{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"news","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/10-year-old-refugee-in-scotland-would-be-in-danger-if-deported-1-4745593","id":"1.4745593","articleHeadline": "10-year-old refugee in Scotland would ‘be in danger’ if deported","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527418267000 ,"articleLead": "

A 10-year-old asylum seeker would be in serious danger if he is deported back to the country of his birth just months after the death of his mother, it has been claimed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745589.1527418255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sopio Baikhadze with her son Giorgi. Picture: Church of Scotland"} ,"articleBody": "

Ketino Baikhadze said she fears her orphaned grandson Giorgi would be under threat in Georgia.

READ MORE: Refugees in Scotland to be given right to vote

Mrs Baikhadze’s daughter Sopio fled to Scotland seven years ago after her late husband allegedly owed money to gangsters.

READ MORE: Police launch manhunt after gunman threatens family in home

Sopio, known as Sophie, was awaiting the outcome of an appeal for asylum in the UK when she died in February after a long illness.

That left Mrs Baikhadze as the legal guardian of her grandson, who has lived in Glasgow since he was three.

The pair are now waiting for an initial decision on their applications for asylum.

Mrs Baikhadze said: “Giorgi doesn’t understand a word of the Georgian language.

“He only speaks English and has grown up in Glasgow where all his friends are, so it would be very hard for him to go there.

“Sometimes I use Georgian words and I ask him ‘why don’t you understand?’ and he says ‘because I am Scottish’.”

Mrs Baikhadze, who has lived illegally in Glasgow for 14 years, said she always intended to return to Georgia, but she decided to stay after her daughter, who was a freelance translator and spoke four languages, fell ill.

In a direct appeal to the UK Government and cross-party politicians, she said: “Please help Sophie’s family.

“Her son is a good boy and she just wanted to give him as normal a life as possible in Scotland.”

Ms Baikhadze’s funeral was held in Springburn Parish Church in Glasgow led by minister Brian Casey.

Rev Casey said the family’s story had touched many people.

He said: “He is such a happy wee boy and I could not in good conscience stand by and watch him being sent back to a country that he doesn’t know and where his life is potentially in danger.

“Giorgi is, by all intents and purposes, a Scottish boy and I would appeal to the Home Office to examine this case with love and compassion”.

Solicitor Andrew Bradley is representing the Baikhadze family.

He said: “It is difficult to imagine what Giorgi is going through.

“For many people, the grieving process takes months or years.

“While trying to recover from the loss of his mum, his future hangs in the balance.

“He faces the possibility of being taken away from his home and friends in Scotland to what must now be a strange country.

“If the Home Office saw fit to make a decision in his favour, it would no doubt be a huge weight off his mind.”

It comes as the Sunday Mail reported that a student nurse who served in the Scottish Youth Parliament and carried the Commonwealth Games baton in the lead up to Glasgow 2014 is also facing deportation.

Denzel Darku, who moved to the UK from Ghana nine years ago as a 14-year-old, is fighting to stay in Scotland having seen two appeals rejected.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paul Ward"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745589.1527418255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745589.1527418255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sopio Baikhadze with her son Giorgi. Picture: Church of Scotland","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sopio Baikhadze with her son Giorgi. Picture: Church of Scotland","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745589.1527418255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745590.1527418260!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745590.1527418260!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ketino Baikhadze with Kirk minister, Rev Brian Casey. Picture: Cameron Brooks/Church of Scotland","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ketino Baikhadze with Kirk minister, Rev Brian Casey. Picture: Cameron Brooks/Church of Scotland","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745590.1527418260!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745591.1527418264!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745591.1527418264!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sopio Baikhadze with her son Giorgi. Picture: Church of Scotland","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sopio Baikhadze with her son Giorgi. Picture: Church of Scotland","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745591.1527418264!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1496158247544"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/health/insight-what-tips-men-over-the-edge-of-despair-1-4745557","id":"1.4745557","articleHeadline": "Insight: What tips men over the edge of despair?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527414997000 ,"articleLead": "

The suicide rate among men is on the rise again. Dani Garavelli asks why so many wait so long to find support and treatment for depression.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745554.1527403023!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Picture: Greg Macvean"} ,"articleBody": "

Raymond Soltysek was only five years old when he first felt something going “wonky” in his mind. “I was walking home with a wee girlfriend and I just remember my head physically filling with something black, like a cloud or oil,” he says. “I snapped at her. I think I just wanted her to shut up, I think, or the world to go away.

“I felt immediately scalded by my reaction; I didn’t know where it came from. People have said to me since ‘maybe you were just pissed off with her’, but the physical sensation was powerful and vivid enough for me to remember it all these years later.”

READ MORE: Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison: ‘He woke up hurting, but couldn’t say why’

Not that Soltysek told anyone at the time; he internalised his feelings then and in his late teens, when, over a period of nine months, he would curl up in the corner of his bedroom or spend nights out with his friends, but not speaking them.

It wasn’t until he was 40, after protracted periods of depression had contributed to the breakdown of a long-term relationship, that he finally sought help; and another 20 years before he was given any treatment other than anti-depressants.

READ MORE: Darren McGarvey: Depression a foe that dwells within all of us

For a long time, he kept on working. “I think that’s something else men do: they find coping strategies,” he says. “For me, the roles and structures of work acted as a scaffold. I could concentrate on the task at hand, but at night I would fall apart.”

Around three years ago, however, Soltysek, 59, a writer, teacher and educationalist, whose short story collection Occasional Demons was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award, suffered another, deeper crisis and began having obsessive thoughts.

READ MORE: Frightened Rabbit pull plug on Glasgow music festival

“Sometimes it’s little things that tip you over the edge,” he says. “In this case it was my car breaking down. I found myself for a whole night awake, anxious, panicking, almost contemplating ending it all. I had this vision of myself and I thought: ‘What the f*** are you on about – your car’s broken down and you think your life is over? Come on.’” It was this moment of clarity that pushed him to take time off and go back to his doctor’s surgery, where he couldn’t stop crying. His GP signed him up for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and a support group where, for the first time, he was able to open up to other people who had been through similar experiences.

It was a relief to share stories, even if some of the conversations were painful. “I had never thought of myself as suicidal,” says Soltysek, “but one day I heard myself saying: ‘If I lived in an American gun culture, I would be dead by now.’ All the men around the table nodded because we had all experienced moments of desperation when we just wanted to get the f*** out of there.”

What is it with men?

That’s the question those who work with mental health charities have been asking themselves for decades. Why is it that, even as the stigma around depression gradually lifts, so many of them continue to find it difficult to admit they are struggling?

