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‘What Women Want, What Women Need’

380 women from throughout Scotland are expected to descend on the Scottish Parliament to celebrate International Women’s Day. The theme for this year’s event is ‘What Women Want, What Women Need’. Through an annual roadshow programme, the SWC meets with women from all over Scotland, who provide an insight into what they want and need in order to improve their lives

Agnes Tolmie

Agnes Tolmie

Issues such as better transport, accessible, affordable childcare and opportunities for education and employment are consistently discussed. Employer support, Government initiatives and local investment are just some of the mechanisms required to support the achievement of these wishes.

Speakers on the day include Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP; Alicia Castro, Argentine Ambassador to the UK; Alison Fraser, SWC Volunteer; Abby Mavers, an actor in BBC’s ‘Waterloo Road’ and Scottish comedian Susan Morrison

SWC Chair, Agnes Tolmie, explained that there was “a feeling that in many ways, women ‘have it all’. The reality is far from that ideal. Significant obstacles still exist across a number of areas such as education, employment and representation in political and public life. One of the most important ways of breaking down these barriers is to listen to women and take on board what they really want and what they really need. This will not only improve their lives, but the lives of their families and communities as a whole.

The SWC are delighted to be able to bring women together from different backgrounds and of diverse ages from throughout Scotland on International Women’s Day. We look forward to celebrating with all women attending.”

The currency hasn’t played the part the ‘No’ campaign expected

One could almost feel sorry for the ‘No’ campaign. They must have thought they’d played a blinder – part deliberate, part accidental.

Chancellor George Osborne Hardly played a blinder

Chancellor George Osborne
Hardly played a blinder

The deliberate part came with the now infamous speech the Chancellor, George Osborne, gave in Edinburgh a few days ago. He stated quite categorically that, if Scotland walked away from the Union, it would also walk away from the Pound. That was supposed to scare the ‘don’t knows’ (and even perhaps some of those leaning towards a ‘yes’ vote). It was supposed to have been the ‘game changer’ in the campaign – the one that would stop the independence movement in its tracks.

The first polls since the speech suggest it’s achieved exactly the opposite. A poll for the Daily Mail might be assumed to lean towards the Unionist cause. Instead, the first indications are that the strategy has singularly failed. It show a five point fall in support for the ‘No’ campaign – and a seven point rise in the ‘yes’ vote. The poll surveyed 1,005 people. The headline result shows that 38 percent supported the aim of ending the 307-year union with England, up from 32 percent in January; 47 percent would vote to stay in the UK, down from 52 percent.

In a statement, the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said it was “clear that there has been a severe backlash to George Osborne’s bluster and threats on the pound. Far more people,” she argued, “(are) more likely to vote Yes on the back of the Westminster establishment’s attempted bullying rather than No.”

However, the poll did suggest that the SNP would do well to come up with a ‘Plan B’ over the currency issue. A poll in ‘What Scotland Thinks@ suggests that 65% of Scots think they should!

The ‘accident’ part of the blinder can when European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the EU. Now, a former senior European official has claimed that his words were “unwise and inaccurate”. Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament Europe committee, Jim Currie, a former European Commission director general, insisted that Scotland had a right to membership.

He explained that the issue would concern “a territory which is currently part of a full member state. We’re dealing with people who would have certain rights as EU citizens and which would be very difficult to take away, and nobody would want to. The bottom line for me is that it would be dealt with in a pragmatic way, and it would involve inevitable negotiations which would be rather tough.”

It is worth bearing in mind that a survey for the BBC of the issues that most concern voters show that neither the currency nor Europe were high in the list of priorities. Keeping the Pound came 5th while the EU came 9th. It’s also worth remembering that one poll doesn’t make a trend!

Housing Association properties in Glasgow

There’s been an outbreak of consensus, or at least solidarity. Folk in Scotland do not like the “bedroom tax”, what the Westminster government calls “the spare room subsidy”, and all parties, except the Tories, have united in parliament to put a £50m line in the budget to abolish it.

The Scottish Parliament unites against  the 'bedroom tax'

The Scottish Parliament unites against
the ‘bedroom tax’

Along with the poll tax, the bedroom tax will go down in history as a serious political mistake, foisted on Scotland by a government in London that was addressing an imagined problem in the south-east of England. It meant that council tenants, and housing association tenants, were losing up to a quarter of their housing benefit, if they were deemed to have a spare room. Up to 77,000 of the poorest households in Scotland were affected, many of them sliding into rent arrears as a result – four times as many as the year before.

The SNP government was gathering its brows like gathering storm over the issue and demanding that London raise the cap on welfare spending to offset the tax. Labour and the Liberal Democrats realised this was doing their Better Together referendum campaign no good at all. The SNP finance secretary John Swinney saw an opportunity to do away with the tax altogether and unite Scotland against Westminster at the same time. So he accepted a Labour suggestion that local councils and housing associations would be reimbursed for any losses in rent due to the bedroom tax.

Same Sex Marriage Bill Passed by a substantial majority

Same Sex Marriage Bill
Passed by a substantial majority

It was a marriage of convenience for both parties rather than a marriage for love. That came earlier in the week when MSPs, by a majority of 105 to 18, approved of the Same Sex Marriage Bill. Scotland has followed England to become the 17th country in the world to recognise gay marriage. The main churches argued fiercely against it, right to the end, and are still fearful it will lead to them being forced by the equality laws to offer gay marriage ceremonies in their chapels, churches, temples and mosques.

