Scraping the Barrel

It isn’t surprising that this news of potential improved oil extraction technologies is being treated as evidence of some sort of BBC plot to withhold The Truth before the referendum, but as far as Google News indicates there was no reporting of it anywhere before a few days ago, when it appeared in the oil industry magazine Offshore. Any beef about its timing is really with the team at Heriot-Watt University. But then all they’re doing is announcing a promising line of research—it isn’t as if they’re ready to press the big green button on a whole new production method.

Read More · 27 September 2014

An Untied Kingdom

Wall of St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, 17 September 2014

The day after, I don’t feel smug or triumphant or gloating or anything of the kind, I feel sad that so much passion and enthusiasm was channeled in a direction that came to nought. I personally disagreed with it, but that passion was important. Today feels anticlimactic.

Read More · 19 September 2014

Broken-Up Britain

With the referendum only two days away, I’m writing comments on Metafilter rather than posts here, so I’m collecting today’s here before they’re instantly out-of-date. Initial quotes from other people’s comments in that thread are shown in italics.

Read More · 16 September 2014

Spinning the Wheel

Parts of my post of a few days ago were months-old in draft, but the catalyst to finish it was this MetaFilter thread going into the final weeks of the campaign. I’ve joined the discussion there now, and written some more lengthy comments which I’ll excerpt below. But first, some links that are worth a look.

Read More · 11 September 2014 · x1

Heart Surgery

I’ve tried a few times in recent months to write about the referendum, but have stalled each time. Joining the fray as a naturalised UK citizen feels fraught with difficulty, so like a lot of people in Scotland I’ve been keeping my head down. That tendency has been particularly noticeable here in Edinburgh, where so many residents aren’t from Scotland. For most of the year it’s killed small talk at social events.

Read More · 8 September 2014 · x8

The Kelpies, Falkirk

The Kelpies are a pair of monumental new sculptures by Andy Scott located between Falkirk and Grangemouth, next to the M9 from Edinburgh to Stirling. I was there on Sunday with the family and took some photos of the mega-ponies in an hour of sunshine between downpours.

5 August 2014


Yesterday’s post about the European election results drew on some of my comments at MetaFilter, where another commenter responded that “inferring anything about the UK voting pattern in next year’s general election from the EU results is particularly unwise this year in view of the referendum on Scottish independence”. Clearly, if the next general election is for a new United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland then all current bets are off. The fact that I’m contemplating a 2015 general election for the UK as it now exists reflects my own sense of how the Scottish referendum will go, but that’s another story.

If Scotland votes for the status quo, though, I wouldn’t expect any electoral bounce for Cameron. Few on this side of the border would see him as some sort of hero saving the union; it’s Salmond’s battle, and really a much older and bigger battle than even him. As for south of the border, polls seem to show greater English support for Scottish independence than Scottish support, with no sense that a break would affect their daily lives much, so I would expect a No vote to be greeted by England with a combination of bemusement (“I thought you wanted independence!?”) and indifference. Staunch Tories might give Cameron some credit, but they would have been voting Tory anyway.

When predicting how the next general election will go compared to the last one, what matters is which of the two main parties has consolidated support from their side of the left-right spectrum to give them the largest single vote in the majority of individual electorates. The European and council results indicate two revealing things: the only consolidation of voters to the right of the Tories is happening in UKIP’s favour, not the Tories’, and the consolidation to the left of the Tories is happening in Labour’s favour.

Read More · 27 May 2014

Little Earthquake

The media and Twitter are full of talk today of UKIP earthquakes and the end being nigh for the major parties, but I’m actually encouraged by the European election voting figures for the UK. Leaving aside the lamentable 34% turnout, look at the changes in vote share from 2009—the second column—in these results at the BBC:

Vote 2014 Europe: Great Britain

Over half of UKIP’s gain in voting share has come from the BNP, the English Democrats, the Christian People’s Alliance and NO2EU, not from the major parties; those four parties between them lost 8.29% of the total share. The remaining 2.7% will have come from the Tories, most likely. UKIP have consolidated the angry xenophobic vote that was always there, but which previously was distributed among UKIP, the Tories and several fringe right-wing/Euroskeptic parties.

Read More · 26 May 2014

Ale with Marrowbone

Pet Friendly Food & Beer

On Edinburgh’s Royal Mile last week.

27 April 2014

Yet More Castles of Scotland

As part of a gradual process of belatedly adding galleries to Detail, here’s a third collection of Scottish castles to add to the ones I made a decade ago. The castles range from the rugged and rural to the urban and urbane, and include a few revisits of old favourites. As someone who grew up in a land where the only castles were bouncy, I can never get enough of the real ones.

28 January 2014

UK Culture in 2013