Friday 31 May 2024

An SNP Facing the Centre Ground

 An SNP Facing the Centre Ground


Kelly Given often writes of progressive change in the National. The problem is the devolved Scottish governments limited powers to bring about really meaningful change, and these are questions for after our independence. 


We need to gain ground in the centre of politics, where many peoples views sit, otherwise Scotland will continue to be stuck. Many SNP supporters feel the Scottish government has been side-tracked by a focus on identity issues that many Scots have little interest in – when a quarter of Scotland’s children live in poverty, there is a housing crisis, Scotland’s wealth and resources are sold off to foreign bidders we can’t control, when an energy rich Scotland has the highest energy prices in Europe and there is growing energy poverty, when the environment catastrophe facing the world cannot be ignored. 


Too much time has been spent on minor issues. While I appreciate the importance for the SNP of the young voters who want progressive polices and all voices must be heard. And I also agree that without reform and change to progressive and inclusive capitalism  - after 40 years of the clearly failed neo-liberal policies that have only made the rich richer – is crucial to our happier and successful independence.


My understanding is the SNP and Forbes had little choice over the UKs Freeport scheme – it was either have the Freeports imposed on Scotland, or at least add some Green credentials. I appreciate Swinney and Forbes wish to project a more positive spin on the SNPs devolved options, while asking for more powers, I hope. Certainly united and more positive parties win elections! 


Joseph Stiglitz book Road to Freedom talks about ‘Progressive Capitalism’ - that the most successful countries are those who also invest in their education and health and that free for all unregulated capitalism over the past 40 has failed people. That trickle down theories have simply meant the rich getting richer. 


On Energy. I don’t agree with nuclear – the toxic waste is there for thousands of years, so multiply the number of nuclear plants needed very fifty years. Hydrogen is very complex and highly combustible – and it also requires large sites which makes it expensive.


While I am also confused over the SNPs stance over Grangemouth – which will mean Scotland as the only oil producing country with no refinery and the loss of hundreds of skilled workers, who are then likely to leave Scotland. Plus make us even more ‘dependent’ on English refineries which is clearly the plan for the foreseeable future. As well as effecting moves towards net zero with large tankers bringing refined oil up the Forth. Scotland will be the only major oil producer with no refinery. While the net zero policies  are crucial, we will continue to need oil for the next few decades.


But I do believe John Swinney is a man of integrity who listens and has vast experience.  Kate Forbes also understands the issues facing rural Scotland that are essential to our future too. Once Scotland is independent , that will be the time for new political parties. I really don’t like the old left/ right divides. A future Scotland needs both good social policies so a well educated and healthy population can thrive, but also one where small businesses and industry can thrive.   

If Scotland wants to follow other small and medium-sized nations successes – education must be a key driver and top priority. 



PS Any Scots interested to vote for English Labour MPs, should realise ONLY 106 MPs of the 650 at Westminster are non-English MPs! (543 are English MPs) – so a Scot’s vote for English Labour party really leaves Scotland with no voice at UK level.  (Scotland 57 MPs, Wales 32  MPs, NI  18 MPs)


Blue Rose Code new album 'Bright Circumstances'


Blue Rose Code is now touring his new 2024 album 'Bright Circumstances'

 (Ronachan Songs) Digital album, limited edition vinyl and CD available May 2024 


The album contains contributions from folk icons like Danny Thompson, Steve Knightley, and the marvellous Eddie Reader. ‘Bright Circumstance’ oscillates between the grim circumstances of existence and salvation and joy. The result is a beautifully crafted, open-hearted meditation—a rich and rewarding experience.


Ross Wilson (aka Blue Rose Code) sings with emotional intimacy, tracing our painful lows and joyous highs – Wilsons vocals, harmonies and rhythmic energy are deeply connected and soulful – with emotional release and open hearted climax. He’s also well backed by hi along term bandmate Lyle Watt on his wonderfully evocative blues electric guitar solos and often his highly professional band with keys, drums and brass sections.  (Ross's long-standing foil on guitar and finder of the bluest of blue notes in any situation leads us in with a quietly strummed ..,)   -

I first saw Blue Rose Code at Milngavie folk club in 2026. A fan beside me raved about his album and said he travelled to many of his gigs. Wilson started his concert with high energy guitar and I was impressed with his soulful voice. I sought out his albums and since then BRC has been a top favourite. He has performed at several Celtic Connections concerts over the years.

Opening with ‘Jericho,’ a propulsive burst of horns and energy that delivers on the band’s live performance credentials, it swirls vigorously with Caledonian soul. “It’s been a long time coming… but here we go.” Wilson’s vocals are soulful and urgent. Throughout, there’s a dichotomy, weaving between the bright and dark, love and mercy, desperate circumstances, and small victories of the heart.