But the parliamentary consensus did not last long. By Thurday’s question time, Labour’s Johann Lamont was reading out a list of company chief executives who said an independent Scotland would be a more difficult place to do business. They included the boss of BP and the leaders of the main supermarket chains. Alex Salmond replied that whatever their chief executives might say, there was no sign these major companies were about to cut their investment in Scotland.

Ruth Davidson Concerned about abolition of corroboration

Ruth Davidson
Concerned about abolition of corroboration

He was slightly more consensual over pleas from the Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and the Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie for a stay of execution over the abolition of corroboration in criminal prosecutions. Perhaps it was the fact that the parliament’s justice committee had also asked for a rethink. He offered a review by the former judge Lord Bonomy – but only of the additional measures that might be taken to safeguard against the miscarriage of justice, such as increasing the majority required for a guilty verdict from 8 out of 15 jurors to 10 or 12.

The government is still on a collision course with most of the legal profession over what I think is largely a semantic debate. Scotland might be one of the few countries in the world to require “corroboration” before a case can be taken to court, but most countries have some sort of “sufficient evidence” test before a prosecution is mounted.

Two disturbing reports have come out this week about the health service in Scotland. One, from a BBC investigation, found that up to £800m a year was being stolen from the NHS by various frauds carried out by staff and patients. They range from false prescriptions, to theft of equipment, to dentists charging for gold fillings when in fact they were using cheaper materials. Such frauds, identified by health boards over the last five years have risen by 42 per cent. Let’s hope that is a sign that more are being discovered.

Elderly care 'unsustainable'

Elderly care ‘unsustainable’

The other report came from Audit Scotland which warned that the care bill for elderly patients in hospitals and nursing homes was set to double to £8bn over the next 15 years. That’s “unsustainable” it said. Not enough was being done by local health boards and councils to treat elderly people in their own homes. It seems we need to follow through on our pioneering policy of free personal care.

Finally, I see that Scotland is over-represented in the GB team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. We have 18 sports men and women there, a third of the British contingent. We are, after all, the land of ice and snow. Our best hope is in the game we invented, curling. Eve Muirhead may well lead the women’s team to a gold medal and the men, skippered by David Murdoch will only be a stone’s throw behind. Watch out too for Andrew Musgrave in the cross-country ski-ing. He recently beat the Norwegians at their own game. But, of course, we don’t go there to win but to simply compete.

Mark Selby won the Masters – on the ‘red button’

Most people woke to the tragic news that former Dundee, Rangers and Dundee United midfielder Ian Redford had been found dead, aged just 53.

Ian Redford - RIP

Ian Redford – RIP

Redford was the most expensive transfer between two Scottish clubs when he moved from Dens Park to Ibrox in February 1980 for £210,000 – ten grand more than the figure Rangers had rejected by Dundee the week before!

Arguably however, his best days came with Dundee United, part of Jim McLean’s team that reached the UEFA Cup final in 1987, Redford scoring the winner in the semi-final against Borussia Monchengladbach. And he wasn’t finished as a winner either, helping Raith Rovers to both the First Division title and most famously, beating Celtic in the League Cup final in 1994.

I go back to his Rangers days though, a time which for Redford yielded medals and some truly wonderful goals, outrageous in their delivery, sheer gallus in their execution. A time when he was often paired alongside Davie Cooper. Coop was genuinely amused with how disinterested Redford seemingly could be at times with football, and once admitted he thought that if Ian ever won the pools, he’d buy Ibrox and turn it into a nature reserve and deer park.

Like Cooper, Redford has left us far too early. Like Cooper, perhaps we didn’t realise how good some of the players of that generation were, Ian Redford definitely being one of them …

TV companies, cameramen and producers, do like to focus in on managers these days, often coming up with a study of gritted teeth and nasal hair. And on occasions, something they had hadn’t bargained for.

Alan Pardew (Picture from Wikipedia)

Alan Pardew
(Picture from Wikipedia)

Like Alan Pardew’s language during the Newcastle United – Manchester City game when the irate Magpies boss was seen to mouth several obscenities in the direction of his opposite number – Manuel Pellegrini – including use of the ‘C’ word. Oh yes! Pardew apologised later, but not quite as much as the various Sky commentators and presenters had to.

I’ve mentioned before, especially in boxing, that if you stick cameras and microphones under the noses of sportsmen, coaches and managers in the heat of battle, you are asking for trouble. Maybe it’s time that kind of edit was hidden behind the red button?

Talking of red buttons, it only took one afternoon of The Masters before snooker fans were being instructed to reach for the remote in order that they could watch the deciding frame of the match between defending champion Mark Selby and Mark Davis. Ski Sunday, a recorded highlights package, was apparently more important than live coverage of the sudden-death 11th frame, which Selby won. I know most TV’s and devices are fitted with the red button facility. But why not stick the skiing on there and leave the snooker uninterrupted?

Or are there few snooker fans amongst BBC execs?

Cristiano Ronaldo wins the Ballon d’Or, beating Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery. It was the outcome most predicted given the year the Real Madrid star has had.

I have to admit I was more interested to see who the various managers and captains voted for. England boss Roy Hodgson and his captain Steven Gerrard both went for Ronaldo, while Scotland coach Gordon Strachan and international skipper Scott Brown voted for Messi.