Across the developed world, more women are treated for mental health problems than men. In 2013, an analysis of epidemiological studies from the UK, US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand found women were 75 per cent more likely than men to report depression and 60 per cent more likely to report anxiety disorder. Despite this, or maybe because of it, more men engage in substance abuse and take their own lives.

It is important not to generalise when talking about mental health and suicide: only a small proportion (5 per cent) of those who are being treated for depression kill themselves and part of the reason more men do so than women is because, when they attempt to harm themselves, they use more lethal methods.

Nor does being able to talk about your feelings of despair guarantee they will disappear; one of the reasons the suicide of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison hit so many people so hard was that he had been admirably open about his own despair in his lyrics and his interactions with fans.

Still, you can’t get away from the statistics. Last year in Scotland, 517 men took their own lives compared with 211 women, with the overall total rising for the first time in a decade. In recent years, the group most at risk has shifted from young men to men aged between 35 and 54. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged between 20 and 49.

Not enough is known about the reasons for this because, despite the high stakes, there is a dearth of studies. “For every person affected, the UK government spend 22 times more on cancer research than on research on suicide,” says Professor Rory O’Connor, of Glasgow University’s Suicide Research Lab. “It’s a national and international disgrace.”

In 2012, however, the Samaritans’ Men and Suicide report did identify a range of contributing factors. Some were gender-neutral: they included particular personality traits and socio-economic problems, such as deprivation and job losses. Others, however, were linked to masculinity: men, for example, were more likely to use drugs and alcohol to cope with stress and to take their own lives if their marriage failed. Their “emotional illiteracy” also meant they were more likely to be sceptical about the value of counselling and to seek help only when they had reached breaking point.

Although her partner, Chris*, did not take his own life, Lucy* believes his refusal to talk about his anxiety and depression played a part in his death last year from a heart attack at the age of 47. Throughout the 10 years they spent together, there were long periods where he would retreat into himself. “When he didn’t feel well he would close himself off to me; he would drink about eight cans a night for six nights of the week and smoke a lot of dope,” Lucy says. “He had good phases. He was funny and a dedicated dad and sometimes he would get pleasure out of the confirmation work gave him. But other times, he felt out of his depth. He would suffer a lot of anxiety which would result in him not sleeping. And his lack of self-confidence meant sex no longer existed for us.”

Despite Lucy’s pleading, Chris would not go to the doctor; around a year ago she found him dead in their bathroom. “I think it would have been absolutely key for his survival if he could have opened up. But he wouldn’t admit there was anything wrong even though it was screamingly evident.”

After years of not acknowledging his problems, Soltysek yesterday shared his thoughts on masculinity and mental health with an audience at a Flint & Pitch Productions spoken word event in Edinburgh. He believes the idea that men should not talk about their emotions is so hard-wired, they lack the mechanisms to initiate those kinds of conversations.

“When we were wee, we used to play cowboys and Indians. We would rush about going rat-a-tat-tat at each other and it was all very active and macho; and talking about that kind of thing – you just didn’t do it,” he says.

“When I was in my late teens, my wee sister used to beg me to tell her what was wrong and I couldn’t because I didn’t know how. It wasn’t that I was afraid to show weakness, it was more that I lacked the internal resources. I did not have the ability to say: ‘This is what’s wrong. This is what I am feeling.’”

Dr Malcolm Harvey, a teaching fellow in politics at Aberdeen University, who also suffers from depression, has never felt constricted by stereotypes of masculinity, but believes changing gender roles can make men feel they are failing on all fronts.

“My father and father-in-law very much belong to the generation of the male breadwinner, with the women at home looking after the kids. I am not of that mentality and I hate to complain about these things because it’s the fault of the patriarchal system that women have been trapped in these positions for so long. But I do think the challenges of trying to balance those kinds of expectations with the expectations of the 21st century, the millennial-type attitudes towards feminism, for example, can contribute to the pressures men are under.”

For Harvey, those pressures manifested themselves in a creeping sense of inadequacy. “One of the things I found difficult was that whenever I was at work, I felt I wasn’t doing enough at home, and whenever I was at home, I felt I wasn’t giving enough to the job, so consequently I spent the entire time wishing I was somewhere else. That’s not a healthy mindset,” he says.

Harvey’s depression is not, he says, at the severe end of the spectrum, but his feeling of “not being enough” resonates with O’Connor, who has been working in this field for more than 20 years. Though the greatest risk factor for suicide is social inequality, O’Connor agrees the way in which the social role of men has changed combined with their continued reluctance to seek help may feed into the disproportionately high rates of men taking their own lives.

“One area we have done a lot of work on is ‘social perfectionism,’” he says. “The challenge for men who are social perfectionists is that there are opportunities for failure every single day. You can see how you can get into this vicious cycle of thinking you are letting everybody down.

“There is also some evidence that today’s middle-aged men are the buffer generation: they look to their parents, their fathers, in particular, who had this traditional role. They look to their kids coming up behind them who are much more at ease in talking about their emotions and embracing this changing social role. They are in the middle and they struggle with it.”

Of course, there is little point in encouraging men to open up about their mental health unless the system is capable of offering them support when they do. This was the point some people were trying to make after Hutchison’s death prompted a flurry of well-intentioned tweets telling men they shouldn’t suffer in silence.

“It’s all very well telling people who are ill to talk about it, but then you have to have people who are ready to listen,” says Harvey. “I think on this we are massively far behind where we need to be.”

The Scottish Government insists it is investing more heavily in mental health than ever before. In 2017/18, its expenditure rose above £1bn for the first time; in 2016, it appointed Maureen Watt as a dedicated minister for mental health; last year it launched a 10-year mental health strategy and its suicide prevention policy will be published later this year.

Yet according to Billy Watson, the chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), the targets for waiting times, which at 18 weeks are already longer than those for physical illnesses, are frequently missed, with people in some parts of the country having to wait years rather than months to access therapy.

“It’s wonderful to see in the opening paragraphs of the mental health strategy that the Scottish Government and the mental health minister are seeking parity with physical health, but I think there is a significant gap between the strategic intent and implementation on the ground,” says Watson.

“The government still allocates resources to health boards and local government based on the NRAC formula and the majority of that funding is per capita – in other words, it doesn’t specifically target areas with the highest need though we know mental health is affected by inequality and social determinants.

“We have given evidence to the Scottish Parliament that comparatively, in resource terms, mental health in Scotland is actually behind England and other places in the UK.”

Though O’Connor says Scotland has led the way in suicide prevention, the Samaritans recently cited a poll in which 40 per cent of people said they would not know where to turn if they were supporting someone in crisis as evidence that prevention was not a “top priority” here.

