Talking-up Scotland beaten by a wee dug!

Inspired by a similar survey, a month or two ago, by Indyref2, to find Scotland’s most popular political blog with a particular interest in Scottish issues, in the independence debate and in media coverage, I’ve done a similar thing using the same Website Traffic Estimator by TrafficEstimate.com. Here are the results for the last 30 days, finishing 18Th September 2018, at 16:00:

Name                                                  Estimated Monthly Traffic (unique visits)

1.      Wings Over Scotland                     218 700

2.      Wee Ginger Dug                             92 100

3.      Common Space                              87 700

4.      SCOT goes POP!                            78 000

5.      Talking-up Scotland                    70 200

6.      Bella Caledonia                            55 400

7.      Random Public Journal             52 700

8.      The Ferret                                     45 300

9.      Indyref2                                        43 700

10.  Newsnet.scot                                 Not enough data to estimate

11.  Caltonjock                                     Not enough data to estimate

12.  Lallands Peat Worrier              Not enough data to estimate

13.  Gerry Hassan                              Not enough data to estimate

14.  Scotland in Union                       Not enough data to estimate

 I’m sorry if I’ve missed someone. I know how it feels as I had to remind Indyref2 of my existence and then came 5th out of 9!

Despite coming 5th again, my claim to be the best pound-for-pound blogger, despite having lost two stones recently, despite operating entirely on my own and proof-reader free, despite being 67, arthritic and prostatic, lies in tatters. A wee dug, a teeny fraction of my 12 stones is more popular by some way.

I haven’t included the very popular, ex-ambassador, Craig Murray’s blog, because it’s not that often about Scottish politics. I do, however, strongly recommend it:

https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/

Despite the above removal, it is still difficult to meaningfully compare some of these blogs. For example, I post a lot of reports and some are quite short, labour-not-intensive pieces, passing on good news, while Indyref2 and Bella only do longer, more thoughtful pieces.

Finally, Stu, the Rev, the Wings guy, the clear ‘Champione’ by miles, would have been excluded by at least two of the other bloggers for having, let’s say, a sharp tongue in his head but I insist on retaining him.

I’m known for having the happy combination of a dirty sense of humour and no filter. Have I told the one about the woman and her Schnauzer? Later. So, I laugh loud and often at Stu’s Blackadder-plus descriptions of deserving folk like Murdo Fraser, Annie Wells, Ross Thompson, Jackson Carlaw, Kezia Dugdale, Dick Leonard, Willie Rennie, Ian Little……there are more.

One of my favourites:

‘There’s not much going on in Scottish politics at the moment, but you know that when the media resorts to printing stuff from echo-skulled Tory mousewit Annie Wells, there can’t even have been any barrel left to scrape.’

‘Echo-skulled Tory mousewit’, I love it. Where can I use it?

Seriously, Stu with his massively popular blog and publications like the Wee Blue Book, has almost certainly raised more support for the Yes campaign than any of the rest of us…Fuckin’ right he has, OK!!!??? Don’t make me angry! I’ve still got a punch! I boxed as recently as 1963. Watch this…..oooooh…..I’ve pulled something….get a nurse.

The answer to my headline question might well have been yes if it hadn’t been for that wee ginger bugger.

To conclude on a serious note, I’d like to thank all my readers, my mum, Noam Chomsky and…..now who was it?……………oh yes, Aggie the Border Terrier………there’s someone else……don’t tell me…………I have it………….my current wife.

 

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Scotland’s Nomedia neglect the biggest betrayal story of recent times as the Tories conspire to deny us an Irish-style border deal


(c) Open Democracy

From the Guardian late on the 16th, picked up by Wings at 4am the next morning, then covered by the National today, there is an astonishing revelation of a calculated betrayal of Scotland. See, in particular, the last line, in the Guardian piece:

‘But according to what is described as a diplomatic note seen by the Times, the EU is struggling to convince the UK that it is significant that checks at a border could be avoided entirely for many companies through trusted trade schemes…The note says: “The biggest unsolved problem is Northern Ireland. There is a political mobilisation in the UK in this regard. Therefore, we are trying to clarify the EU position. The controls or checks only have to be organised in a way that would not endanger the EU single market. For the main part, these controls would not have to happen at a border. It is to be expected that the reach of the backstop would decrease anyway in case of an agreement about the future relationship … The solution is specifically phrased for Northern Ireland so that it is not applicable for Scotland, a UK concern.’