I suppose it’s all about personal taste – or being able to identify winners ahead of also-rans …


Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Andy Murray is relatively untroubled in beating Japan’s Go Saeda to get his Australian Open campaign off to a winning start. I say relatively untroubled if you ignore the searing temperatures which has ball boys fainting, some of the women players burning their bottoms on the uncovered seats, and Murray himself claiming that if players were asked to continue in such heat, the consequences could be tragic.

It was nice then, given the extreme conditions, to see Murray being watched by one gentleman in a ‘See You Jimmy’ bunnet and wig. Nothing like being properly attired for the setting …

David Goodwillie

David Goodwillie

After Dundee United had shipped loan striker David Goodwillie back to Blackburn, Rovers boss Gary Bowyer stated he wasn’t sure what the next move could be for the Scotland striker, but that he could even be in his squad for the FA Cup tie against Manchester City, managed by the ‘old c***’ Manuel Pellegrini. In the end he wasn’t, and City won 5-0. I couldn’t help thinking though that had Goodwillie played, it would still have been 5-0 …

Once again I am honoured to be invited on to Scotland Tonight presented by Rona Dougall as a guest, this time to talk about the Rangers players refusing to accept a 15% wage cut.

Once again, that dreadful ‘C’ word appears. But rest easy, not over the airwaves thankfully, but on my Twitter timeline, as in ‘you’re never aff the telly ya **** talking about Rangers.” Of course, such a perceptive comment didn’t come from a fan of the Ibrox club. Neither did it come from anyone very perceptive either given that I have appeared on the show talking about drugs in sport, snooker, the Commonwealth Games, the SPFL, the Tartan Army, ‘Ballboygate,’ Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and Celtic, twice.

This would also slightly dent the observation that the programme is ‘always talking about Rangers,’ – although that was made by a follower of that club, for a change …

Dunkin’-Donuts-Logo CroppedFriday
Liverpool announce a global sponsorship partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts, which immediately sparks protests from some quarters that this send out the wrong message to children and ultimately could cause lasting health issues.

Well, I have news for those individuals concerned about what those round delicacies might do to you. A couple of dozen Dunkin’ Donuts a week, even a day, wouldn’t be as detrimental to your wellbeing as a round or two with Duncan Ferguson. And no-one complained about him being in the city. Liverpool I mean, not Glasgow …

This season, it’s all about the jacket for Watson.
Pictures from the BBC

By Sarah Artt, Edinburgh Napier University

The third season of the BBC’s Sherlock opens with a bang and gives us Derren Brown, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in an action hero window smash, followed by an insouciant hair tousle and a Hollywood kiss with Molly Hooper. The opening of Empty Hearse is more in the style of Guy Ritchie’s fantasy Victoriana Sherlock Holmes films, and could not be more different from the show’s more procedural beginnings.

This similarity with Ritchie is certainly deliberate, because Season 3 of Sherlock shows its infinite adaptability by incorporating the style of the two recent Sherlock Holmes films, along with various elements of the infinitely flexible Sherlock canon. As someone who is quite happy at the prospect of living in an era with three different iterations of Sherlock (Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller in Elementary and Robert Downey Jr. in the two Ritchie films), I’m also quite happy that they adapt and reference one another.

Sherlock as a series is also clever about its Victorian origins, particularly when it comes to costumes, and the latest season is no exception. Upon his return to London, we are treated to a sweeping, Romantic image of Sherlock surveying the city from on high, clad in his now iconic great coat; an image that recalls the powerful 19th century explorer. This is just one of the myriad Victorian allusions embedded in the Mark Gatiss and Seven Moffat’s costumes and design for Sherlock.

Steampunk and shoulder patches

Dr Waton's Haversack Jacket

Dr Waton’s Haversack Jacket

Consider the attention accorded to John Watson’s black Haversack jacket, which he wears consistently throughout the three series. The jacket has received a GQ fashion profile, not to mention endless remarks on Twitter. Haversack is a Japanese label that reproduces and draws inspiration from traditional menswear and workwear. Watson’s jacket expresses a sort of commercialised steampunk aesthetic, a gesture towards an earlier era. Its leather shoulder patch evokes the structure of military uniforms (something we see Jude Law’s Watson wearing in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, for example) delineating Watson’s status as soldier. The jacket is contemporary and yet evocative of Victorian “period” professions and pursuits.

The décor of 221B Baker Street in Sherlock is absolutely neo-Victorian, with its bison skull adorned with headphones that forms a focal point of the sitting room. The skull evokes the décor of traditional private men’s clubs or military messes – the trophy from a big game hunt. The headphones on the skull reflect the contemporary presence of technology via laptops, smartphones, blogs, and the Skype-like software deployed in season two’s A Scandal in Belgravia. The pairing of skull and headphones encapsulates the show’s fusing of 19th and 21st century.

As embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock adapts the Victorian fantasy of total mastery over knowledge. Though apparently as flummoxed by composing a best man’s speech as he was by his nemesis Irene Adler’s voracious sexuality, he once more demonstrates this near-total mastery in The Sign of Three by delivering a deeply moving speech and solving the crime, just as he outwits Adler by confirming her deep longing for him in season 2.

Mary Watson A woman with a past

Mary Watson
A woman with a past

The series as a whole mocks this aspiration to total knowledge while also, for the most part, presenting a Holmes who expresses an astonishing level of knowledge. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the line: “Get out, I need to go to my mind palace”. Yet Sherlock’s mastery is undermined by his frequently remarked-upon social ineptitude: Mary observes that he knows nothing about human nature after he bungles his reappearance in The Empty Hearse.