Certainly, the experiences of the men I spoke to about mental illness were mixed; the service varied from health board to health board and from surgery to surgery, with the quality of the response often dependent on the individual GP. Soltysek, who spent 12 years on Citalopram, believes the fact he was “functioning” meant he was never seen as a priority for therapy. “I kept going back to the doctor and saying: ‘What’s the route map off the medication?’ But there didn’t appear to be one. Eventually, I made the decision to come off the medication by myself.”

Kenneth Caldwell, 52, who has been hospitalised several times for severe anxiety and depression, says stays in Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow and Dykebar Hospital in Paisley involved long periods of time with nothing to do. “On two occasions, thanks to money from a relative, I ended up at the Priory where there was CBT and other counselling sessions. It gave the days structure,” he says. “I am not maligning the NHS because I know it comes down to resources and with the Priory came a price tag of £4,000 a week.”

Another man, Simon*, whose childhood trauma led to flashbacks and a breakdown, told me how, unable to afford the £300-£400 a month to go private, he waited a year for his Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy that is now – finally – proving transformative; in the interim he had to rely on counselling from a local charity.

Increasingly, third sector organisations and charities appear to be acting as safety net for those people whose resources do not stretch to private treatment. Yet those charities are often themselves under pressure as a result of funding cuts.

At GalGael in Govan, around 10 men and a handful of women are sawing, chiselling and sanding pieces of wood to make boxes and chopping boards. The air is thick with the aroma of freshly cut timber; there are wood shavings on the floor, stag’s heads on the walls and the carved faces of Green Men peer out from dusty corners. In the middle of the room is a half-built skiff which will eventually be given to a local rowing club.

Among the volunteers is Johnnie Millar. At 65, he is a testament to the way men’s lives can collapse if the structures that underpin them are removed. For 36 years, Millar worked for a light engineering company. But around 10 years ago, and six months after his marriage ended, he was made redundant. He got another job, but then the credit crunch hit and he lost that too. “It was as if every structure I had in my life had been taken away,” he says. “I had to move out to a small flat – it was cold, I was isolated. I couldn’t see any light at the end of it all.”

Millar becomes distressed when he talks about the overdose he took in the midst of his depression so we do not dwell on it, focusing instead on how GalGael helped rebuild his self-confidence. “Coming here reminded me that I had skills,” he says. “Now I teach at the benches and I have a sense of purpose, a sense of identity.”

Set up 21 years ago, GalGael works predominantly with men affected by poverty, substance abuse or unemployment, but at least 45 per cent of those who attend also have mental health problems. Like all charities, however, it is struggling; earlier this year, it closed for a month after securing only 18 per cent of the income it required. A grant from the Scottish Government allowed it to reopen, but staff numbers have been reduced. It is currently operating three days a week instead of five and its courses will run for 12 weeks instead of 24. Brexit will also end the option of applying for European money.

At the Suicide Research Lab, O’Connor is about to benefit from a partnership with SAMH which has offered to fund a PhD exploring men and suicide. The precise parameters have yet to be established, but Watson is interested in men who have many of the risk factors, yet buck the trend. “It would be good to know what builds resilience in those people,” he says.

Back at GalGael, co-founder Gehan Macleod says she has found men feel more comfortable in an environment which focuses less on them as an individual and more on the task in hand. “What they say in the Men’s Shed movement is that women build relationships face to face, whereas men build them shoulder to shoulder, and that’s definitely a dynamic we see here,” she says.

Millar agrees. “If you go to a health care specialist or a shrink or whatever, they are trying to bring stuff out of you, but it really has to come out naturally. GalGael gives you the opportunity to open up a wee bit without all the pressure,” he says. Then he wipes the tears from his cheeks and returns to his workbench. The talking over, he picks up a hammer and chisel and begins carving an intricate design onto a rough-hewn piece of wood.

*Names changed at the request of those interviewed.

If you are worried about your mental health or feel like you need help, helplines such as Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or the Samaritans on 116 123 are available.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745554.1527403023!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745554.1527403023!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745554.1527403023!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745570.1527414985!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745570.1527414985!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Gehan Macleod, Co-founder at GalGael Trust since its beginnings in 1995. The Govan based charity works with men affected by poverty, substance abuse or unemployment. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Gehan Macleod, Co-founder at GalGael Trust since its beginnings in 1995. The Govan based charity works with men affected by poverty, substance abuse or unemployment. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745570.1527414985!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745555.1527403210!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745555.1527403210!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "GalGael co-founder Gehan Macleod. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "GalGael co-founder Gehan Macleod. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745555.1527403210!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745571.1527414993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745571.1527414993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "GalGael volunteer Johnnie Millar. The Govan based charity works with men affected by poverty, substance abuse or unemployment. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "GalGael volunteer Johnnie Millar. The Govan based charity works with men affected by poverty, substance abuse or unemployment. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745571.1527414993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745556.1527403225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745556.1527403225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Writer, teacher and educationalist Raymond Soltysek. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Writer, teacher and educationalist Raymond Soltysek. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745556.1527403225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5783601239001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/euan-mccolm-snp-report-presents-powerful-case-for-devolution-1-4745528","id":"1.4745528","articleHeadline": "Euan McColm: SNP report presents powerful case for devolution","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527411016000 ,"articleLead": "

The SNP Growth Commission report should be considered by nationalists and unionists alike as a document of some substance, writes Euan McColm.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives the Sustainable Growth Commission report from commission chair Andrew Wilson. Picture: PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

In the interests of transparency, I should begin by declaring that Andrew Wilson, chair of the SNP’s Growth Commission and the man First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hopes will reinvigorate the campaign for Scottish independence, is a good friend of mine. I hold him in the highest regard, considering him a man of integrity and great kindness. His departure from the Scottish Parliament after a single term, in 2003, robbed our politics of one of its brightest young stars and – like many who know him – I hope, one day, he’ll return to Holyrood.

We could do with more Andrew Wilsons in public life.

READ MORE: SNP independence blueprint ‘a hard sell’ warn radicals for Yes

This particular Andrew Wilson, after some time away from the spotlight building his strategic communications company, Charlotte Street Partners, finds himself back at the heart of our national political debate as he attempts to rebuild the badly damaged case for independence.

Across more than 350 pages, the Growth Commission’s report – Scotland, A New Case For Optimism, published on Friday amid great fanfare – seeks to present a new and, crucially, plausible argument for ending the centuries-old Union. Wilson and his colleagues on the commission have consulted widely, seeking the views not only of those sympathetic to the idea of independence but of those who remain sceptical.

READ MORE: SNP Growth Commission: Independent Scotland would keep pound in short term

The document’s cautious tone and frequent concessions that the establishment of a new independent state would not be without cost stand in stark contrast to the Scottish Government’s 2014 White Paper, the promises and claims contained within which became increasingly laughable as one read on. Former first minister Alex Salmond may have presented the White Paper as the most detailed prospectus for a new state ever published but, in reality, it was 600-odd pages of wild assertion, reckless optimism, and downright bollocks.

