Postcards
from Scotland

We asked a selection of SR
contributors for a memory
of an outstanding holiday in
Scotland – good or bad



Marian Pallister in Tobermory
George Chalmers in Ayr
Islay McLeod in Rockcliffe
Judith Jaafar in Carrick Castle
Barney MacFarlane on Arran



Bill Jamieson on Bute
Tessa Ransford in North Berwick
Michael Elcock on Harris
Ronnie Smith in Largs

Katie Grant on Mull
Thom Cross in Kirkcaldy
Morelle Smith in Glencoe
Bob Cant in Carnoustie

Robin Downie on Arran
Bruce Gardner in Glen Livet
Fiona MacDonald on Tiree
Walter Humes at home

Jill Stephenson at Loch Duich
Quintin Jardine in Elie
Iain Macmillan in Gleneagles
Douglas Marr on Skye
Andrew McFadyen in Kilmarnock

R D Kernohan on Arran
David Torrance on Iona
Catherine Czerkawska at Loch Ken
Chris Holligan in Elie

Rose Galt in Girvan
Alex Wood on Arran
Andrew Hook in Glasgow
Alasdair McKillop in St Andrews

Sheila Hetherington on Arran
Anthony Seaton on Ben Nevis
Paul Cockburn at Loch Ness
Jackie Kemp in a taxi
Angus Skinner on Skye

18.10.11
No. 465

SR Extra

The gold stars forgotten by the Glasgow Science Centre
Click here
for David Harvie

Michael Elcock

Walter Humes' (13 October) observations on the causes of growing stress levels in the workplace are interesting, but I don't entirely agree with them.
     To be sure, architecture and office design often create a difficult work environment. As well, we seem to have forgotten the findings of people like Maslow in the 1940s, or the lessons of Taylor's time and motion studies earlier in the 20th century. Management by systems, rather than by innate or learned ability, is a huge problem in today’s workplace – as Professor Humes seems to suggest.
     But the reasons so many people are stressed out in the workplace nowadays are more fundamental. When the workplace was run by secretaries, managers were able to deal with strategic issues, and complement these with tactical action. A good secretary was by far the most important (and too often least appreciated) individual in an efficient workplace. A good secretary created thinking space, and was central to the idea of a strong team. A strong team approach was, and remains, essential to success.
     Now that we've all got computers, our days are taken up with the minutiae of keeping records, endless filing, arranging meetings, keeping calendars, replying to staggering numbers of emails. Today’s manager has little time to deal with strategic issues. It’s all minute-to-minute and day-to-day.
     As a result, the work day tends to have a same-ness to it. At the end of it too many people don't believe that they have advanced the pieces at all. They've been spinning their wheels, and they go home with an over-whelming sense that they haven't managed to get anything useful done. They've been too busy dealing with the details.
     This is intensely frustrating and stress-inducing. It destroys a sense of teamwork, reduces meaning in any structure, and leads to a sense of pointlessness.
     Too many of us are wrapped up in our cocoons, proceeding along our own tramlines. The treadmill of the early industrial age has returned with a vengeance. Far from making the work environment more efficient, the computer age has made the work environment ubiquitous and, in effect, hugely inefficient. All of us have to be all things at once to all people. The gate-keepers have been replaced by machines that can't tell what's important, and can't tell the time. And we've all gone along with it.
     PS. Did you ever have to buy paper by the box before this became a paperless universe?

Today's banner

An autumn day in Peebles

Photograph by
Islay McLeod




Tommy Sheridan

should be released

a week tomorrow


Kenneth Roy

 