What also makes the original Holmes stories timely is that many of them centre around the theft and retrieval of information. In A Scandal in Belgravia and The Hounds of Baskerville, referencing two of the most well-known stories in the Holmes canon, concerns with information and technology are front and centre. The season 3 finale His Last Vow also centres on the information that surrounds Mary Watson’s past and how the Appledore files of blackmailer Magnussen will be deployed.

All these versions of Sherlock Holmes can exist simultaneously because they demonstrate how the presence of Sherlock and Watson act as anchors for the story. Sherlock has weathered the sometimes troublesome shift to the present moment particularly well due in no small part to its carefully constructed neo-Victorian references.

Sarah Artt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Croatian fans were shocked by Scotland’s victory
Bookie Busters Of The Year

FORGET BBC’s SPoTY; forget the Ballon D’or; forget Oscars and the Queen’s Honours Lists. The Caledonian Mercury’s Stewart Weir delivers his own annual awards, ‘The Weirdos,’ to the unsuspecting, the unwilling and the under-fire sporting personalities and events of 2013, each award coming delivered with added irreverence and a bung of satire …

Juventus Defensive Line

Defensive Line

NFL Defensive Line of The Year – Juventus, for their performance vs Celtic at Parkhead in the UEFA Champions League

The Fortnum & Mason ‘Nuts With Dates’ Award – Ross County, caught out by Remembrance Day popping up at the same time again this year and their subsequent excuse for forgetting a minute’s silence ahead of the game against Celtic

The Doctor Who ‘Parallel Universe’ Sonic Screw Driver – Peter Lawwell, who saw Gary Hooper’s value plummet from £29m in a parallel universe to just £5m in the real world in just over a year …

The Felix Ungar/Oscar Maddison Memorial ‘Odd Couple’ Award – Republic of Ireland’s managerial duo Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane

No - not Fearne Cotton

No – not Fearne Cotton

The Canesten Cream ‘Tube Of The Year’ (for any annoying itch that returns) – Charles Green for his (brief) comeback to Rangers

The Pierluigi Collina/John Rowbotham ‘Double Take’ Announcement of The Year – That Fearne Cotton was to take over as head coach of the Scottish national rugby team, when it turned out to be Vern Cotter (left)…

Scottish Sports Channel Of The Year – BBC Alba

Scottish Sports Channel Most In Need Of A Red Button Feature For English Commentary – for the second successive year, BBC Alba

The Pub-full Of Scottish Journalists Vote Of Thanks To The Story That Keeps Giving – goes to … (drum roll) Rangers (again)

Sports Column of The Year – David McCarthy, Daily Record for this musical ditty

Banner of the Year?

Banner of the Year?

Football Graphics Award Of The Year – The Green Brigade for their ‘London Calling’ banner vs Juventus

Commercial Radio Sports Station Of The Year – talkSPORT

The British Leyland/Austin Rover Marina/Ital Award (for the best rebranding of an unchanged heap) – SPFL, for still looking remarkably like the SPL

The Adlai Stevenson ‘Most Forgotten Runner Who Came Second In A Two Horse Race’ Memorial Shield – David Longmuir, beaten by Neil Doncaster for the SPFL CEO job ..

'Scotland Tonight' Best Sports Debate Programme

‘Scotland Tonight’
Best Sports Debate Programme

The BBC ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ Snobbery Award – those of the ‘SPOTY’ adjudication panel who managed to overlook Ronnie O’Sullivan and Carl Froch as nominees …

Scottish Sports Debate Programme Of The Year – Scotland Tonight

Sports Book Of The Year – despite not receiving a review copy the title goes to ‘SPAIN: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble’

The Parker Golden Pen (for services to the ink industry) – joint winners this year, boxer Ricky Burns and Ryan Stevenson of Hearts

Falkirk Artificial Pitch

Falkirk Artificial Pitch

The British Standard Kite Mark Non-Award (for not adhering to the manufacturers recommendations) – Falkirk FC, who failed to keep a naked flame (and Rangers fans) away from their new plastic pitch

The Hilti Power Tools Golden Rivet Gun – Stenhousemuir, who can use it the next time the roof comes off at Ochilview and forces the postponement of a live TV match

The Sid James ‘Carry On Regardless’ Oscar – Brian Stockbridge of Rangers. Nominated – Neil Doncaster, SPFL

David Francey Memorial TV Football Commentator Of The Year – for the third year running, joint winners Ian Crocker (Sky Sports) and Derek Rae (ESPN) (after the unification of the award)

Rangers Board Re-elected

Rangers Board Re-elected

Home Town Boxing Decision Of The Year – Ricky Burns for being battered to a draw with Raymundo Beltran

The Central Politburo ‘Why Bother Having A Vote In The First Place’ Electoral Cross In A Box – The Rangers Board, for being re-elected at club’s AGM

Vincent Lunny Tunes Merit Award For Policing Football – Jonathan Sutherland (replacing Rob Maclean) and the agenda-setting BBC Sportscene

The John Candy ‘It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time’ Memorial Award – Kilamrnock chairman Michael Johnston for sacking Kenny Shiels

Neil Doncaster

Neil Doncaster

The Viridor Recycling Headlines Trophy – Hibs (for a second successive year) after losing 3-0 to Celtic in the Scottish Cup final enabled countless sub-editors to pack away 111-year-old puns for another year

The ‘Where’s Wally’ Sports Administrator Of The Year Award – Neil Doncaster for his ‘appearances’ at Hampden during 2013

