronald Reagan’s moral leadership against communism and bolstering of US defences weakened Moscow’s will and buried them economically. The other contends that Mikhail Gorbachev’s domestic reforms and wise diplomacy brought down the Iron Curtain in spite of the cowboy in the…

The SNP should reinvent itself

The SNP, you’ll be distressed to learn, are having a time of it. The party is embroiled in a deputy leadership contest that could have been designed by their worst enemies. Angus Robertson, who lost his Moray seat last June, has resigned, depriving the party of one of its most formidable and respectable advocates. His…

A rapier wit adds to the gaiety of politics but it takes more to be a leader

Jacob Rees-Mogg is everywhere at the moment. He’s on TV so much I fear the producers of Question Time have lost Nigel Farage’s mobile number. Videos of his parliamentary speeches attract hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. He even gained the respect of rivals after being jostled by far-Left protesters at a university event…

Will the SNP ever be able to govern?

There is a gloom out there. A creeping suspicion, beneath the surface in some places, voiced openly in others, that something has gone wrong. Where it can be heard it is done so in bars and coffee shops and offices and even where it isn’t you can feel it. Those who seldom discuss current affairs…

Holyrood’s latest cop drama? It’s the poor man’s Netflix

If the Police Scotland saga were a Netflix series, it would now be in its tenth season and even diehard fans would be wondering if it was time to call it a day.  The current storyline has seen Chief Constable Phil Gormley accused of multiple misconduct, go on special leave, be told he was coming…

The paranoid style in British politics

Is the Daily Telegraph front page anti-Semitic? Not intentionally, I don’t think. It is, however, an astonishingly ill-judged rocket-fuelling of a story that belongs, at best, six or seven pages in. In its rush to damn the hated Remainers, the paper has oversold a middling story, splashed in primary colours a tale better told in pastels,…

The Ten… women who were pioneers in British politics

Britain is marking the centenary of votes for women. The 1918 Representation of the People Act extended the franchise to men over 21 and women over 30. This has prompted a renewed interest in the Suffragettes who fought, and in some cases died, to secure electoral rights for women. The first thing to note is…

Scotland is paying a heavy price for the SNP’s independence obsession

Say what you like about Nicola Sturgeon but she’s consistent. Every autumn, when she sets out her programme for government, the First Minister makes the same pledge: ‘We will make it a priority to improve the educational outcomes of pupils in the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland… a targeted approach to attainment that will help…

Sinister backdrop to the War of the Luvvies

The relationship between art and politics has never been an easy one. The artist is a cultural trouble-maker by profession, illuminating the human condition in ways that upset received wisdom and inspire angst in the powerful. This is why the Church dedicated such effort to censorship and tyrants seldom brook the dissent of novelists and…

Jeremy Corbyn and his followers are in denial about his past

There are three people in every conversation about Jeremy Corbyn’s grim past. I have noticed this before but renewed interest in his paid work for Iran’s Press TV confirmed it for me. First, there’s the anti-Corbynista, who points out one outrage or another. This might be Corbyn’s ‘friends’ in Hamas and Hezbollah, his inviting a hate preacher to tea on the…

Handed a star role, he wilted like yesterday’s organic lettuce

Patrick Harvie is the eternal bit player of Scottish politics but finally he got a starring role. First Minister’s Questions was all about Nicola’s Little Helper. Earlier this week, he came to the rescue when the SNP’s Budget needed extra votes to pass its first reading.  Pliable Patrick, the nodding cucumber, is a man of…

The one where millennials don’t get Friends

All progress is war on the past and millennials are particularly merciless combatants. The arrival of Friends on Netflix UK has had this neo-Victorian generation reaching for its fainting couch. Through woke eyes, the hit NBC sitcom isn’t a diverting entertainment but an artefact of racism, sexism and homophobia. If you were a twentysomething during…

Why I love Australia

Right, so I have this random love for all things Australia. I’ve never actually been but I’m sort of obsessed with the country, the people, the politics, the culture, the idiosyncratic ways. I’m not saying I’m stalking the Commonwealth or anything but it should probably have some Vegemite handy to keep me at bay. (It’s…

It was worse than chucking out time at the Queen Vic

WILLIE: You lied! NICOLA: You’re a pathetic attention seeker! KEN: Leave it out, the pair of you! Bit early for EastEnders, I thought, checking my watch. No, this was First Minister’s Questions, from the hallowed chamber of the nation’s parliament, and Nicola Sturgeon was in the middle of a slanging match that would get her…

There’s been a murder… of open government

‘You have the right to remain silent,’ intones the detective when he finally gets his man. It’s a familiar scene from US cop shows and, from the end of the month, police in Scotland will mimic the procedure when placing suspects under arrest. If Nicola Sturgeon ever decided to pursue a criminal record — beyond…

Why has the SNP inflicted this video on us?