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/17/brussels-nearing-impasse-with-may-over-irish-border-proposal

For Wings, it was both astonishing and deeply offensive:

‘The part of the UK which delivered the most resounding vote in the referendum would be the only one that DIDN’T get what it voted for.’

https://twitter.com/WingsScotland/status/1041645764752171008

For the National, it was an:

‘Appalling’ secret Tory plot to shut out Scotland in Brexit deal exposed by leak.’ The EU could be ‘secretly preparing’ a special deal for a frictionless Irish border. The Tories are plotting to undermine Scotland’s interests during negotiations with the EU, in what Brexit secretary Michael Russell described last night as a “massive insult”. ‘

http://www.thenational.scot/news/16884761.appalling-secret-tory-plot-to-shut-out-scotland-in-brexit-deal-exposed-by-leak/

I can’t think of a more dramatic Brexit-related piece of news for the people of Scotland to consider, yet it has been almost invisible across our mainstream media. In their three-hour show this morning, Good Morning Scotland didn’t find space to report on it. They had plenty of time for extended reports on the lack of preparation for Brexit by health boards and on the concern about staffing shortages deriving from it. The was no sign in the Scotsman or Herald with both focusing on the forecast, from pro-Union’s Scottish Business UK, a non-existent body, of independence being ‘eight times as costly as Brexit.’

This is an unmatched example of bias by omission which may leave a major part of the Scots electorate ignorant of a key, defining development, on the path to Brexit. As Wings points out, this is an attempt to deny that part of the UK which most strongly voted to stay in the EU, a special deal which they are nevertheless prepared to offer to a part which only narrowly voted to remain because that part, Northern Ireland, is on the same island as an EU member, Ireland, which has the power to veto the deal otherwise.

Though I argue that much day-to-day media bias results from unconscious loyalty to British institutions, this, in the public domain across social media and unavoidably known to the editors and writers at the BBC, STV, Scotsman and Herald, is being neglected deliberately either out of fear or because of conscious ideological alignment with the Unionist cause.

 

 

Reporting Scotland miss chance to celebrate Scotland’s poverty but expose our useless health boards again!

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(c) BBC: ‘Here’s to NHS Scotland in Crisis for Christmas!’

What happened tonight? BBC 1 at 6, lined them up with headlines such as ‘One in four are living in poverty’ and they let it pass.

I know the Scottish figures were better with, for example, a significantly lower rate of child poverty and levels falling faster here. See, my report this morning:

Against the odds: Evidence of how SNP policies have defended Scotland against a least some of Tory austerity

But, but, but, they could still have gone for ‘One in five Scots are living in poverty!’ secure in the knowledge that few would remember the BBC 1 figure or, maybe, know whether one in four or one in five is worse, if they didn’t explain with cute graphics.

Did the Social Metrics Commission report look too difficult and time consuming? Did they need the time for the trailer to their disclosure of another cruelty story – child abuse by Christians this time. To be fair, the abused children were Scots unlike the calves last week which turned out to be from Hungary. They also needed plenty of time to lay out the details of their investigative piece on how Scotland’s NHS boards are not ready for Brexit. It turns out they aren’t. I’m surprised. I know the UK Government, MI5, MI6, the Home Office, the Foreign  Office and, indeed, every fucking department of every governmental agency, local and national, and the Navy, the Army and the RAF, and Boots, Sports Direct and Wetherspoons, and the whole bloody country, are not prepared, but you’d think, surely to god, the Scottish NHS boards would be well underway with planning for something they damn well know could take any number of forms. What are we paying these people for?

Next week: ‘Our Freedom of Information requests reveal the SNP Government is not prepared for the return of the German U Boat Menace!’

There were some other stories too, about sport and a steep path down a cliff somewhere, which were also too important to allow time and space for a big report on poverty in the UK with breakdown data for Scotland. They could easily have used this to damn the SNP. They’ve done it before. What’s wrong with these people? Have they lost their bottle? Oh, maybe the Scottish Tories, Labour or LibDems didn’t write it up for them like they usually do? Fair enough.