The Betfred Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Ian Black of Rangers

The Paddy Power Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Michael Moffat of Ayr United

The Ladbrokes Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Ian Black of Rangers

The McBookie Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Michael Moffat of Ayr United

The Scotbet Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Ian Black of Rangers

The Corals Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Michael Moffat of Ayr United

Scotland - shock loss to Wales

Scotland – shock loss to Wales

The Captain Nemo ‘Plunging The Depths’ Award For 2013 – Scotland national team losing to Wales at Hampden

The Tote Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Ian Black of Rangers

The Political Correctness Nod Of Approval – to everyone who said Eden Hazard of Chelsea was out of order to manhandle Swansea ballboy Charlie Morgan

Hypocrites of The Year – to everyone who said Eden Hazard of Chelsea was out of order to manhandle Swansea ballboy Charlie Morgan, but really wanted to say he didn’t kick him hard enough

The Bet 365 Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Michael Moffat of Ayr United

The Skybet Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Ian Black of Rangers

The 888sport.com Award For Services To The Betting Industry – Michael Moffat of Ayr United

How The Ashes Were Won DVD? (Royalty Free Image from PDPics.com)

How The Ashes Were Won DVD?
(Royalty Free Image from PDPics.com)

Bookie Busters Of The Year – Scotland national team for beating Croatia in Croatia

The ‘Shot At Glory’ Award (for the Christmas DVD consigned to the bin before Christmas) – ‘England 2013 – How The Ashes Were Won’ …

The Glade ‘Fresh Air’ Shot of The Year – Scott Brown of Celtic for his swipe at Neymar

KFC ‘It Tasted Like Chicken’ Family Feast – Branislav Ivanovic, having been nibbled by Luis Suarez

Unwanted Label Of The Year – Ryan Gauld, ‘who could be Scotland’s Lionel Messi’ …

Most Missed Sportsman of 2013 – Graeme Swann, especially by Australia’s middle order

Ryder Cup 'Ambassadors'

Ryder Cup ‘Ambassadors’

The 2013 ‘No, No, NO!’ Moment – Organising Committee of the 2014 Commonwealth Games on hearing Sir Chris Hoy had retired and wouldn’t be pedalling at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome

The Michael Jackson ‘White Gloves’ Award (for items used for no apparent reason) – Ryder Cup ambassadors Ruud Gullit, James Nesbitt, Jodie Kidd and Alan Hansen, and Marvin Humes, or Marvin ‘Whatshisname’ as he’s better known from that forgettable boy band

The Bostik ‘Most Bonding Force In Global Sport’ – Cardiff boss Malky Mackay who has gained support from every quarter. Highly commended in that category – Nelson Mandela

The Joseph Goebbels Memorial Propaganda Degree – the Green Brigade (for believing their own hype)

Bluebirds in Red?

Bluebirds in Red?

Music To Read Green Brigade Banners ByThe Noveltones

The Gary Lineker 1986 World Cup Shorts Award (for the most ill-fitting nickname in sport) – the red-clad Cardiff City ‘Bluebirds’

The National Lottery ‘Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Merlin’ Ball (for making up the numbers) – Marseille in Champions League Group F, for scoring ‘nil pois’ in giving Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli someone to play

The Frank Sinatra Award (for comebacks in sport) – Audley Harrison, who then retired again …

Audley Harrison

Audley Harrison

The Most Word Used In Scottish Sport With No Evidence That It Exists – goes to ‘legacy’

The Second-Most Word Used In Scottish Sport With No Evidence That It Exists – goes to ‘family’

Lazarus Sporting Comeback of the Century – USA’s America’s Cup winning team

The Jerry-built Sports Arena of The Year – most of those being erected for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

The Oxbridge Contradiction Diploma (for proving proverbs and sport don’t mix) – Rangers’ Easdale Brothers (that a bird in the hand is not worth two in the boardroom’)

The Johnny Ball ‘Think Of A Number’ Award – Rangers, for making £22m evaporate …

Paul Simon ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ Prize – Dennis Rodman

William Galliard Memorial Special Communiqué (for the most visible communications officer in sport) – Darryl Broadfoot of the SFA

Team of the Year – New Zealand All Blacks

The London Bus Company Plate (for waiting ages to suddenly get two in quick succession) – Chris Froome, Tour de France winner

StadiumThe ‘What Does That Remind Me Of’ Award for Sports Architecture – what else but this

The Sparks ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ Gold Disc – Ally McCoist and Charles Green

Monklands District Council Memorial ‘Jobs For The Boys/Perks Of The Job’ Award – Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee, unwanted as a club manager but in great demand as a summariser …

The Father Ted Crilly Accountancy Degree – Brian Stockbridge

The Khaled Hosseini/Christopher Robin Kite Flyer of The Year – Peter Lawwell for suggesting Celtic might play their Champions League qualifiers in 2014 at Old Trafford or in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium

The Cool Runnings Trophy (for services to bobsleighing, tobogganing, luge, skeleton and sledging) – Australia’s Ashes-winning cricket team

The Dolly The Sheep Cloning Award – joint-winners, to all Scots broadcasters who believe they have to sound like Jonathan Watson doing an impersonation of Jim White

… and by no means least,

The Golden Rose of Montrose (for Scottish Broadcaster of the Year) – Jim White, for his Deadline Day drama (except, ironically in Scotland, where nothing happened)

… and, finally,

The Charles Green-sponsored (by other people’s money) Lifetime Achievement Award – Neil Doncaster, SPFL, for making every year in Scottish football seem like a lifetime

The Kelpies at Falkirk – symbols of the past and future

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Falkirk’s giant Kelpies were unveiled in this so-called “week of independence.” The two 100ft horse-heads rise out of Scotland’s industrial past to chase a new future. They represent the Celtic myth of the water-horse as well as the working horses of the canals, the mines, the farms, the milk-rounds and the beer deliveries. These were the days when Scotland was the workhorse of the Empire. Now we are a different nation and we face a different future and, as if they don’t know which way to turn, the two Kelpies are facing different directions.