The engagement of Wilson to head the Growth Commission and build – from scratch – a new case for independence suggests that view of the White Paper is accepted by senior SNP figures.

So has Wilson succeeded?

Nationalists have already hailed the document for its substance and its authors for their integrity and seriousness of purpose. Unionists, naturally, have pointed out support for independence remains a minority pursuit and dismissed the work for leaving big questions unanswered.

When it comes to the matter of the detail of establishing a new country, unionists have an inbuilt advantage. Nationalists must persuade voters to take a step into the unknown; unionists, on the other hand, can point to the here and now and ask whether a) things are all that terrible and b) whether it’s really worth risking constitutional change with all of its implications.

Wilson and his colleague have not, I think, succeeded in solving the SNP’s problems when it comes to the issues of currency and the economy in an independent Scotland. The report’s suggestion that Scotland would engage in a period of Sterlingisation – a concession, surely, that the commission’s authors don’t reckon the UK government was, as Salmond claimed, bluffing when it ruled out the possibility of a currency union in the aftermath of a Yes vote in 2014 – is hardly inspiring. Why should something considered a poor second best four years ago now be rated a genuinely appealing option?

On the economy, the commission’s authors describe how 12 small nations have grown and prospered and suggest an independent Scotland might follow their examples. But sceptics might say that the selection of a different dozen would have produced a very different pictures of the harsh realities facing some small economies.

When it comes to changing minds, I doubt the commission’s report has the power; those who are in favour of independence will cling to it as a game-changer, those who are opposed will dismiss it as little more than a well-written wish list.

Both will be wrong. The Growth Commission, under Wilson’s chairmanship, has not created a blueprint for an independent Scotland but it has given the SNP ideas for government and, while doing so, it reminds the party about a long-forgotten strategy that once served it very well, indeed.

When the nationalists won their first election in 2007, they were not carried to victory on a tidal wave of pro-independence sentiment.

Instead, SNP leader Alex Salmond employed a more cautious approach (hard to believe, now, isn’t it?). A vote for his party was not a vote for independence, it was a vote for competent devolved government. Let us show you what we can do, said Salmond, and then if you ever want to talk about independence, I’m listening.

This softly-softly approach led to rather cautious government. After 2007, the SNP was so concerned about ending, once and for all, the accusation that it wasn’t fit to govern that it didn’t dare take on controversial reform of public services for fear of any backlash.

After 2011, the SNP was so concerned about any potential negative impact on the independence case that it continued its rather managerial approach.

With recommendations about how economic growth might be encouraged under the current devolution settlement, Wilson’s team might concentrate the minds of SNP ministers who, as their party’s star slowly falls, really do need to focus – and be seen to focus – on the domestic agenda. In the absence of an SNP-affiliated think tank, the growth commission has put forward ideas which might be developed into policy.

Scotland, A New Case For Optimism does something else of considerable value. It attempts to change the tone of our debate. There is not a trace of Salmond-style bluster in a single sentence of the report. Instead, it recognises with some humility the challenges the Yes movement faces and it accepts that the views of those who oppose independence are held in good faith.

My friend Andrew Wilson has not delivered to the SNP a document containing the secret to referendum victory but he has made a powerful case for a Scottish Parliament using its existing powers to their fullest and because of that, the Growth Commission report should be considered by nationalists and unionists alike as a document of some substance.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Euan McColm"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives the Sustainable Growth Commission report from commission chair Andrew Wilson. Picture: PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives the Sustainable Growth Commission report from commission chair Andrew Wilson. Picture: PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5789587885001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-attacks-tory-support-for-jail-terms-under-a-year-1-4745581","id":"1.4745581","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon attacks Tory support for jail terms under a year","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527410476000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday attacked the Scottish Tories for failing to support Scottish Government plans to effectively end short-term prison sentences of less that a year.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4742203.1527410472!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister took the step after it emerged that Theresa May’s Justice Secretary, David Gauke, suggested jail terms of less than 12 months should only be used as a last resort.

READ MORE: SNP independence blueprint ‘a hard sell’ warn radicals for Yes

In interviews published yesterday, Mr Gauke said he would like to see the overall prison population south of the border come down.

“Twenty-five years ago, the population was 44,000. Today it’s 84,000,” he said. “ We would like it to fall.”

READ MORE: Revealed: The cost of free paracetamol to NHS Scotland

He said that efforts to cut the number of people incarcerated would depend on “both how successfully we can build confidence in non-custodial sentences and how effective we can be
in reducing the rates of re-offending”.

Mr Gauke said the rise had been driven by “longer and tougher” sentences on criminals who had committed serious crimes.

But he acknowledged concerns about the role of shorter terms: “There is an issue about public protection, but I think we need to look at the efficacy of short sentences.”

He said: “The evidence shows that when the person has been inside for less than 12 months, the re-offending rate is about 66 per cent but the re-offending rate for those who get a non-custodial sentence is a lot lower. Short sentences should be a last resort.”

In Scotland, the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government included a pledge to “extend the presumption against short-term sentences from three months to 12 months”.

The Tories, however, were highly critical. Their justice spokesman, Liam Kerr, hit out at the move, saying figures showed that in 2015-16 two people convicted of homicide received a sentence of up to a year, as did 27 people convicted of sexual assault.

Yesterday Sturgeon tweeted her approval of Gauke’s remarks, saying: “He’s right and yet Scots Tories oppose the Scottish Government’s sensible plans to extend presumption against short sentences.”

Last night Mr Kerr responded on behalf of the Scottish Tories, saying: “No-one doubts that community sentencing plays an important part in our justice system. However, even now we are seeing dangerous criminals who are convicted of serious crimes being able to walk away from court with a fine or a community payback order. This is bad for public safety, and is not respecting the victims of these horrible crimes.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4742203.1527410472!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4742203.1527410472!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4742203.1527410472!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5789587885001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/health/revealed-the-cost-of-free-paracetamol-to-nhs-scotland-1-4745545","id":"1.4745545","articleHeadline": "Revealed: The cost of free paracetamol to NHS Scotland","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527405971000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s 14 health boards have spent more than £57 million on providing free paracetamol since charging for prescriptions was scrapped by the SNP government in 2011.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745544.1527405790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010."} ,"articleBody": "

The figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request lay bare the true cost of the flagship policy to provide over-the-counter drugs on the NHS.

At present the average cost of a pack of 16 paracetamol tablets is around 30p, and around three billion tablets have been dispensed for free.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spent more than any other health board in Scotland in the seven-year period – forking out more than £12m.