Sadie‘ is a close portrait of addiction. Wilson stated that it was “written from a very personal perspective, a song about generational trauma and addiction,” its pained lyrics underpinned by a beautifully evocative pedal steel. ‘Thirteen Years‘ reflects on the desolation wrought by Tory policies, asking, “Why should one child go to sleep tonight hungry or cold?

The album title alludes to the Buddhist practices that inspire the album, intertwining reality and the human capacity to transcend suffering through thought—like the golden age Haiku poet, Issa, wrote, 

We walk on the roof of hell / gazing at flowers.” This album sings this song in all its joy and sorrow. It’s realised most perfectly on ‘Never Know Why.‘ That matches sunny horns and shimmering Vampire Weekend guitar with Zen Koan-like lyrics that suggest our joy, in some part, is unnameable to us, “‘There’s a certain code of joy on the mundane path we tread.” That code might be unknowable, but at the heart of our shared consciousness is love. Love, kindness, and humanity; ‘Bright Circumstance’’s cup overflows.

Wilson’s writing is filled with humanity. There are many gifts; bright bouquets like ‘Easy as We Go‘, or quieter consolations like the acoustic psalm ‘Peace In Your Heart.‘ The cover of ‘Amazing Grace‘ feels well-earned and triumphs, while ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ stirs with a slow build into a holy evocation, proclaiming, “The divine in me sees the divine in you.” It’s engaging emotional rescue, peak era Van Morrison.

The album contains contributions from folk icons like Danny Thompson, Steve Knightley, and the marvellous Eddie Reader. ‘Bright Circumstance’ oscillates between the grim circumstances of existence and salvation and joy. The result is a beautifully crafted, open-hearted meditation—a rich and rewarding experience.

Capercaillie 40 year anniversary new album Reloved

Widely respected trailblazers of Celtic music, Capercaillie are credited with being the major force in bringing Gaelic music to the world stage and inspiring the great resurgence so evident today. From their homeland roots of Argyll in the highlands of Scotland, the band’s musical journey has seen them tour 30+ countries, sell over a million albums, perform in Rob Roy (1995) alongside Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, and enter the pop charts with Coisich a Ruin - the first Gaelic single to reach the Top 40.

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Capercaillie release a new album “Reloved” realising their dream of creating full symphonic arrangements for their music. Comprising material from their much loved repertoire it encapsulates the spirit of the band with strident waulkings songs from the Hebrides, hypnotic groove infused instrumentals and epic modern ballads and love songs.

Capercaillie is led by Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson and is one of Scotland’s most respected bands. The band draw on rich ballad traditions, as well as their fusion of folk and more contemporary influences., while also staying with more traditional arrangements and instruments. Their music has been used in films. 

This ground-breaking and genre-defying Scots band, celebrate their 40 years of success in music. With Karen Matheson’s pure and haunting Gaelic voice. While Donald Shaw is a highly regarded Scots composer and musician, as well as musical director of Celtic connections festival since 2004. His composing credits include Bafta nominated scores for TV and film. 


Shaw and Matheson from Oban are married   - they are a formidable team! -

National Trust for Scotland new Burns Archive upclose


Over 2,500 historic items from our internationally important collections at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum are now available to explore from anywhere in the world.


NTS have launched a new portal that gives unprecedented access to manuscripts, archives and artefacts, including over 1,000 items that are held in store for their long-term preservation and protection.

Thanks to funding from a member of our Patrons’ Club and the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, anyone with an interest in Burns from across the world can now visit our website and engage with Burns artefacts as never before.

With the ability to zoom in on high-resolution images to see full details on manuscripts and objects that would usually be displayed behind glass, the online collection allows users to experience Burns up close and personal – from previously undisplayed handwritten manuscripts by Robert Burns, to sharing the recently acquired items from the Blavatnik Honresfield Library, alongside photographs, letters, objects and wider archival material.

The collection is organised under four categories:

  • Burns the man
  • Myths and folklore
  • Relationships
  • Memorialisation and legacy

Highlights include a fragment of one of only six known manuscripts of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ dating from 1793; Jean Armour’s wedding ring; a lock of Highland Mary’s hair; and Burns’s blue woollen initialled socks. There are also many manuscripts that have not previously been on display, including ‘Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots’, ‘On The Approach of Spring’, ‘Scots Wha Hae’ and an unbound, uncut copy of the Kilmarnock Edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect




Susie Hillhouse, Head of Collections at the National Trust for Scotland, said: ‘We are excited to be bringing our incredible Robert Burns Collection to people across the world through this online platform. This project, which has been in the works for over 12 months, will allow people to engage with items in the collections like never before. We’re currently only able to show a proportion of these items at our award-winning Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. Now, anyone will be able to search the collections, and zoom in to tiny details and experience the full collection of over 2,500 items, 24/7, from anywhere in the world.’