The White Paper was launched at the Glasgow Science Centre

The White Paper was launched at the Glasgow Science Centre

The SNP government launched its white paper on independence at the Science Centre in Glasgow on Tuesday. Actually, it was a white book, of some 650 pages, answering the 650 questions which people have been asking about next year’s referendum.

But it is also a manifesto of what an SNP government would do in an independent Scotland. It would negotiate a place in the Sterling zone, the EU and NATO. It would get rid of nuclear weapons. It would invest in child-care to get more women into work. It would cut corporation tax. It would scrap the “bedroom tax.” It would make sure the SBC, the successor to the BBC, would show Dr Who and Strictly Come Dancing.

The White Paper

The White Paper

The big white book, Scotland’s Future, is a daring and populist gambit to win over the 15 per cent of Scots who are undecided. It left the Unionist parties sniping at the figures, trying to prove that it was all “a work of fiction.” Scotland they said would have a £10 billion black hole in its budget and no one knows what the terms might be for entry into the EU or NATO or the Sterling currency.

But Alex Salmond just kept on smiling. His blue and white army pushed a newspaper through my letter box this very morning claiming that 52 per cent of Scots believe that “ Scotland could be a successful independent country.” What it didn’t make clear was that not everyone believed it SHOULD be an independent country. In fact, the same poll, reported by a different newspaper, found that 38 per cent supported independence and 47 per cent were against. Still, there is all to play for on both sides.

Thousands of jobs gone from the public sector

Thousands of jobs gone from the public sector

Certainly what Scots don’t want to hear is that the UK government’s austerity programme is to continue. Audit Scotland published a report this week showing that the public sector in Scotland has been cut by 26,000 staff since the 2007 crash. And it predicts that another 3,000 will go from councils and health boards next year. The unions put the real job losses at 50,000 when you take into account part-time workers and they point out that we are still only half way through the austerity programme. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also revealed the uncomfortable fact that the poorest parts of Scotland are bearing the brunt of the cuts. It says service budgets are being cut by £47 per head more in the West than in the East.

Lawrence Tomlinson RBS - exorbitant fees

Lawrence Tomlinson
RBS – exorbitant fees

Meanwhile the Royal Bank of Scotland – one of the perpetrators of the crash in the first place – has been facing yet further allegations of misconduct. A report compiled by the government’s own advisor Lawrence Tomlinson has found that the bank has been charging exorbitant fees and forcing some businesses to the wall in order to profit from their assets. He concludes that the bank has “gravely hindered” Britain’s economic recovery. The Financial Conduct Authority is to hold a full inquiry but if true, the allegations are further evidence that the bankers still don’t “get it.”

The death of three teenagers in a car crash near Dunbar on Monday evening has stopped us all in our tracks. Their car skidded off a minor road and hit a wall, killing the three instantly and injuring a fourth teenager. There’s been an out-pouring of grief at their school in Dunbar and it will no doubt focus attention again on the continuing debate over whether there should be extra legal conditions on young drivers.

Finally, the villagers of Rigg near Gretna Green suddenly found themselves without electricity on Monday when 10,000 starlings landed on their local power lines. The birds took to the sky from time to time in one of their dramatic “murmurations” for the benefit of local photographers. It’s said to be an example of random movements by individuals adding up to a coherent pattern of behaviour. Perhaps this is what politics, economics, and indeed life, is all about.

Ross Country’s Victoria Park in Dingwall

Days after the riots in Amsterdam, Dingwall was a far quieter place as Ross County played host to Celtic, almost entirely due to (having viewed the video footage) not a single undercover tram being on duty!

BT Sport Logo 3Big story of the day was BT Sport capturing the broadcast rights for the Champions League. According Dan Roan, reporting for the BBC, this deal was worth £900m, giving BT Sport the rights to Champions League and Europa League from 2015 onwards, enabling them to show 350 live games a season.

Roan then added; “This afternoon BT’s viewers had to make do with Celtic’s match away to Ross County.”

‘Make do’ with the first British team to win the very competition you had spouted on about? It’s one thing being dismissive of your broadcast rivals. Just don’t come across as being condescending and ignorant with it …

Those who did observe the Ross County – Celtic SPFL game would have probably noticed what they didn’t observe – a minute’s silence.

No minute's silence An oversight?

No minute’s silence
An oversight?

Whether you do, or in their case don’t have a minute’s silence ahead of a football match is entirely down to the individual club. Some of course can’t, and won’t, simply because their fans are hugely untrustworthy at such moments of Remembrance. I mean, how difficult is it to stay quiet for a minute?

What you don’t do is come out the next day with a press statement that makes you look completely amateurish, as Ross County did with a communiqué that said; “The lack of a minute’s silence was not an operational or policy decision but an error of omission arising from a failure to address changes in staff responsibilities, and the matter is being dealt with internally.”