READ MORE: Leader: Free prescriptions help better off at NHS expense

The figures relate specifically to primary care costs including GP prescriptions, with secondary care provision, provided in hospital settings, not included.

The next highest spenders were NHS Lothian, who racked up an £8.2m bill for paracetamol, and NHS Lanarkshire, who spent £7.5m prescribing the drug.

Before it was abolished in 2011, the £3 prescription charge raised £57m for the health service in Scotland.

Dr John McAnaw, chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, who represent the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, said the prescribing of paracetamol needed to be looked at in the context of treating longer-term conditions such as osteoarthritis.

He said: “It is very difficult to comment on the cost of one medicine in isolation.

READ MORE: Kevan Christie: Why we should stop running marathons

“This must be looked at in the context of the total amount spent on prescription medicines, and in an era of an ageing population, living longer sometimes with several long-term conditions.

“Paracetamol is an inexpensive but safe and efficient option which is used to treat many different kinds of pain, including the chronic pain of long-term conditions.”

He added: “Any increase might reflect that paracetamol is used as a first choice and frequently reduces the need for more expensive painkillers which might not have such a good safety profile, particularly in our frail and elderly population.”

At present a charge of £8.80 is made for each item on the NHS in England, although some people are exempt because of their age, income or medical condition.

The NHS in England has spent almost £400m prescribing paracetamol in the past five years at a cost of £3.23 per item, despite the pills being sold over the counter at a fraction of the cost.

James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s completely baffling how trusts have spent so much on paracetamol, which can be purchased for mere pennies in commercial shops. But poor NHS procurement means that it is much more expensive to both purchase and give to patients. Taxpayers should not be subsidising paracetamol when it is much cheaper in the shops.”

Free prescriptions are seen as a tool to reduce health inequalities and a way to ensure people with long-term conditions are able to keep taking their medicines.

Under devolution, Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010.

However, the policy has come in for criticism, with doctors calling for means-testing to be brought in. This was dismissed by health secretary Shona Robison as a “tax on ill health”.

More recently, trouble-torn NHS Tayside decided to cut back on paracetamol handouts in a bid to sort out their dire finances after it was revealed that £2.7m of its endowment fund, which takes donations from the public, was used for routine spending.

NHS Tayside has spent more than £6m on prescribing paracetamol since prescription charges were abolished.

Scottish Conservatives health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Almost £58m is a huge amount of money for health boards across Scotland to be spending on a drug that is relatively cheap.

“Prescribing paracetamol costs significantly more than the actual drug costs, so we need to try to encourage people to purchase paracetamol from pharmacies and supermarkets instead of costly NHS prescriptions.

“Every NHS tax pound is vital to help improve and invest in our Scottish NHS and the nation’s health – we need to see the better utilisation and spending of NHS resources.”

According to the latest prescription cost analysis from the Scottish Government’s Information Services Division going back to 2015/16 – the total number of items dispensed was 102.61 million, with a gross ingredient cost of £1.10 billion.

Scottish Liberal Democrats health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “With health board budgets under huge pressure, it’s important that all expenditure is rigorously assessed to ensure that they provide value for taxpayers’ money.

“The intention of free prescriptions was to ensure that everyone had access to the essential medicine they needed.

“Health boards should be ensuring that the prescriptions distributed reflect this intent.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our policy of free prescriptions removed what was effectively a tax on ill health, and is one we remain firmly committed to. The best people to make judgments on when particular prescriptions are needed are medical professionals. Paracetamol provides effective pain relief, and the majority of its use in Scotland is to support the management of chronic disease.

“The spending on paracetamol prescriptions represents approximately 0.5 per cent of the total drug expenditure across NHS Scotland over the same seven-year period. When it comes to procurement of medicines, we work with partners to ensure that they are provided in the most cost-effective way.”

NHS Board/Amount


Dumfries & Galloway£1,966,904



Ayrshire & Arran £274,763



Lothian £8,271,713

Gtr Glasgow & Clyde£12,758,520

Western Isles£362,566


Shetland £373,983

Forth Valley £3,674,250



" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Kevan Christie"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745544.1527405790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745544.1527405790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745544.1527405790!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5647351805001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/rbs-branch-closures-branded-devastating-by-mps-1-4745576","id":"1.4745576","articleHeadline": "RBS branch closures branded ‘devastating’ by MPs","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527404949000 ,"articleLead": "

RBS has failed to fully appreciate the “damage” that will be caused by its decision to close dozens of its Scottish branches, a damning report from MPs has found.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745574.1527405025!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "RBS closure plans have been slammed by MPs. Picture: Michael Gillen"} ,"articleBody": "

The Scottish Affairs Committee urged the bank, which is majority-owned by the taxpayer, to halt plans to axe 52 branches across Scotland, describing the move as a “devastating blow” to those communities affected.

Publication of the report by the 11-strong committee, which included four Tories, led to one of the Conservative members criticising the UK government for a lack of action on the issue.

Tory MP John Lamont said: “It remains a point of frustration that the government has decided not to use its influence to get the outcome that we wanted.

READ MORERBS ‘failing to notify’ rural communities of closures

“It’s quite a critical report for Conservative members to sign up. That speaks for itself on how the four [Tory MPs] on the committee viewed the government’s approach, and indeed the wider Conservative group in Scotland.”

RBS said the closures were a response to the increasing numbers of customers using mobile and online banking.

However, the plans attracted fierce criticism from local communities, business groups and politicians.

The committee report said the closures would remove “vital services relied upon by businesses and disproportionately affecting vulnerable customers”.

It states: “We are not convinced that RBS fully appreciate the damage these closures will do to the communities and businesses that rely on these branches.”

An RBS spokesman said: “We would like to reassure our customers and the committee that we do understand closing a branch can be difficult for some customers and colleagues who work in these branches. It’s not an easy decision. The way our customers are banking is changing and it is important that we respond to that change. Across Scotland, usage of our branches is down 44 per cent since 2011.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745574.1527405025!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745574.1527405025!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "RBS closure plans have been slammed by MPs. Picture: Michael Gillen","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "RBS closure plans have been slammed by MPs. Picture: Michael Gillen","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745574.1527405025!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745575.1527405028!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745575.1527405028!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "John Lamont, Conservative MP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Lamont, Conservative MP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745575.1527405028!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/why-cleaner-seas-can-be-bad-news-for-birds-1-4745499","id":"1.4745499","articleHeadline": "Why cleaner seas can be bad news for birds","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527375122000 ,"articleLead": "

Populations of some of the UK’s best-known water birds have plummeted to record lows, according to a new report.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745497.1527353172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Numbers of eider ducks on the Clyde have fallen by over 60 per cent in 15 years."} ,"articleBody": "

Results from the latest Wetland Bird Survey, published by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), show numbers of eider, mallard and pochard have crashed to their lowest known levels.