 

Against the odds: Evidence of how SNP policies have defended Scotland against a least some of Tory austerity

 

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In a new report today from the Social Metrics Commission, ‘A new measure of poverty for the UK’, we can see that poverty is still a major problem for Scotland’s politicians but that, due to progressive Scottish Government policies, such as that compensating for the bedroom tax or for protecting the disabled, along with increased social housing provision, the overall situation in Scotland is significantly (in a statistical sense) better here. This is illustrated in Figure 37 from the report, below:

poverty

According to the report:

‘Figure 37 shows poverty rates overall for each country and also split by working-age adults, children and pensioners. The main differences are in the poverty rates for Wales and Scotland, where, compared to the UK average, poverty rates are generally higher for people living in Wales and lower for those living in Scotland. The only exception for Scotland is in pensioner poverty, which is higher in Scotland than the UK average.’

The last statement is misleading. See below.

The trend also suggests an improving situation with poverty falling faster in Scotland than in the non-Scottish parts. See figure 38:

povertyratedecline

According to the report:

‘Figure 38 shows how poverty rates in each of the four nations have varied over time. Overall poverty rates in England, Northern Ireland and Wales have broadly followed the overall trends in the UK poverty rate; falling slowly in the early 2000s, rising during the financial crisis and recession and then falling post-recession. In contrast, until 2017, the overall poverty rate in Scotland had been on a steady downward trend since 2003. However, in the most recent year of data, the poverty rate in Scotland was seen to rise.’

Once more, the last statement, though strictly accurate, does not capture the limited statistical value of a one-year change nor that it still remains well below rUK levels. This upturn may, of course, be an early sign of the effects of the roll-out of the reserved Tory Universal Credit plan.

difffamilytypes

Table 9 shows how the poverty rates for people living in different types of families vary across the countries in the UK.

In reading this table, it’s worth noting that the English figure may be misleading as it includes those for the affluent South-east, along with and hiding, those for many other parts of England. Also, you can see there that the difference for pensioner couples is too small to be of any statistical value. Most notable, is the markedly, significantly better figure for couples with children which is 5.8% lower than the 24.9% figure for the UK as a whole. This means thousands of families taken out of the worst of poverty. Given the limitations of devolved powers, this can only be seen as a very impressive result for the Scottish Government and, of course, for the other Scottish agencies involved.

rent

Finally, remembering the greater output of social housing in Scotland, per capita, you can see the significantly lower rent levels for this type of housing in Scotland which will have been a factor in the above overall picture. See this for more detail:

SNP Government builds affordable/social housing at almost twice the rate of Tories in England

http://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/MEASURING-POVERTY-FULL_REPORT.pdf

 

Is the BBC’s violent and troubled, but utterly loyal Scot, just a ‘natural’ choice for writers or is he deliberate propaganda for Better Together?

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Yes, but is it keeping them loyal?

Today in the Random Public Journal, Jason Michael writes under the headline, Bodyguard: The BBC and Soft Power, a fascinating piece on the BBC’s hit drama, The Bodyguard, and, in particular, its central character, a tough, violent and troubled ex-soldier, now a bodyguard, with ‘The Met’.

Jason, perhaps, read sociology sometime after my own experience, in the 70s and, I think, at a time when Bourdieu was ‘the man’. Readers will be relieved to hear that I’m not going to engage with Bourdieu as this is not the time nor the place to do and my brain is not the place with the stuff to do so either. What I want to consider is the business of the degree of consciousness and of the intent, in the mind of the writer, of the bodyguard, Jed Mercurio! Really?

I agree with this from Jason:

 ‘There’s a lot going on between the lines in this show, but here – considering the times we are in – we’re going to take a closer look at these two themes, terrorism and the tartan super-man. Both are important because they work together towards the single goal of winning in the heart of the viewer the idea of British togetherness in crisis.’

I think it very likely that this overall effect in the minds of many viewers will be to reinforce the idea that British solidarity is a good thing. I’ve underlined the notion of some kind underlying purpose that I want to return to. I also agree with this:

‘Muslim women do not have agency in the British narratives of immigration, integration, and terrorism), the “terrorists” are conspicuously absent from the story. They aren’t important. The meaning of terrorism – as it is on the BBC News – is to foster a sense of national unity; a reason to come together as one United Kingdom as we did in the good old days of the Blitz.’

Once again, my brain twitched at the potentially active verb underlined. In this third extract, too, I’m strongly with this interpretation:

‘As always, ‘the Scot’ gets ahead in the world by being perfectly obedient to his betters. He cannot be the hero of the story unless he knows his place. The meaning is simple: Britain is in crisis. It needs heroes. It needs the Scots. But for us to be the heroes of this one-nation Britain, this state in crisis, we must do so on others’ terms – as obedient slaves.’

