Herald letter: Neil Oliver Is A Great Guy.

THE response of Scottish Nationalists to the appointment of Neil Oliver as president of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is as predictable as it is small-minded. As a long-time member of NTS, I find it hard to see a better ambassador than such an accomplished populariser of Scotland and its heritage.

I am sure that your readers will make their own minds up on some of his views which tend to challenge the self-satisfied nationalist stereotypes of victimhood and blameless historical passivity. However, they should also be informed that Neil Oliver has not referred to SNP and Yes voters as “cancerous” (as your correspondent Robert McCraw – Letters, October 4 – alleges.)


Catalonia: Statement By Party of European Socialists

Refers to position of both the Catalan Socialist Party and the Spanish Socialists. I share the positions of my European, Spanish and Catalan comrades.

Party of European Socialists president Sergei Stanishev commented on the current crisis in Catalonia: ‘By calling an illegal referendum, Catalonian nationalists have tried to bend the rule of law to their advantage. By hiding behind the police and the judiciary, the Spanish government is stretching Spain´s institutions, giving up on politics and feeding extremist positions on both camps’

PSOE and PSC Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya have wisely warned both governments since long time that dialogue and negotiation is the only way to get out of this crisis. The PES fully supports their demand for negotiations in the framework of the Parliamentary Committee for the study of the territorial reform, recently approved in the Spanish Congress thanks to the initiative of the PSOE-PSC’.

“This shameful day of violence won’t be forgotten but the wounds left can be healed through a political process respectful of the constitution and democratic values”, Stanishev concluded.

For National Poetry Day: The Ritual Of Total Immersion.

The Ritual of Total Immersion.

Do not Take Me To The River, but take me down
By an excursion boat that will shudder and stop
And whose anchor chain rattles out
To deliver pink bodies on a flat sea
Suspended over the blanked out deep

Where I can climb up to the rail, with tense toes
Taking temporary prehensile grip on the
Slippery wooden curve as we dip and tilt to
Topple headlong through air too long and too short
For fear but too little to catch breath

And Be gulped in: fingers, wrists, elbows, crown, neck
Shoulder, back and thighs, knees, ankles, toe-tips
And under. And down.

Down as far as life can take us
Down further where lungs burn and fight
Down where pressure and fear can break us
Down where the bottom is hidden from sight

Turn. And exhale.
Up with gases streaming out of breath
Up through the watery stratum of eternal blue
Up to broken light, stealing back life from death
Up like a torpedo or a missile true

Surface shatters and I bob with a sneeze and snot
The pink bodies in bright costumes shout
Giggle, chatter to themselves in mundane sun and shade
I am back from the blue, full disciple of Poseidon
Rocking the boat from below with his trident

Soaked with grace gained from him in my
Ritual of Total Immersion.

Herald letter: 10 Wasted Years

Note: the Neil Young quote “Time Fades Away” is the title of an album, which I quote in response to another line from the Greatest Living Canadian in the original letter to which I am responding. I had drafted “time slips away” (which is a line from the song “Like A Hurricane”), but felt it might be confused with Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Anyway….

FIONA Brown (Letters, September 6) attempts to praise the SNP’s 10 years in office by listing its achievements, including bus passes, free university tuition fees and free personal care. However, no-one could surely fail to notice that these were in fact introduced by the former Labour/LibDem administrations.

Which leaves 10 years of what: free drugs for the rich, a failed referendum and an admittedly handsome bridge? As Neil Young also said “time fades away…”

Peter A Russell









Herald letter: Scottish Labour leadership.

I AM sure that in the next few weeks members of Scottish Labour will be on the receiving end of a great deal of comment and advice from your correspondents, although curiously much of this will come from those who have already made it clear that they do not have the party’s best interests at heart. (Or, to use a phrase much loved of the First Minster, we will be “expected to take lectures” from them.) As someone whose Labour membership will reach 40 years duration in a matter of weeks, maybe your readers might like a view from the inside.

First: Kezia Dugdale. Ms Dugdale knowingly took on a very difficult job and did it with no little success. She showed courage, energy and intelligence in all that she did. Above all, she “spoke human” – sometimes to her own disadvantage. No-one will deny that she had her faults like all politicians, but many of these would have been eliminated over the longer term, and she started from a much higher level than, for example, Nicola Sturgeon, in the qualities required. It is also crucially the case that under her leadership Scottish Labour positioned itself as a more radical redistributive party than the Tory-lite do-nothing-and-moan SNP. So we can thank her, and should now look to see how we can build further on what she leaves.

I really hope that the leadership election is as expected between Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard.

On the one hand we would have the child of an immigrant family that has succeeded in creating a prosperous life for themselves from nothing and in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Mr Sarwar is also an experienced parliamentarian who has been knocking spots off the hopeless Scottish Government in the health brief at Holyrood. It is easy to see him as the Scottish Sadiq Khan.

On the other hand, Richard Leonard brings with him decades of experience in the world of industrial relations and trade unions, as well as being a trained economist: both of these place him head and shoulders above anyone on the SNP benches. His union background might place him as Scotland’s Alan Johnson.

Above all, as a Scottish Labour member, I am heartened by the reception of both of these possible candidates by different parts of the party. One of the most left-wing members I know has welcomed the prospect of Mr Sarwar as leader , and another friend (who is even more right-wing Labour than I am) has described Mr Leonard as an “all round good egg.” I am sure that whoever wins will deserve and receive a breadth of support from the party unseen for many years. When we add this unity to the platform created by Ms Dugdale, things are looking up for Scottish Labour’s revival.

And who will I vote for? That’s between me and my ballot paper.

Peter A Russell

Wee Herald letter: “Andrew Who?”

YOUR correspondent Alan M Morris (Letters, August 29) is to be thanked for reminding us about the existence of Andrew Wilson and the prospect of his answering vital questions about how Scotland will thrive economically when the £13 billion UK subsidy is removed. His report is taking so long to produce, like most people I had quite forgotten him.

I wonder if it will be worth the wait: his last pronouncement was that it would take at least a decade of ultra-austerity to even get back to parity with the status quo of the UK.

Peter A Russell