Other water birds – including curlew, goldeneye and red-breasted merganser – are also at their scarcest for three decades.

Experts believe a number of factors are to blame, including climate change, increases in predation, threats from invasive species and land use changes.

However, it’s thought improvements in sewage treatment could also play a big part in the declines of some species.

Research shows sewage outflows can create nutrient-rich sediments that attract creatures such as worms and shellfish, which in turn offer good feeding for birds.

Europe-wide declines in species such as eider ducks, pochard and goldeneye have coincided with the introduction of directives aimed at cleaning up the seas. In Scotland pochard numbers have dropped by 79 per cent, mallards by 49 per cent and eiders by 31 per cent.

Dr Ben Darvill, development and engagement manager for BTO Scotland, says the figures are worrying and greater understanding of the reasons is needed.

He said: “It’s probably a combination of things. In some cases it will be because there are fewer birds and not so many surviving to breed, and in other situations it may be because birds have moved on elsewhere because there is more food.

“If the birds are fine but just choosing to hang around elsewhere because there’s more food then that’s okay.

“But there’s quite a bit of concern for eider ducks. These are resident breeders here and over winter in the Forth and Clyde.

“Studies in the Clyde show populations have been progressively going down since the 1990s. We’re not sure of the exact cause but there seems to be links with improved water quality and long-term declines.”

He stressed that there is no question that anyone is asking for a return to poorer water quality.

The key is to ensure other threats are reduced as much as possible to give the birds the best chance of survival.

“It’s important from a conservation point of view to make sure other threats to eiders are addressed – we need to tackle non-native predators like mink, which can badly affect colonies, and things like disturbance from human activities. ”

Ornithologist, author and researcher Chris Waltho has been studying eider ducks around the Clyde for more than 40 years.

He has seen the local population plummet from an all-time high of 20,000 in 1997 to under 7,000 in a decade. Today, there are between 5,000 and 6,000.

“We know what’s happening at a population scale but we really don’t understand the full causes yet,” he said.

“There are probably a whole variety of factors at play, one of which is water quality. Eiders feed predominantly on mussels, and these have been disappearing.

“Mussels like enriched waters, not necessarily the cleanest but also not the dirtiest as that comes with many other problems.”

The curlew is also struggling north of the border, with the population halving in just 15 years.

Sarah Sander, RSPB’s Curlew Recovery Programme manager, said: “Curlew are found throughout the year in Scotland, frequenting coastal areas in winter and breeding on upland grassland and moorland in spring.

“They are, however, in serious trouble as the breeding population has dropped by 59 per cent since the mid-1990s.

“The main driver of this decline is due to changes in land use, primarily farming practices, conversion to forestry and predation.

“We’re working with farmers on initiatives like 
the Clyde Valley Wader Initiative.

“We urgently need to act now as it would be unthinkable to lose the bubbling call of the curlew from Scotland.”

But it’s not bad news for all wetland birds. Some species are doing very well here.

Numbers of black-tailed godwit have increased more than fourfold, likely as a result of warmer temperatures, while gadwalls have more than doubled.

Geese are also on the up, partly due to hunting restrictions and an increase in food due to modern farming practices.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "lona Amos
"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745497.1527353172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745497.1527353172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Numbers of eider ducks on the Clyde have fallen by over 60 per cent in 15 years.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Numbers of eider ducks on the Clyde have fallen by over 60 per cent in 15 years.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745497.1527353172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/world/joy-for-canadian-bagpiper-charged-over-sgian-dubh-in-sock-1-4745521","id":"1.4745521","articleHeadline": "Joy for Canadian bagpiper charged over Sgian Dubh in sock","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527374643000 ,"articleLead": "

A Canadian bagpiper who generated huge public support after being fined for carrying a Sgian Dubh 18 months ago has had his case dropped and his knife returned.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745519.1527356709!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Piper Jeff McCarthy was stopped by police in Montreal in 2016."} ,"articleBody": "

Jeff McCarthy from Montreal was carrying what authorities deemed to be a weapon in November 2016 while taking a break during a performance and was fined $221.

Now, after months of appealing, the charges, which came from McCarthy carrying the traditional item – made by Loch Ness craftsman Rab Gordon – in his sock, have been dropped and his fine cancelled.

But McCarthy has warned that as the case did not reach court and there was no decision made, other bagpipers in Canada could be at risk of the same happening in the future.

He wrote on his Facebook page: “Ticket cancelled. I’ll be getting my knife back. Prosecutor doesn’t want to press on with this. THE END. VIVE L’ÉCOSSE.”

But he told Scotland on Sunday that he wanted Canadian law to be changed to match Scottish laws, which state that if someone is carrying a knife “as part of national dress”, they have a defence against prosecution. He said: “We would have liked it to go before the judge because we would have liked it to set a precedent; people who don Highland dress are not doing so for nefarious purposes and as such it should be recognised in a small amendment to the bylaw.”

The fine triggered uproar in Montreal’s Scottish community.

Lawyer Daniel F O’Connor, former president of the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal, who agreed to represent McCarthy pro bono, claimed at the time of the fine that while there is a bylaw that prohibits the possession of a knife in public without a reasonable excuse, the piper had a legitimate reason because he was taking part in a performance at McGill University.

McCarthy says he was stopped by three police officers who questioned him about the hilt of the Sgian Dubh, which was sticking out of his sock. He told Scotland on Sunday: “I know the police were just doing their job, and in this case they weren’t particularly knowledgeable about Highland attire so they just did what they thought was best for the moment.

“I told them who I was in quite a bit of detail but they seemed more interested in serving me a ticket and so there was not much I could really do but take the fine and then contest it.”

McCarthy is one of Canada’s best known bagpipers, having played for 25 years at a Scots-founded department store in Montreal, until it axed piping performances last year. Ogilvy’s department store featured a daily piping performance since 1945, when businessman Aird Nesbitt launched a series of Scottish traditions including tartan shopping bags and packaging to mark its founder, James Angus Ogilvy, who launched the business after emigrating to Canada from Kirriemuir in the 1860s.

