Been up to much?



It’s been a busy few days up here both personally & politically.

I’ve spent the last two days either wielding a paintbrush or gardening whilst desperately trying to keep up with the news – it’s hard being a politics junkie and having a life at the same time – so tonight I’m squishing two blogs together.

Yesterday May ventured north to Glasgow & East Kilbride (I am aware there’s a difference) She came, she saw and well that was about it to be honest.

She had a captive audience at the Department for International Development whose applause may have looked more spontaneous if their manager hadn’t been caught on camera telling them to applaud ((at 4 mins 30)

She could have visited HMRC also in East Kilbride, but then it’s due to be closed along with the site in Cumbernauld with 2500 to lose their jobs.


She praised work being undertaken by the University of Glasgow in combating the Zika virus,unfortunate that Anton Muscatelli the university Principle has described Brexit as disastrous. Doubly so as the project she referred to whilst receiving £1 million from the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Funds also received £10 million from the EU, funding which will dry up after Brexit.

This was part of 12 minutes of soundbites which included gems such as Brexit would bring the UK together (tell that to Northern Ireland), Britain would be an unstoppable force (I bet the colonies felt they had been steamrollered at times) and that the UK is one of the greatest forces for good in the world – second largest arms seller in the world.

As per usual no questions were taken from the press.

Later she met Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow – not in a secure Scottish Government building but instead a hotel room. (?!) And again it sounds like not a lot of substance was said. The promised powers outed all weekend by the media were non-existent.

And again no questions were taken from the press, in fact she was sneaked out of a backdoor.

This amazes me, if we are to believe the Scottish Conservatives May is only second in popularity to Ruth *most popular Scottish politician* Davidson, so why not go out and meet her adoring public in Glasgow. Let one of the Yes cities show how much they no longer want a referendum, how they have returned to Britannia warm embrace.

So what was yesterday about? Because it seems a pretty pointless exercise. Is it just a UK tour (she did Wales the other week) so she can say she’s spoken to the devolved administrations? If so she’s left it a bit bloody late. It’s not like this referendum hasn’t been sign-posted from the minute Scotland voted to stay in the EU.

Of all the parts of the UK she needed to be in yesterday, Northern Ireland would seem to be the most in need of attention. Something the Irish press are keen to point out.

May is juggling a lot of balls right now, and even with my limited juggling skills (yes I can juggle, just) I know you have to keep your eyes on all of them.

And then we come to today and the Section 30 vote in Holyrood..

So in summary:

  • Tory Amendment to derail the bill defeated: 31 to 97
  • Labour amendment for Federal UK defeated: 28 to 100
    • A non-starter at the best of times
  • Green amendment to include 16-17 year olds and EU citizens in referendum franchise passes: 69 to 59
    • yes that’s right, Tories, Labour & LibDems voted together against those listed above having the right to vote on their future in Scotland
  • Lib Dem amendment fails: 28 to 100
    • something about uncertainty, federal blah, blah,  who knows, who cares
  • Bill as amended passes: 69 to 59.

The Scottish Parliament shall now request a Section 30 order from UK Government.

It then took SEVEN minutes before the Governor General said No. However as he is the monkey and not the organ-grinder I shall wait for Theresa May’s response to a formal notification. She’s been obfuscating all this last week with “Now is not the time.”

We don’t want one now (actually I do, but luckily I’m not in charge.) We want it in 18 months time once we see the results of the Brexit negotiations. An informed choice – which would be a nice change.

Of course, if Westminster does give a flat-out refusal against a democratically elected government, then it might go to court. It could be the European Court of Human Rights which would be worth it just to see the Brexit Bunch foaming.  (Now it’s time for your regular reminder we only have devolved governments thanks to the Council of Europe.)

And if this week wasn’t exciting enough, tomorrow May sends the letter that will start Article 50, so that brand new pound they launched today will probably be worth 90p by the end of the day. I notice she’s picked up the Trump habit of having the document signing recorded.

Have I missed anything? Oh yeah they’ve found another shit-tonne of oil off Shetland.

Featured image from @raiphsays

You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud










Demystifying Migration

As a journalist, I find strength and security in the reassuring power and influence of the written and spoken word. In the words of Seamus Heaney: “Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests: snug as a gun.”

But at a time of Muslim bans, Brexit, and governmental failings to tackle the on-going refugee crisis, the pen seems to have distorted from a valiant sword, a weapon to defend, into a dagger in the back.

Celebrating migration

It seems the world has forgotten that migration can be a positive story. On 21 March, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels hosted Salaam Syria as part of this year’s edition of Klarafestival.

In Arabic, the word “salaam” is not only a greeting but also the word for peace. For one night only, the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra sat shoulder to shoulder with the National Orchestra of Belgium, distinguishable only by their choice of tie.

Music, and art more generally, is quintessentially the result of a blend of the most diverse cultural influences.

“I wanted to show the world the other side of Syria, the beauty; Syrian art and culture, the hopes and dreams of the population,” Raed Jazbeh, founder of the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra explained. “That’s why I decided to start a music ensemble that shows this other side of Syria.”

Why, then, does it seem that we are hell-bent or scapegoating or simply ignoring the very people who add significantly not only to our culture but also our lives?

Just a matter of hours earlier, UNHCR Goodwill ambassador and world-renowned classical singer Barbara Hendricks delivered a speech at the European Parliament in honour of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the treaties of Rome.

But it wasn’t all celebratory.

Asset.aspxCopyright: European Union 2017 – Source : EP / Alexis HAULOT

“During the past 30 years I have been raising my voice on the behalf of refugees from all over the world. I have met too many heart-broken mothers, some who had to bury their children,” said Hendricks, who in 2002 was named Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador in recognition of her outstanding commitment to refugees.

“Europe’s failure to implement a collective response to the refugee crisis resulted in chaos at the borders, leading to a breakdown in the public’s trust in the capacity of government to manage a situation, thus playing directly into the hands of those who want to scapegoat refugees.”

Significantly, it was again through the medium of music that Hendricks reminded the packed Hemicycle of the words of poet and activist Warsan Shire.

“No one puts their children into a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” she recited. “No one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore.”

So what now?

The crises of our times offer a unique opportunity.

“We are all connected and members of the family of humanity. We must be fearless, daring to look at the one that we call ‘the other’, though threatening and different, and say ‘my sister, my brother, my child.’”

“We will never conquer hatred with even more hatred and we must not fall into the trap of losing our humanity as a means of saving humanity,” said Hendricks.

And as Europe’s leaders prepare for a weekend of celebrations in Rome, with one chair left notably empty, now more than ever is when we must also reflect on our failings and hopes for the future; to dare to see things differently and thus to act differently.

“At age 60, we’re still young. But the world needs us now to be the leaders that we can and must be,” said Hendricks.

“Each one of us has an important role to play. Together we are strong and we can produce a miracle that will take us from weakness to strength, from darkness to light, from injustice to justice, from war to peace, and from fear to love.”

“The stakes have never been higher. We do not have the right to fail, not only for our children but for all of the children of the world. Failure is simply unacceptable.”

In the words of Seamus Heaney: “Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it.”

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You can Follow Sophia McBride on twitter at @sophiacmcbride  and at