I don’t know where people get the idea the SNP is intolerant of criticism. Scotland’s most open-minded party has released a new video that appears to be an attack on one of its critics dressed up as a party political broadcast. The video depicts a group of thirtysomethings gathered for a house party. They are Scottish but…

Labour’s beleaguered moderates must act now before it’s too late

When is left-wing not left-wing enough? Veteran Labour organiser Ann Black is finding out the hard way. Yesterday morning, she was the respected chair of the disputes panel, the party’s internal disciplinary committee, and responsible for investigating anti-Semitism and other accusations against members. Now, she is the respected former chair, ousted in a Momentum-led coup…

Hugs and puppies? Not a chance in Nicola’s bleak Brexit forecast

The threat of another independence vote is becoming an annual tradition in the SNP calendar. It seems to come round earlier every year, bringing joy to the world of nationalism and a bleak midwinter to the rest of us. Nicola Sturgeon has again raised the spectre of Indyref2, telling Andrew Marr that she will decide…

A digital toolkit for young Tories

OMG. New Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis has announced a ‘digital toolkit’ to help young right-wingers battle the Left on social media. Lewis wants ‘more of our activists and people who support some of the principles we’re outlining… getting out there in the digital world saying so and spreading that message with us’. To that end,…

Donald Trump is the least American president in US history

As a schoolboy, George Washington transcribed 110 Jesuitical maxims later published as Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.  In this pamphlet he counsels a regimen of behaviour so meticulous it forbids blowing on a spoonful of soup to cool it and specifies the proper method for dipping bread in sauce. Presidential…

Poorly? Just be grateful you’re not in Wales…

MSPs returned for the inaugural First Minister’s Questions of 2018, rested and refreshed over the New Year and sporting the finest in Christmas-gift fashion.  Johann Lamont snuggled under a fetching ivory woollen scarf while a radioactive tangerine tie threatened to ignite around Jackson Carlaw’s neck. Angela Constance essayed a cranberry painter’s smock that suggested a…

Facts are talking down Scotland again

The problem with exceptionalism is that sooner or later everyone wants in on it. The Romans claimed to be exceptional and none but the most contrarian observer of history would seek to refute that. The British at the height of the Empire considered themselves a uniquely bold and industrious force, settler of far-off lands, world…

Israel’s revival of the death penalty would be a grave mistake

One of the many problems with the effort to bring back the death penalty in Israel is that it never went away in the first place. Israel is only a partial abolitionist, banning the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 1954 but retaining it for war crimes and offences against the state. The last execution…

Two deaths and why lawless social media must now be brought to heel

A two-hour drive from Tokyo, just north-west of Mount Fuji, lurks the sombre sprawl of Aokigahara forest. The Japanese call it Jukai, the ‘Sea of Trees’, for it is dense with softly swaying thickets and devouring tides of silence and solitude. Across 12 square miles of lava rock, Mongolian oaks and hinoki cypresses loom over…

Iran’s uprising exposes the left’s shameful double standards

Why is Jeremy Corbyn silent on the protests in Iran? A cynic might say that the Labour leader could hardly be expected to bite the hand that fed him £20,000 for appearing on the state’s propaganda channel. But Corbyn’s motivations are not financial. He and those who share his worldview simply cannot stomach being on the same…

In defence of Toby Young

Turmoil in the Middle East, a reshuffle rumoured at Westminster, and Toby Young is offending the liberal establishment. So far, 2018 doesn’t seem all that different from 2017. The occasion for the latest sputtering is the Speccie columnist’s appointment to the board of the Office for Students. The OfS is the new regulator of Britain’s…

We won’t solve rail chaos by handing SNP a new train set

Like bad Christmas cracker jokes and rows with relatives, train disruptions seem to be part and parcel of the festive season. Passengers travelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh yesterday morning were left stranded after a signalling fault played havoc with the timetable. On what was for many the first day back at work after the Yuletide…