Really? Given that the game was live on TV and therefore governed by timings, and that the club officials would have had dialogue with the BT Sport producers about, er, timings, it is impossible to see how this oversight occurred. The other clue, and you wouldn’t have to be Taggart to pick up on this one, would be the number of people wearing poppies. Someone, somewhere might have picked up on that surely?

Next day, Gillingham were forced to make an almost identical apology for a similar ‘oversight’ and ‘miscommunication’ before their FA Cup tie with Bracknell. So much consternation and upset at both ends of the country. But was it such a calamity, such a disaster? I mean, no-one died, did they??

I watched BBC1 Northern Ireland’s documentary about the song ‘Danny Boy,’ that haunting, melodic Irish ballad, written by an Englishman.

The programme reflected on where and when the song was sung, and fittingly included former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan and how he used the song – sung ahead of his title contest with Eusabio Pedroza at Loftus Road by his father Pat – when uniting two communities as they supported him on his way to the top.

For me, a more poignant occasion was when Dr Sean Donnelly sang Danny Boy, Northern Ireland’s anthem at the Commonwealth Games, after Jim Webb took light-middleweight gold in Victoria in 1994.
Boxers, hard men? Not a dry eye in the house!!

And as we all expected, Terry Butcher is installed as the new manager of Hibs. I wish the big chap well in his new capacity as the Easter Road club’s next ex-manager …

UEFA LogoUEFA fined Ajax £21,000 for fans displaying an offensive banner at their Champions League home game against Celtic. The Amsterdam club were found guilty of ‘improper conduct’ and rightly punished.

For those of a nervous or delicate disposition, look away now. But the message on the banner said ‘Fenian Bastards.’ I can only think the word ‘bastards’ was what upset folk, and in particular UEFA. Because when the ‘F’ word has been displayed on banners around Scottish football grounds in recent times (accompanied by a footballer’s name and the word ‘Army’), the SFA have done nothing.

Probably they were just unsighted or looking elsewhere …

Retirement day today; one planned, one unexpected.

In Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar took to the middle for possibly the last time in what is his 200th Test match. Arguably the greatest ever Test batsman, the 40-year-old ended the day against the West Indies poised, perhaps, for one last century, a fact not lost with the newspaper headline writers, one declaring; “On 38, with a billion prayers.” It would transpire a billion prayers weren’t quite enough.

Dario Franchitti (Pic from Wikipedia)

Dario Franchitti
(Pic from Wikipedia)

More than a few prayers would have been said a few weeks ago when Scots racing driver Dario Franchitti ploughed into a wall at Houston Grand Prix. From the resulting injuries, news on Thursday that the four-time IndyCar champion had been forced to retire on medical advice.

The 40-year-old’s name wouldn’t necessarily register with some of his countrymen, all of his best work – including three Indy 500 victories – done Stateside. As a result, he maybe didn’t quite get the exposure or coverage he deserved, hence the irony of him making the headline with his near-fatal smash when his greatest achievements we tucked away on wing columns. Not everyone ignored him. The Sunday Mail did make him their Sportsman of the Year a couple of years ago. But then the do have individuals there who do recognise greatness in sport, not just a ball.

No doubt Franchitti will be upset at time being called on his career. But, I am not one who will call this announcement ‘sad news.’ Sadly, I know only too well much sadder ways to of bidding farewell to motorsport …

It will probably take 180 minutes, maybe even extra time and penalties. But tonight sees the first instalment of Portugal versus Sweden for a place in the World Cup finals next summer. In essence, this comes down to a shoot out between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two of football’s greatest egos.

Amazing though to think that one of this pairing won’t be gracing the biggest stage in the game. But it’s happened before. Just think of George Best, Eric Cantona, Liam Brady, David Ginola, a planeload of Welshmen, David Hopkin …

Fears for local postal services

There’s an eve of battle atmosphere about the SNP’s annual conference in Perth this weekend, the last before next September’s independence referendum. The order of the day is “forward.” Alex Salmond has told his 1200 party officers that this is their “greatest opportunity” for winning independence and immortality.

Grangemouth - an 'embarrassing dispute'

Grangemouth – an ‘embarrassing dispute’

So how does the battle field look? Well, to the immediate south, there are the flares of Grangemouth. Scotland’s one and only oil refinery is in danger of closing. It has been shut down till at least Tuesday in an obscure and labyrinthine dispute between a powerful trade union and Ineos, a Chinese-backed private equity firm.

It is a particularly embarrassing dispute for a country which prides itself on oil production and which virtually invented the oil industry – with James “Paraffin” Young’s first refinery opening in 1851. It’s also a sign that we haven’t been keeping up and investing in the latest developments in the industry.

Fears for the future of libraries and other local services

Fears for the future of libraries and other local services

To the west and north, there are fears for the postal services in the Highlands and Islands with the privatisation of the Royal Mail. Alex Salmond has pledged to re-nationalise the company in an independent Scotland. How much that might cost depends on the share price which went sky high just after the sale last week. It left the London government, and its advisors Lazards, looking pretty silly, having sold a national asset at 30 per cent below its value.

Looking further to the south, the high command at Perth are preparing for a battle royal over the Coalition’s cross-border war machines, in the form of more spending cuts and welfare reform. Local authorities this week have been warning that front line services, like libraries, will have to close if the spending cuts continue. And the SNP have promised to do all they can to end the cuts to benefits. In particular they would, in an independent Scotland, reverse the bedroom tax or spare room subsidy.