This time, there is nothing suggesting underlying purpose in the writer which requires my underlining. Finally, I really like the conclusion, below, but again, an undeniably active verb made me twitch:

‘Bodyguard is an excellent piece of propaganda. In this, in my opinion, the BBC has surpassed itself. Finally, it has taken steps in the realm of culture to distance itself from Project Fear – putting in its place something closer to Project Hero with conditions. By reaching into the past – with the ennobled stereotype of ‘the Scot’ – it is hoping, that with an updated twist, it might find the winning formula to save the union. This is soft power at its best, this is what Britain and the BBC do best.’

Now, I might be being unfair to Jason. He might be using the language that I’ve underlined in a way too subtle or maybe justifiably stylised for me to get, but I’ve got a problem with the notion that ‘the BBC’ or any, but a very small number of elite editors, producers and writers, have an explicit, fully conscious, agenda to actively promote British solidarity, through it’s output, whether in the form of news or drama.

With Chomsky, I think writers are, with few exceptions such as Alan Bleasdale (Boys from the Black Stuff), thoroughly conditioned by their quite common experience, in upper-middle-class homes, in private preparatory schools, in ‘public’ schools like Eton, and in Oxbridge, to ‘know’, subconsciously and at all times, what their own interests are and that by acting in their own interests, mostly again subconsciously, they act in the interests of their class. Thus, we get the news and the drama which subtly but effectively generate the soft power Jason correctly talks of.

I hope I’m not missing his point or being a pedant but look back at the phrases I’ve underlined, and they seem, to me, to be suggesting a degree of conscious intent to propagandise and maybe, even, conspiracy, if only at the level of small elite groups.

There, I’ve had my say.

https://randompublicjournal.com/2018/09/17/bodyguard-the-bbc-and-soft-power/

 

Herald headline distorts their own report to suggest that it should have read ‘No leading academic questions Scotland’s flagship free education policy’

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NOTE: principals and senior academics are not necessarily ‘leading academics’. They are more educational managers motivated by income and the consequent increase in their salaries and bonuses. Leading academics are generally professors or the like who have done research into education.

Neil Mackay, ‘Writer at large’ may not have written the headline. Indeed, it would be odd if he had. When you read on, you get a very different picture. I’ll leave the ‘Writer at large’ moniker for you to wonder at. Casual? Temporary? Retired?

All we get for tuition fees are these anonymous quotes:

  • Some of Scotland’s most senior academics are questioning the ‘sustainability’ of the SNP’s flagship policy of free education for the nation’s university students.’
  • A series of leading voices raised concerns about the policy which sees Scottish students attend university without paying tuition fees as their counterparts do in the rest of the UK.
  • One senior academic, who is part of the executive team of one of the nation’s leading universities, described the policy as a ‘prop for the middle classes..’.
  • The principal of another leading university, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The current funding model is unsustainable if we are going to get the level of investment we need to compete…’

Leading academics, if they really are leading academics in any sense, would surely have had the guts to be named.

After these four ‘sources’, maybe, possibly reliable, we get some named individuals who do have the courage to be named:

  • Peter Mathieson, principal of Edinburgh University: ‘[I]f there had been ‘tuition fees in my day then I think it less likely I would have gone to university’.
  • Mathieson said he did not want the fear of debt to deter students from higher education…. “When I was a school leaver my ability to tolerate debt was very limited, the reality for a lot of school leavers now is that if they are going to go to university they need to be able to tolerate debt..”
  • Jim McDonald, principal of Strathclyde University, making no plea for tuition fees at all said: “This means in order to attract and retain the best academic talent and best students from home and abroad, we need to make sure that higher education is properly funded.”
  • Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, said he supports the current policy by the Scottish government. Muscatelli said tuition fees are a ‘societal choice. “What we see is that in developed countries, some chose to keep education free – like Scotland, Germany and Scandinavia.
  • Mary Senior, the University and College’s Union Scottish official, said Scotland should not go down the same route as England when it came to tuition fees, and added that the effective cap on Scottish students was a “pressure that needed to be addressed”.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16881786.leading-academics-question-scotlands-So that’s four named ‘prominent’ flagship-free-education-policy/

So that’s four named ‘prominent’ academics, at the very least, not questioning the policy of free tuition and some alleged sources who clearly feel so strongly about charging tuition fees that they won’t be quoted.