Montreal Police did not respond to requests for a comment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JANE BRADLEY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745519.1527356709!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745519.1527356709!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Piper Jeff McCarthy was stopped by police in Montreal in 2016.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Piper Jeff McCarthy was stopped by police in Montreal in 2016.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745519.1527356709!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745520.1527356713!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745520.1527356713!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The ceremonial Sgian Dubh was treated as a weapon. Photograph: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The ceremonial Sgian Dubh was treated as a weapon. Photograph: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745520.1527356713!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/edinburgh-branded-too-posh-for-monopoly-s-old-kent-road-1-4745527","id":"1.4745527","articleHeadline": "Edinburgh branded ‘too posh’ for Monopoly’s Old Kent Road","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527374336000 ,"articleLead": "

The makers of a new Edinburgh Monopoly board are struggling to find an option to replace the original Old Kent Road – because they feel the city is “too posh”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745526.1527414083!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The view from Calton Hill takes in several prime locations in the capital. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor"} ,"articleBody": "

Winning Moves UK – makers of the board under official licence from owners Hasbro – said they have sifted through a wide range of suggestions, but there is “a distinct dearth of nominations for an Edinburgh Old Kent Road equivalent”.

They said they may end up opting for “something old” such as the Royal Mile to keep with the Old Kent Road association.

IN PICTURES: 20 places we’d like to see on the new Edinburgh Monopoly board

The original Edinburgh Monopoly board hit the shops in 1998. However, it is now undergoing a complete makeover which will include Edinburgh-themed tokens in place of the traditional pieces of a top hat, dog or car.

The previously released Edinburgh board boasted Shore Place in Leith as the equivalent of Old Kent Road.

A spokesman for Winning Moves said: “We announced last month that Edinburgh is Passing Go and we have been spoilt for choice with very many great suggestions that have poured in.

“At the top end of the board, it’s going to be a challenge getting all the great landmarks on such is the abundance of crown jewels and gems – from the castle to the Scott Monument and everything on the Royal Mile and in the Old Town.

“However, at the other end of the board we face a very different challenge. We have sifted through each and every suggestion and there’s a distinct dearth of nominations for an Edinburgh Old Kent Road equivalent. Maybe the city is just too posh to have one.”

He added: “But we will find an equivalent – the space won’t appear blank. We may select something old in keeping with the spirit of the title of Old Kent Road.”

The public was asked to send in suggestions for inclusions on the new board, which could see James Bond star Sean Connery, who was born in the capital, among the tokens, while Greyfriars Bobby, a miniature Edinburgh Castle and a giant panda were also listed. It is understood that the office for The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday has done well in the voting and is in line for a spot on the board.

The current board features landmarks including the former Bank of Scotland headquarters on The Mound and the St James Centre – which has recently been torn down to make way for a new development – as well as the former Scotsman building on Holyrood Road.

Other Scottish cities, including Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow, also have their own editions of the game – there is even an Isle of Arran edition. The revamped Edinburgh game is expected to be released in time for Christmas 2018.

Suggestions on the game’s official Facebook page include replacing the traditional train stations with the four sports stadiums of Murrayfield, Meadowbank, Tynecastle and Easter Road.

Lord Provost Frank Ross, said: “I can’t wait for my chance to play the updated version. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’ve incorporated recent changes to the capital into the new game. I’m sure the makers will have been spoilt for choice of landmarks to use.

“Surely the City Chambers must be worth at least £100!”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Jane Bradley"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745526.1527414083!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745526.1527414083!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The view from Calton Hill takes in several prime locations in the capital. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The view from Calton Hill takes in several prime locations in the capital. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745526.1527414083!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ {"gallery": {"id":"1.4728737","galleryImages":[ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4728734.1525372325!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4728734.1525372325!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "sns_14433558_tynecastle_gvs","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "sns_14433558_tynecastle_gvs","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4728734.1525372325!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ]}} ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-labour-group-backs-vote-on-final-brexit-deal-1-4745514","id":"1.4745514","articleHeadline": "Scottish Labour group backs vote on final Brexit deal","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527373447000 ,"articleLead": "

A group of senior Scottish Labour parliamentarians have signed up to the “People’s Vote” movement which is calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745513.1527355578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kezia Dugdale and Ian Murray are at odds with Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Ian Rutherford"} ,"articleBody": "

The four Scottish Labour politicians have joined forces with six Scottish Lib Dems to support the campaign, putting them at odds with Jeremy Corbyn’s official policy on Brexit.

As UK Labour leader, Corbyn has said the party will honour the Leave vote.

In a further sign of the divisions engulfing the party over EU withdrawal, the Scottish politicians have signed an open letter supporting the “People’s Vote” campaign supported by business figures and celebrities including actor Patrick Stewart and footballer Gary Lineker.

The Scottish Labour signatories are: former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale; MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray; Catherine Stihler MEP and Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian.

The People’s Vote campaign was launched in London last month and since then it has attracted support from Labour MPs in the north of England including Luciana Berger and Maria Eagle.

Dugdale, Murray, Stihler and Whitfield are the first Labour politicians to sign up to the campaign north of the border.

They were joined by six Lib Dems: Scottish leader Willie Rennie; UK deputy leader Jo Swinson; Shetland MSP Tavish Scott; the Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael; Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton.

In their joint letter, the ten politicians quote analysis saying that Scotland’s economy would be £12.7 billion a year worse off as a result of EU withdrawal and economic growth would be hit by 9 per cent.

“In 2016, the people of Scotland voted in favour of staying in the European Union. As parliamentarians in Scotland we campaigned for Remain and we still believe the UK’s future is best served as a member of the EU,” the letter says.

“But there was a narrow victory for the Leave campaign in the referendum, and the government therefore triggered the Article 50 process.

“In that referendum, we don’t believe anybody voted to put jobs at risk, prolong austerity, or tear up our rights at work or as consumers. That is what is now at stake.

“The economic reality of Brexit is becoming clearer, and we haven’t even left the EU yet.”

Corbyn has said the UK should remain in the customs union post-Brexit, arguing that would solve the Irish border problem. The UK Labour leader, however, has suggested there should be a new relationship with the single market.

But the letter says the UK must remain in the single market to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It adds: “The Single Market safeguards 80,000 jobs here in Scotland, and many more across the UK, and protects worker’s rights that we all take for granted.”

It also contrasts the EU referendum with the Scottish referendum, saying the electorate were unsure of the options during the Brexit vote.

“As each day goes by, new facts emerge that weren’t placed before the voters at the time of the referendum. The outcome of the Brexit negotiations will affect Scotland and the UK for generations to come.

“Because this is so important for our country’s future, we believe there should be a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.”