Tommy Sheridan with wife Gail
www.bobsmithart.com


It already feels like a very long time since that early summer in the age of comparative innocence, when such leaders of society as Jon Snow, Robert Peston and Michael Gove left the now notorious all-night party at the Murdochs' country residence. Within 48 hours, all hell had been let loose over the hacking of a dead girl's phone.
     Now that the floods of autumn are here and the snows of Christmas cannot be far behind, all has gone eerily quiet. Little is heard of the police investigation; after an impressive flurry of arrests, no charges have been brought to date. Most people have probably forgotten the name of the chief functionary, even if they will never quite forget her hair. Among the innocent guests caught in the headlights, Mr Gove is again in the news, but only with an advisory role in the Werritty affair, while there will soon be the annual story about Mr Snow's refusal to wear a poppy. 
     Later this week, in the United States, restive shareholders of News Corp will attempt to expunge the name Murdoch from the company's board, but it is unlikely they will succeed. Back in London, the plan to summon son James before a select committee to explain apparent inconsistencies in his earlier evidence seems to have come to nothing. A prime minister called Dave, the former employer of Coulson, has emerged from his various misadventures of the year with barely a scratch. 
     Ah yes, the prisons may be full, but not with the providers of the high-season diversion. It is easier to bang up the odd looter than to nail this lot.
     Or, come to that, the odd Tommy. One of the supreme ironies of the year (so far) is that the only person doing time because of his association with the Murdoch empire is not any of the friends of that discredited dynasty, but its most bitter enemy. Tommy Sheridan found that the price for crossing Murdoch was three years. 
     Of course, the charge was not 'crossing Murdoch'. It was a bit more subtle. Mr Sheridan went down for committing perjury in his earlier civil proceedings over disobliging stories printed about him in the News of the World. Remember it?
      When Mr Sheridan was bundled into a van to take him the short distance from the High Court in Glasgow to Barlinnie Prison, this 'newspaper' (as it was sometimes loosely described) was still a power in the land. Two or three million people – the precise figure is immaterial – bought it faithfully every week. But then, in the heat of summer, old man Murdoch decided that saving his own skin was more important than saving the News of the World. Here one day, it was gone the next. Its readers dispersed without protest to alternative sources of titillation. Never was a dead paper less lamented.

 

I wonder what has happened to the disgusting idea of putting Mrs
Sheridan and her daughter on the street. But let that pass. Here are
a few questions.


     Mr Sheridan observed these startling events from prison. In the early weeks of his sentence, he was confined to a cell 23 hours a day. From there he attempted to write and publish an internet journal with comments on current events as well as occasional references to his own condition. This therapeutic activity got him into trouble with the authorities. He was searched – one supposes strip-searched – for a mobile phone (none was found) and warned that if he persisted with the publication of the journal he would risk any hope of early release. Nothing better characterises the horror and futility of our penal regime than that an intelligent man should be threatened with punishment for disseminating his thoughts.
     By the summer, and the night of the smart party at the Murdochs, Tommy Sheridan had been transferred to an open prison, Castle Huntly in Angus, making his existence more comfortable but contact with his family in Glasgow more difficult.
     Unease about this case has not diminished with the passage of Mr Sheridan's time in prison. It was being felt, and strongly expressed, by fair-minded people across the political spectrum long before the events of the summer gave some credence to his claim that he had been stitched-up.
     During his trial, the Scottish Review claimed that the accused's chances of a fair hearing were being seriously prejudiced by the nature of some of the media coverage. This SR editorial was presented to the judge, but nothing was done.
Two days before Christmas, by the narrowest of margins, a Glasgow jury convicted him. BBC Scotland promptly broadcast a tabloid-style feature, 'The Rise and Lies of Tommy Sheridan', using tapes it had 'acquired' of police interviews with Mr Sheridan and his wife. When we suggested in a series of editorials early this year that the likeliest source of the tapes was the police, we were accused of being unfair to these unimpeachable enforcers of law and order. 
     On the morning after his imprisonment, the Murdoch press declared that it would try to reclaim its expenses by making a legal grab on the Sheridan family's home. I wonder what has happened to the disgusting idea of putting Mrs Sheridan and her young daughter on the street. But let that pass. Here are a few questions.
     Would the same Glasgow jury – or indeed any jury – have convicted him if it had been given the power of foresight? Would it have convicted him if it had known that, within half a year, witnesses in the trial would themselves be the subject of a perjury investigation? Would it have convicted him if it had known that the News of the World was a deeply criminal organisation, hacking into the phones of the victims of terrorism and murder? Would it have convicted him if it had known of the extent of the collusion between the police and the media in London and elsewhere?
     On 26 January this year, Tommy Sheridan entered prison. On 26 October, he will have served nine months. At that point, theoretically at least, having served a quarter of his sentence, he is eligible to be released on an electronic tag. We suggest that, in all the circumstances, he should be freed from prison a week tomorrow. Every day he serves beyond then is a day too long.

2Kenneth Roy is editor of the Scottish Review