Tuesday 30 April 2024

B & W Celtic PHOTOS

Often photos work best in black and white. Except if there’s not enough contrast, or if colour is the main impact of an image - such as blossom, sunsets …..


The black and white image has a certain impact that colour doesn’t have. Many of theses B & W photos are among my favourites. Theses are some black and white images from this years Celtic Connections music festival Glasgow 2024. 

 Kim Carnie, Lindsay Lou and Joshua Burnside performed at the Transatlantic Sessions 2024.

Ode to Joy


Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ was written in 1823 - and took Beethoven 30 years to write. This year is its 200 anniversary. The last choral section was based on a Fredrich Schillers poem 1785. By then aged 55, Beethoven was deaf. 'We wanted to erase inequality.'    


Beethoven Ninth symphony premiered in Vienna – not only for the elites, but for all people. He cut ticket prices. The chorus rises, evoking revolution – that all people will be brothers. 


Amid calls for Reform in turbulent times of Revolutions. Burns A Mans a Man, or Tom Paine’s

The music has been a rallying cry for social reformers  - from Karl Marx, to Hitler to Stalin. 


"Ode to Joy" 

(literally "To the Joy") is an ode written in the summer of 1785 by German poet, playwright, and historian 

Fredrich Schiller and published the following year in Thalia. A slightly revised version appeared in 1808, changing two lines of the first and omitting the last stanza.

"Ode to Joy" is best known for its use by Ludwig van Beethoven in the final (fourth) movement of his Ninth symphony, completed in 1824 and premiered in Vienna. Beethoven’s text is not based entirely on Schiller's poem, and it introduces a few new sections. His tune (but not Schiller's words) was adopted as the Anthem by the council fo Europe.  of Europe in 1972 and subsequently by the EU.  


Monday 29 April 2024

Crossing Boundaries

Change is inevitable. In the study of Physics there is entropy, which means the general trend in the universe leads inevitably towards disorder. 

Many artists cross boundaries. Sometimes its at the edge of things we find the truths of human existence. Burns (like Dylan and Shakespeare also) lived in turbulent times, when the first newspapers and pamphlets had voices calling for reform and votes for all men, late 1700s. 


Some creatives cross boundaries in big ways. Our bard Robert Burns for instance. His father travelled down from the north east of Scotland, eventually to Ayrshire and he married Agnes Broun, who had a large extended Ayrshire family. She knew and sang all the traditional Scots ballads. While Burn’s father was well educated and taught Burns at home. Burns travelled across Scotland on several tours.


In the National

Lewis Waugh wrote – (Language matters when we talk about Assisted Dying) - that he told one MSP – “the reason he was sitting before me was that someone, onetime had crossed a line and let the ordinary person have the vote. Universal suffrage, votes for women, gay rights, disabled rights, all were viewed in their time as descent into some manner of chaos. He smiled, “One person’s ascent to civilization is another persons slide into barbarity. Please discuss!”


The questions remain over why some of us embrace change, while other fear change and cling to the status quo – even while they can see the present system is clearly not working. They cling to safety while rejecting progress at the very same moment.

(Re Assisted Dying Bill. I much prefer Canada’s term – End of Life Options for Palliative care. We don’t wish to let animals suffer, so why our loved ones?)


The other day I walked past a busy local Orange Lodge, and I wondered for some who continue to celebrate divides over 340 years old (Battle of the Boyne 1690) – their tribe is far more important than any present day problems. We might wonder why many cling to past expectations or the status quo. The UKs Ill-advised Brexit was about ‘take back control’ to past British empire days, that no longer exist here….


Which led me to think that crossing boundaries and bridges is crucial to moving debates forward and to attaining progress from backward-looking ideas. To embrace change. The past should inform the present, but not control it.


Many passages and journeys in life help us cross boundaries – travel, further education, reading, culture, art, music and history. To learn empathy of others stories and understanding of the other: meeting others from different backgrounds. To have open minds and hearts. And embrace the challenge and debate of new perceptions and ideas. 


Most of us who believe, much more strongly than even a decade ago – that Scotland’s future is best served as an indy nation. We’ve watched the undemocratic failings at Westminster. Its a mess. More than that though, the British state is an undemocratic and failing one. Is there is any vision, its in the independence dreams of how we can build a better one, dependent on local voices and not centralized global control. 