But there are bright spots on the battle field too. Scottish unemployment figures are improving, 7.3 per cent this month, compared to 7.7 per cent for the UK as a whole. And the number of Scots in employment, at 2.54 million, is the highest for five years…though a third of those jobs are temporary or part-time.

BBC Alba logoThe native language seems to be enjoying a revival. More funding for Gaelic was announced at the end of a successful National MOD in Paisley. Most of the money, £350,000 will go to Gaelic TV channel, BBC Alba, which now has a weekly audience of 600,000. And the government has set a target of doubling the number of children in Gaelic medium education from 400 to 800 over the next four years.

On the football field, Scotland turned in a respectable performance against Croatia on Tuesday night (2:0), which makes it three wins out of the last four matches. There are now high hopes that Gordon Strachan can take us into the European finals in 2016. Rangers, of course, continue to disgrace us with their never-ending board-room battles, but there are signs of a new ownership pattern emerging across Scotland with the fans at Dunfermline finally taking control of their club.

Still more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland  (SNP joke)

Still more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland
(SNP joke)

So the clan chiefs gathering in Perth have some things to be cheerful about. And apparently they are in confident mood, even though the opinion polls remain unmoved from their findings that support for independence is still only running at around 30 per cent. But that doesn’t stop the SNP from winning elections and knocking all the opposition parties into a peat bog.

Alex Salmond is fond of pointing out that there are twice as many pandas in Scotland as there are Tory MPs. He was very nearly able to put that figure up to three times but we learned this week that poor Tian Tian at Edinburgh Zoo had suffered a miscarriage. There is always next year. Certainly there seem to be more pandas about than Tory MPs. I saw two at the SNP’s independence parade in the Royal Mile last month. And on Saturday night, I saw another two on the stage at the Church Hill theatre taking part in Mozart’s Magic Flute. Perhaps all politicians should change from playing the bagpipes to playing the flute.

The Birks Cinema – a celebrity re-opening

For a time, it seemed as if the commercial cinema was, if not doomed, then limited to the big multi-screen complexes and the occasional specialist centre such as the Filmhouse in Edinburgh or the GLasgow Film Theatre. But none of the worst predictions has come to pass and there’s a growing interest in the ‘big screen’ productions away from the city centres. The Screen Machine is currently touring the Highlands and, shortly, the new Birks Cinema will be formally opened in Aberfeldy. And the town is gearing up for the event next month because Hollywood star and Scottish actor, Alan Cumming OBE, has agreed to carry out the opening ceremony.

Alan Cumming Photo Credit - Kevin Garcia

Alan Cumming
Photo Credit – Kevin Garcia

The cinema has been operating since the Spring but its transformation from derelict Bingo Hall to its current glory has been a story of true grit, determination and enthusiasm by local film buffs. And the actor has played a considerable part in the story. Alan Cumming has been the cinema’s Patron since 2009, lending his considerable support to a local fundraising campaign that eventually saw the building undergo a £1.3million renovation programme and return to its original use as a local cinema at the heart of the community.

To celebrate the official opening of the renovated cinema, Alan will be welcomed into town on Saturday 30th November for a red carpet gala event and a private screening of his latest film, Any Day Now. “I’m truly delighted to be visiting Aberfeldy,” he said, “and I’m very much looking forward to seeing The Birks Cinema in all its finery. Everyone involved in this project has shown true dedication and commitment and I’m very excited to finally see it for myself.”

A special screening of 'Local Hero'

A special screening of ‘Local Hero’

General Manager, Paul Foley is also looking forward to welcoming Alan, saying that the community was “very grateful to Alan Cumming for his support and delighted that he has been able to make the trip over to Scotland to formally pronounce us open. I’m looking forward to rolling out the red carpet, welcoming Alan to The Birks Cinema and making this St Andrews Day a very memorable and historic one for Aberfeldy.”

But Aberfeldy isn’t the only place to see the arrival of famous folk from the films. On Saturday 2nd November, a 30th anniversary screening of Local Hero will be shown in Mallaig, one of the locations used in the film. Director Bill Forsyth and international producer Iain Smith will introduce the screening and talk to the audience about the inspirations behind what is regarded as one of the giants of Scottish cinema.

Then on Sunday 3rd November, Scottish actor Bill Paterson will unveil a rare 40th anniversary screening of the BBC film production of 7:84 Theatre’s seminal play The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black, Black Oil in Dornie where it was partly shot and where many local residents were involved in the making of the film.

The film screenings are part of the Creative Scotland funded Natural Scotland on Screen project that showcases how films and television have imagined and represented Scotland’s rich landscape and biodiversity. The Screen Machine – Scotland’s mobile cinema – will host the screenings as part of its own 15th anniversary touring programme.

Douglas Dougan

Douglas Dougan

Douglas Dougan, Natural Scotland on Screen Film Project Manager, pointed out that “we have 60 films and 30 television programmes which have been collected together to show off the beautiful locations and natural resources Scotland has to offer. So far we have shown 50 films in cinemas in the Highlands, Islands, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with more still to come before the end of the year. This special weekend is the highpoint in the programme with outstanding films and high profile guests.”

Iain Munro, Deputy Chief Executive at Creative Scotland added that “Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero is a Scottish cult classic, with The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black Black Oil a rarely seen masterpiece. This is a great opportunity for people to experience these two landmark Scottish films as they come back home to their roots.”