Britain may or not be dead as asserted recently by Gerry Hassan
but it is certainly broken, whether beyond repair remains to be seen. The divisions created by the two referendums and, to an extent, indirectly by Trump’s election, are fuelled daily by online comments posted on many media outlets. To use a sporting analogy, it is one thing to be a bad loser, in many cases understandable when the stakes are high, but it is another thing altogether to be a bad winner, someone who gloats, who regards the victory, no matter how narrow, as a complete triumph and who disregards totally the view of the defeated opposite view. That is the trap into which the country (be it the UK or Scotland, whichever you chose) has fallen and from which an escape will be very difficult.
Regrettably, it seems to be the leaders of the country (UK this time) who are leading the trend. Before the last UK general election, there were six SNP MPs at Westminster, the day after the election there were 56. What had changed in the eyes of the Westminster government? Precisely nothing. Scotland is still regarded as a troublesome region but one which by and large can be ignored as the passage to the political right continues unchecked at Westminster. Whether that leads to IndyRef2 and to a vote for independence, who knows, but, whatever, the divisions will simply become greater unless some spirit of reconciliation emerges.
Gerry Hassan claims that from the 'fraudulent offers (of Brexit and Trump victories) has flowed divisiveness and rage'. I would add the independence referendum to that. The assurances that a no vote was the only way for Scotland to remain in the EU, the (post-truth?) fact that an independent Scotland would be bankrupt within weeks, the supposed continuing dependency on the pound because the then first minister would not reveal his plan B were not at all helpful. Has Teresa May revealed her plan B if she doesn’t get what she wants from the Brexit negotiations?
But the divisiveness and rage is not one-sided. Certainly the 45% feel aggrieved as do the remainers and those who do not believe Trump is fit to be president of the US, but is the attitude of the victors not just as divisive? Maxwell MacLeod
sums it up when he says 'Ref2? Bring it on. And then, for pity’s sake give us some peace'. You could interpret that, in each case, as 'we won so shut up and respect it'. Unless that attitude from both or all sides of the current divisions whether on Brexit, independence or Trump, softens dramatically then it seems to me to quote Private Frazer in 'Dad’s Army', 'we’re doomed', and the UK will indeed be broken beyond repair.
In view of the contemporary difficulty of ascertaining the precise facts relevant to public debate, Rachel Sharp’s
recent piece on Scotland’s drugs policy is perhaps guilty of the not unusual shortcoming of portraying the exception as the norm.
Thus drugs policy here is contrasted with the 'radically different approach' south of the border, where clubs offer 'anonymous drug testing services to clubbers'. However, this is then revealed to be something that’s yet to happen in a low-profile northern English city. One pilot from a single event in Cambridgeshire is also proffered in evidence, while a vague and unquantified reference to 'similar schemes across Europe' hardly provides compelling proof that our own practices are in any way exceptional.
Scotland’s 'zero-tolerance policy in venues' claim is buttressed by a 'ritual pat-down' before a gig at Glasgow’s o2 ABC. In recent years I’ve been to gigs in reasonably large venues like Dundee’s Caird Hall, Perth’s Concert Hall, Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom and Music Hall, together with a few other smaller venues, and wasn’t searched in any way, and didn’t see anyone else being ritually patted-down either.
Also posited is a Police Scotland operation targeting a nightclub queue in Aberdeen, with patrons apparently feeling 'criminalised'. Which maybe underlines the ad hoc
nature of the operation. If pat-downs are ritual and there’s blanket zero tolerance, why would this particular example be singled out and clubbers aggrieved?
In fact this seemed more a one-off rather than the norm, hence the publicity it attracted. Which in turn is perhaps why prominent journalist Alex Massie said in a Times comment piece that it represented an 'outrageous overreach' by Police Scotland, implying that what happened was abnormal rather than standard practice.
To a degree Rachel also undermines her thesis in conclusion, stating that it is 'fantasy' and 'unrealistic' to assume Police Scotland has the manpower and resources to eradicate recreational drugs use. Which again arguably demonstrates that the sniffer-dog deployed at Club Tropicana in Aberdeen represented the exception rather than the norm.
Like her friend ejected from the o2 ABC when found in possession of a legal homeopathic remedy, a few hard cases and unrepresentative practices are probably not the best basis for a fully-informed debate about public policy.
When Kenneth Roy
writes that Donald Trump 'greeted a radio presenter: "By the way, your daughter? Can I say this? A piece of ass"', he has things a bit mixed up. I only bother to mention it because, in my mind, the reality is even worse. Plus, I’m sure Kenneth wouldn’t be happy knowing he had inadvertently cast Trump in a better light than he warranted. I say better but I really mean less bad.
Howard Stern was a so-called radio shock jock long before Alex Salmond washed up at LBC and Trump was a regular guest on his programme. In 2004, it was Stern who asked Trump for permission to refer to his daughter, Ivanka, as 'a piece of ass'. Trump generously agreed to this short-notice request. On a different broadcast, Trump happily fielded questions about whether another part of Ivanka’s body had been surgically enhanced. This total lack of regard for his daughter’s honour and dignity came to mind earlier this month when Trump took to social media to criticise the retail chain Nordstrom for announcing it would no longer be stocking Ivanka’s line of clothing and accessories. It’s always informative to know where someone draws the line.
Re Maggie Craig's piece
: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. It's the same old story from the doom merchants whom I presume will refuse to use the new Queensferry Crossing and instead will wait misty-eyed on the old ferry slipway for a boat that has long since sailed for the last time.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall that the last Labour/LibDem coalition in the Scottish Parliament sat on its hands on this one, aware that additional capacity was needed across the Forth, but incapable of making a decision, left it to an incoming minority SNP administration to make it a priority and get on with the job.
In Tuesday’s SR, in a piece headed ‘Mollycoddling the doctors’, Barbara Millar criticised Glasgow University for allowing its medical students to opt out of role play sessions on breaking bad news to patients.
We received the following clarification of the university’s policy: ‘Students on undergraduate medical degrees are not provided with opt-outs of role play scenarios. They are informed of the content of breaking bad news/bereavement sessions, some of which can be extremely distressing. Any student who feels uncomfortable is given the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a member of staff. They may be excused from participation in the role-play, but not from attending, observing and learning from the session.’
Barbara Millar replies: I firmly do not believe that observation of role play sessions provides anything like an adequate learning experience. The scenarios may be emotional and challenging, but everyone involved knows that they are not real and that they have been designed to allow trainee medics to experience what it may feel like when they have to break bad news. In my article I recalled how a doctor had given me bad news in a totally unacceptable way. I would hope that the training of future doctors in this most sensitive area is more rigorous, not less.
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