Edinburgh festival 2024!


The Theme this year – ‘The Rituals that Unite Us’


“To celebrate the importance of collective experiences  to bind us closer together

To cut through the chaos and noise, our festival will create an intensified sense of shared space, time and emotions, with room for celebration and contemplation.”

To create ritual time and space to resist our modern surrender to information overload.”


Art is still in a position to evoke glimmer of a new for of life.

Director Nicola Benedetti is now expecting her first child. Many feel she has brought an enthusiastic, inclusive and local Scots feel to the festival, as well as respecting the festivals important International threads. 


Last year Nicola welcomed people to the first concert playing at the entrance.


BOOK the disappearance of rituals by Byung-chil Han (2020)


My own interpretation was around how gathering together for a concert, or a theatre show or quietly exploring an art gallery - takes us into a different realm than the everyday isolations of being online. That communal escape to celebrate a sense of renewal together in a large crowd  is a very powerful one. 


Others might feel the concepts of ‘shared rituals’ is an elusive one for many in Scotland. There have been serious divisions over our constitution - but maybe they are not as wide as many feel, when many Scots believe in social democracy - which has not been working well in the British state in recent years.


TICKETS for Edinburgh festival are now on sale -

Saturday 30 March 2024

Joshua Burnside Celtic Connections 2024

 Young Irish folk singer-songwriter Joshua Burnside gave a strong performance, at Transatlantic Sessions 2024, at Celtic Connections, Glasgow concert hall - with his thoughtful songs Louis Mercer and 26th Street. He is influenced from contemporary electronica and traditional Irish songs, evoking lush landscapes, bad dreams and wistful vistas. His debut album Ephrata was awarded the Northern Ireland Music Prize for Best Album.

Charlene Carter Celtic Connections 2024

A highlight at Transatlantic Sessions 2024, at Celtic Connections Glasgow concert hall, was Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Carlene Carter­ - daughter of music legends June Carter and Carl Smith, and Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter – who performed her songs, Every Little Thing, Wildwood Flower - as well as June Carter’s Ring of Fire, for a rousing sing along finale.

Friday 29 March 2024

Woman Fight Back II! And say STOP!


Helena Kennedy

Many thanks to the National for such an impressive paper Friday 8th March, written exclusively by women for the International Women’s day 8th March. From the voices of women in Palestine, to the significant line up of Scottish women who have had a major impact on Scottish life the past decades - Helena Kennedy, Nicola Sturgeon, Margo MacDonald, Winnie Ewing, Muriel Gibson. 

Plus articles by Scots women in politics – Mhairi Black, Kate Forbes, Ash Reagan, Gillian MacKay, Mary Fraser Scott, and Joanna cherry. Plus articles by Assa-Samake Roman, Laura Young on the climate fight and Lesley Riddoch’s interview with author Sara Sheridan. Who wrote on the struggles for women’s rights, misogyny and much more besides. It’s clear we’ve come far but not far enough.

Lesley Riddoch
Nicola Sturgeon
Jucinda Adhern

If we look around the world we can see that in the nations where women have an equal voice, there is greater harmony, peace, equality and fairness. Women bring a different perspectives. Look at Northern Ireland today significantly with Stormont now led by two women – Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly. Or Jucinda Adhern in (New Zealand, praised for her Covid leadership. The Scottish governments baby boxes, improved childcare provisions, child uplift payment, led by the respected leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. (We must not let unionists attempt to alter the narratives here). 

I believe that sports should be an important issue for women – not only to learn how to be part of a team but also to give girls fitness and extra confidence in life. This is often an advantage for men.

Peggy Seeger

I always remember the folk singer Peggy Seeger recounting a folk legend. “Women need to say STOP! She spoke of an Amazon tribe where they considered the men tended to be destructive – they cut down trees for canoes, they killed animals for food and they fought wars. Wheras the women were the nurturers of the crops and the children.

So they felt the women needed to tell the men when to stop. They would say STOP, we have enough canoes stop cutting down trees. They would say we have enough to eat, STOP killing animals. We don’t need any more wars STOP! When one of the tribe visited the western world she wondered why there were only male voices to be heard and why the women were not saying STOP.” She also said that music is the healer and motivator.

Our great bard Robert Burns wrote in 1792 that the ‘Rights of Women merit some attention’. As did Mary Wolfstonecraft known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

I look at Gaza and Israel’s dreadful conflicts and have to wonder if women were only in charge or even had an equal say there? A Latin American aboriginal group state - “our tribe is like an eagle. One wing is male, the other wing is female. And only when the wings are equal will our tribe fly true.” 

Mary Wolfstonecraft