At least my former Principal, Craig Mahoney, did come out on this. I emailed him and the whole of UWS to remind him that he should not rush to judgement only weeks after his arrival from Tasmania via Northumbria when, in Scotland, we’d had universal, free education from bairns to graduates, for about 500 years. I quoted John Knox on this for the first time in the history of email at UWS!

Another failed journalism assignment by Herald staff?

 

England’s prison officers and mental health nurses, the ‘canaries’ first to show effects of poisonous Tory policies? ‘Not on our watch’ in Scotland

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© Prophecy Podcast

We’ve seen the all-too-clear signs of a humanitarian crisis in the prisons of England and Wales. Funding cuts, privatisation and constant governmental interference have produced a flood of officers fleeing violence, drug-abuse, disease and escalating mental health problems. It’s not happening in Scotland’s largely state-run prisons where they’ve had ‘clarity and consistency of expectation and a consistent approach to funding.’ See this for more:

Why are prison officers staying in post in Scotland as they flee the tide of violence and self-harm in England and Wales?

Prison officers are at the ‘coal face’ of society. Increases in poverty and greater inequality lead to increases in crime and in its intensity (see Spirit Level) and the first to feel the effects are groups such as prison officers. They’re like the canaries in the coal mines which died when poisonous gases were spreading and enabled the miners to escape.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Level_(book)

One of the other most sensitive groups is mental health nurses. The same social and economic changes increase the scale and the intensity of their jobs too and it seems that, like the prison officers in England and Wales, they are fleeing in huge numbers. In the Guardian yesterday:

‘NHS mental health crisis worsens as 2,000 staff quit per month. Thousands of nurses, therapists and psychiatrists are quitting NHS mental health services, raising serious doubts about ministerial pledges to dramatically expand the workforce. A total of 23,686 mental health staff left the NHS between June 2017 and the end of May this year, health minister Jackie Doyle-Price told Labour MP Paula Sherriff last week. That is the equivalent of one in eight of the sector’s whole workforce. One in 10 mental health posts were unfilled at the end of June, Doyle-Price also told Sherriff, the shadow mental health minister. While 187,215 whole-time-equivalent staff work in the sector, the total should be 209,233.’

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/15/nhs-mental-health-crisis-staff-quit

Two thousand per month! That would be like 200 per month in Scotland. What a headline that would be for our Nomedia, but we haven’t seen it.

Now, some say that the absence of evidence doesn’t mean the evidence of absence, so maybe they are leaving NHS Scotland in similar numbers but it’s just not being reported? You’re laughing. If that headline or anything like it was available to BBC Scotland, the Scotsman, the Herald or the Scottish Daily Mail, our Nomedia, written of course by Loyalist politicians, we’d know all about it. So, I’m going to walk out onto this limb confidently and say that Scotland’s mental health nurses are not fleeing in droves.

And, there’s evidence of a more visible form. In the Nursing Times of 5th April 2018@

‘Scotland is to train an additional 800 additional mental health professionals over the next five years as part of a new decade-long strategy, but it has been claimed more will need to be done to ensure services recruit nurses and other staff in the right numbers and places. The country’s new strategy for mental health, published last week, said the boost to the workforce would be felt in hospitals, GP surgeries, prisons and police stations…Unite’s mental health representative in Scotland, Jim McGinn, welcomed the government trying to address the inequality in treatment of mental health and physical health problems, and in particular the focus on prevention.’

https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/policies-and-guidance/scotlands-mental-health-strategy-will-boost-workforce/7017125.article

menthealthstaffing

From the NHS Scotland Information Services Division in December 2017, we see that staffing in Child and Adolescent Mental Health has been increasing steadily under the SNP administration.

There has been a 51.9% increase in the workforce in this area from 2006 and vacancy rates have been steady at between 3.9% and 5.3%. These are manageable rates which allow for healthy movement within the sector and opportunities for new recruitment.

https://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Workforce/Publications/2017-12-12/2017-12-12-CAMHS-Report.pdf?4974001647

Finally, from the BMJ on 29th May 2018:

‘The health service in Scotland will be required by law to ensure that safe staffing levels are in force wherever care is provided. The Scottish government has published the Health and Care (Staffing) Scotland Bill, which will place a legal requirement on NHS boards and care services to ensure that appropriate numbers of suitably trained staff are in place at all times. It follows the lead set in 2016 by Wales, which became the first country in Europe to introduce safe staffing levels for nurses. The Scottish bill applies to all NHS staff and will increase pressure on the rest of the UK.’

https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2352

From Scottish canaries, not a cheep?