18 December 2010

Orwell's ten(ish) ...

A few folk have prevailed on me to put myself forward for yon Orwell Prize for blogs this year.  There seemed no harm in it and the process of revisiting the past year in ten pieces was enjoyable. A reminder, if nothing else, that I embarked on this particular project in January of 2009 - and will soon have been blogging for more than two years. Since we are in the Festive season, it seemed a nice notion to compose some sort of end of year review. Here are just some of my many posts from the last twelve months. I've tended to focus on those pieces which I hope contributed an interesting thought, an alternative perspective on some public care of the day - something mildly daft - or which drew attention to something neglected elsewhere in public debates in Scottish political or legal life (broadly conceived). I also appreciate all the fellow bloggers and commenters who have entered into discussion with me over the last year, prodding the flabby underside of my reasoning or emphasising some neglected issue or line of argument. Despite the internet's reputation for girning trollery, you've been amusing, gently insulting - but in my experience, overwhelming reflective, wry readers.

Regular readers will know that I'm interested in the issue of gender - a Scottish care which would dearly benefit from much more critical examination. Joan McAlpine and others have written about Scottish women and Scottish N(/n)ationalisms. Here was my response, trying to reorientate the debate a little, so we don't make the mistake of making it a woman's issue, thereby assuming conceptions of Scottish manhood and masculinity are straightforward or unproblematic. Will you Go Laddie Go?

I also like to keep an eye on Scottish justice issues. Amongst these, I've written about the potentially concerning breath of Holyrood's recently enacted laws, criminalising conduct associated with serious organised crime. The detail of these issues can rather snooze-inducing, even if your kyte is not yet cheerfully swollen with a festive libation or six. While most of us may not go in fear of the provisions, it is worthwhile, I'd submit, to keep Holyrood's new organised crime laws in focus...

Earlier in the year, the Scottish parliament rejected arguments from Labour and Tory MSPs, calling for mandatory prison sentences for all folk caught bearing knives, six months and two years respectively. Those calling for the imposition of such penalties included John Muir, whose son perished on the blade of such a weapon - who gave evidence to the parliament's Justice Committee. In a potentially controversial post, I argued against the proposals and the tenor (and politics) of Muir's contribution. Is this a dagger I see before me?

Another issue which has dominated this blog this year was Margo's (finally unsuccessful) attempt to legalise euthanasia in Scotland. Although I accept that imagining the issue as one delineated along crude binary lines - heathen and faithful, the benighted god fearing and the thanatophoric "rational" - religion's place in the public sphere is a crucial issue here.  I tried to have a wee think about this in Assisted dying: Holyrood and "religion in the public square"... On the same issue of religion, this post from Good Friday encapsulates many of my ambivalent sentiments - as a Godless soul - towards Christianity, its symbols, notions - and their power.

In a rare discussion of Westminster politics, I tried to unravel some of the paradoxes of (anti-) bureaucracy  which slosh about in our public discourses - and are likely to dominate, albeit on an implicit, confused level - the coalition's ongoing discussion about public spending, cuts and distribution models for benefits.  

Thanks are owed to Love and Garbage, who drew attention to another issue on which the press was largely silent - the constitutional legality of any Holyrood-ordered referendum on Scottish independence. Like most, I'd rather blithely accepted the political account of the problem - glossing over any legal difficulties. Looking into the issues, to my horror, revealed that the legality of the referendum was much less clear cut than everyone supposes. And the answer? Is the independence referendum legally competent? I'd argue there are good persuasive arguments why we can say - Yes! - however, the issue is legally much, much more problematic than the public, politicians and press have recognised.

Probably the most virtuous contribution of this blog to our public life this year, my first post rejoiced under the stark headline Scotland legalises domestic abuse...  after an outrageous decision of the High Court of Justiciary on breach of the peace. Despite being ignored in the press, and the concerning significance of the judgment being missed, I pestered all of our MSPs about the point - questions were laid in Holyrood, eventually the tale was covered in the Scotland on Sunday - and thanks to some Ministerial despatch, the lacuna in the law was reasonably hastily filled in, as a saving legislative section was expedited and brought into force.

Finally, to end on a jaunty note - and prove that communication beyond the grave is possible - to date, I think, my most effective piece of necromantically channelled poetry has been To a Foulkes, composed in honour of Lord George's departure from Holyrood at the coming election in May 2011. Exceedingly difficult to distil many months into a brief flurry of pieces. Those are just a few which I particularly enjoyed writing. I hope you appreciated (at least some of them) too.


  1. Good for you LPW. You're an excellent entrant and I'm sure you'll do very well indeed. Good luck,

  2. Can I add my best wishes - you've been consistently informative and entertaining, shining lights on otherwise darkened (dingy?) Scottish spaces. A genuine pleasure to read.

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  4. Thanks Subrosa,

    To be honest, I'm not a big one for prizes, medals and ribbons - and I'd be surprised if the Scottish issues discussed resonates with any of the judges - but ho hum! Nothing ventured and all that...

  5. Thanks Almax. Generous sentiments. And appreciate your trademark direct candour, Conan! ;-)

  6. Ah. Was in the pub all afternoon Lallands...

  7. The boozy exculpation! Don't worry, Conan. I don't take the occasional "bastarding" ill.