Yes, First Minister, there is a Santa Claus

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes many forms but none so cruel as Ruth Davidson. Nicola Sturgeon had one final First Minister’s Questions of 2017, an unkind year in which the SNP leader ask Father Christmas for Indyref2 but got a lump of coal in her stocking and Alex Salmond on Russia Today. Any hope…

SNP could become hooked on tax-raising drug

Raising income tax ‘would not be radical, it would be reckless. It would not be daring, it would be daft.’ Evidence showed ‘it could actually reduce the amount of money we have to invest in our National Health Service and our public services’. Given the need for ‘stable and predictable revenues’, tax hikes were ‘a…

Raising taxes would only reward ten years of SNP failure

Prepare to learn this week that you are callous and unfeeling. It will be implied, hinted, and even openly charged that you are selfish and mean-spirited; that you care more about your Tuscan villa and the winter home in Gstaad than those scraping by on the breadline. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay delivers his draft budget…

What a Twist! It’s Artful truth Dodger Nicola

All that was missing was the empty bowl and the raggedy mite mumbling, ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’ Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard forwent the conventional Q&A format of First Minister’s Questions in favour of an amateur dramatics production of Oliver Twist. Attempting to pin down Nicola Sturgeon on the future of local government…

Remembering Jerusalem

The Israelis, whom I love more than life itself, are doing it again. That thing they do when someone, anyone, even a total nishtgutnick like Donald Trump, comes along and tosses them a few warm words. Their little hearts leap to be told that, on balance, all things being equal, they have a right to…

Time to hit the brakes and admit it’s been a bumpy ride, Nicola

‘Stop talking down Scotland’ goes the perennial cry of the Scottish Nationalist, which roughly translates to ‘Stop pointing out unpalatable facts about Scottish Nationalism’. It’s not enough that the SNP governs every aspect of our lives, from how much tax we pay to where tobacconists can display their shameful contraband, they expect us to be…

Nicola Sturgeon’s credibility gap is impossible to bridge

Ratting on your colleagues is a daily hazard at Holyrood but it’s not every day you see a First Minister brief against herself. Nicola Sturgeon breezed into FMQs and outlined plans to shut a lane of the £1.35billion Queensferry Crossing for repairs. Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie asked when ministers learned the bridge would close….

Why fake news is not about Michael Gove being beastly to a bichon frise

Michael Gove doesn’t have the look of a cat-strangler. You could leave your miniature dachshund in the care of the Environment Secretary and, at worst, it might find itself embroiled in a hapless Tory leadership plot.  There are, however, a great many people out there — perhaps millions — who think Mr Gove would gladly…

Nicola nipped by Yorkshire terrier’s bite

As Kezia Dugdale was put through her paces on I’m a Celebrity, her successor Richard Leonard, salt-of-the-earth Yorkshireman, was making his debut at First Minister’s Questions. Miss Dugdale found herself crawling through a tunnel of fish guts deep in the Australian jungle. Fish guts? Luxury! Richard Leonard could only dream of having a tunnel of fish…

A £2billion windfall but the SNP is still overdrawn at the bank of grievance

When is a £2billion windfall a cause for righteous indignation? When you’re the SNP and eternally overdrawn from the bank of disgruntlement.  Philip Hammond unveiled the additional money to cheers from the Tory benches during yesterday’s Budget. Three hundred miles northwards, Derek Mackay seethed. The Scottish Government Finance Secretary greeted the boost to his coffers…

Walking the Green Line

Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel Ian Black Allen Lane, pp.606 If books about the Israeli-Arab conflict were building blocks, the Palestinians would have their own state already and then some. Most volumes bring little that is fresh or challenging, so selectivity is key. Daniel Gordis and Benny Morris are essential,…

Oh Richard Leonard

Oh Jeremy Corbyn, your takeover of Labour is all but complete. Left-winger Richard Leonard has triumphed in the Scottish Labour leadership, defeating moderate rival Anas Sarwar. The Yorkshireman and former GMB official becomes the party’s sixth leader in ten years and takes over from Kezia Dugdale, who abruptly quit the post in August for the…

Holyrood sketch: No more Mr Nice Guy… The return of Angry John

To Holyrood for First Minister’s Questions, where there is a distinct lack of a First Minister. In her place sits John Swinney. Zimbabweans have ousted Robert Mugabe after a long, colourful tyranny. Could a military coup have claimed our own snazzily-dressed megalomaniac? Nicola Sturgeon would be blissfully unaware if there were tanks in the streets…