Last night a Labour spokesman said: “Labour wants a jobs-first Brexit in which we are part of a customs union and retain the benefits of the single market, including full tariff-free access with no new impediments to trade and where we keep existing rights, standards and protections.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745513.1527355578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745513.1527355578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Kezia Dugdale and Ian Murray are at odds with Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Ian Rutherford","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kezia Dugdale and Ian Murray are at odds with Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Ian Rutherford","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745513.1527355578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-independence-blueprint-a-hard-sell-warn-radicals-for-yes-1-4745543","id":"1.4745543","articleHeadline": "SNP independence blueprint ‘a hard sell’ warn radicals for Yes","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527373379000 ,"articleLead": "

Left-wing independence supporters have said the SNP’s new vision for breaking up the UK will be a “hard sell” on the doorsteps because it will create more austerity.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745542.1527403527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporters march in Glasgow earlier this month. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Splits in the Yes movement opened up the day after Nicola Sturgeon’s party published its new economic case for independence. Jonathon Shafi, the co-founder of the Radical Independence Campaign, said the SNP’s economic plan must remove its most “damaging” elements.

At the end of last week, economist and former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson published the SNP’s long awaited report from the Sustainable Growth Commission. The 354-page document, commissioned by Sturgeon, set out a plan for Scotland to emulate 12 other small, advanced, independent nations including Denmark, New Zealand and Norway.

The paper, entitled Scotland, A New Case For Optimism, admitted that an independent Scotland would take up to 25 years to match the economic performance of such countries and outlined a ten-year plan to cut the country’s £13.3 billion deficit. Among the recommendations were plans to pay the rest of the UK an annual £5bn solidarity payment to cover Scotland’s share of UK debts and shared services. An independent Scotland would retain the pound outside a formal currency union with the rest of the UK until such time as the economy was strong enough to sustain a separate Scottish currency.

Wilson argued increasing growth could ensure public spending was kept above inflation while the deficit was being cut from 8.3 per cent of GDP to 2.6 per cent.

But the Scottish Conservatives and Labour claimed his approach would lead to years of cuts in public services worth billions of pounds.

The threat of austerity also concerned Shafi, who criticised the report for failing to take account of the views of trade unionists.

Shafi said: “In 2014 the independence movement was galvanised around opposition to crushing Westminster austerity. That too was the theme of the successful SNP general election campaign. The Growth Commission, despite claims to the opposite, would open the door to various forms of austerity politics.

“The report advocates tight fiscal discipline, reducing an independent Scotland’s prospective deficit to no more than three per cent in the first five to ten years, and lower than the growth rate during the transition period. This means reducing public spending to satisfy the City of London, who an independent Scottish Finance Minister would have to answer to.”

Shafi added: “The Radical Independence Campaign will engage with this debate in various ways, and believes that through the course of that debate the most damaging elements of the document can be altered. If they are not, it will be a very hard sell on the doorsteps of all those looking for bold change and who need radical economic transformation.”

Meanwhile, Labour claimed Wilson’s proposals would leave Scotland with a larger deficit than any other OECD country including Greece, Italy and Spain.

The SNP, however, accused Richard Leonard’s party of being “miserable” and said bringing down the deficit would be combined with public spending increases. Of Shafi’s remarks, an SNP spokesman said: “The Growth Commission report is explicitly anti-austerity, and offers an alternative to the Tory hard Brexit – which would leave Scotland facing real downward pressure on public spending as the economy slows. The report provides the opportunity to look afresh at the case for independence, to replace the despair of Brexit with optimism and hope about Scotland’s future. We look forward to hearing views on the report’s recommendations – from community groups, businesses and trade unions, to the wider Yes movement and across civic Scotland.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745542.1527403527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745542.1527403527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Independence supporters march in Glasgow earlier this month. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporters march in Glasgow earlier this month. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745542.1527403527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5789587885001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/health/leader-free-prescriptions-help-better-off-at-nhs-expense-1-4745549","id":"1.4745549","articleHeadline": "Leader: Free prescriptions help better off at NHS expense","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527372999000 ,"articleLead": "

The greatest myth about the Scottish Government’s flagship free prescriptions policy is that prescriptions are actually free.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745548.1527365840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010."} ,"articleBody": "

There may be no direct cost to the individual receiving the drugs but they must be paid for somehow.

The current solution is for the cost to be borne by a drugs budget under increasing pressure. Once prescription charges raised more than £50 million a year for the NHS. Their abolition meant there was considerably less money to spend on medicines.

Among the arguments against the policy is the fact that it disproportionately helps the better-off. Prescriptions were already free for those on low incomes or benefits, so the Scottish Government’s munificence was not directed towards those in need but towards those who were already doing fine.

In the seven years since prescription charges were abolished in Scotland, health boards across the country have spent more than £57m providing free paracetamol – that can be bought for as little as 30p for 16 tablets in shops.

It is certainly true that before the Scottish Government did away with charges for all, many people would have been prescribed paracetamol without having to pay. But many of those now receiving everyday drugs such as the painkiller for free would have absolutely no problem paying for them themselves.

It is hardly surprising that the abolition of prescription charges has enjoyed widespread popularity. But there is a heavy cost for this policy and we should be willing to discuss whether it’s as fair as it appears.

If we believe that universality should apply when it comes to free prescriptions then we have to accept that our position means money that might be invested in new – and better – drugs simply is not there. We have to believe that the right of the wealthiest to get free paracetamol is more important than the loss to the NHS drugs budget caused by the policy.

Free prescriptions are, it turns out, very expensive, indeed.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745548.1527365840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745548.1527365840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free, in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745548.1527365840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-tragic-legacy-drags-ireland-into-modern-world-1-4745525","id":"1.4745525","articleHeadline": "Dani Garavelli: Tragic legacy drags Ireland into modern world","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527372857000 ,"articleLead": "

An astonishing triumph for women’s rights will give hope to less fortunate neighbours in Ireland, writes Dani Garavelli

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745524.1527412974!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Two women look at bouquets and written notes left on a mural depicting Savita Halappanavar, who died after doctors refused to abort her child. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

As groups of excited young women descended on Dublin airport, proudly displaying their “Repeal the Eighth” tops, on the eve of last week’s referendum, it was already clear Ireland had changed irrevocably and for the better. Gone was the shame that 34 years ago led 15-year-old Ann Lovett to die in childbirth at a religious grotto in County Longford. Gone was the fear of the Church that turned abortion into such a fierce taboo few women dared talk about it (though plenty travelled to Scotland, England and Wales for terminations).

READ MORE: Ireland votes overwhelmingly to repeal anti-abortion law

In its place was a new self-confidence and a refusal to accept that control over women’s bodies should be ceded to the state. That this self-confidence should be expressed in a reversal of the lonely journey to abortion clinics around 200,000 women have made since the Irish government introduced the amendment in 1983 was particularly poignant.

It was never going to be a clean fight; those who declare themselves Pro-Life, but care little for those with unwanted pregnancies, resorted to their usual base tactics. Images of foetuses dead and alive abounded. Even at their most emotionally manipulative, however, they were no match for Together for Yes. When No campaigners put up thousands of white crosses all the way from Donegal to Derry, their opponents inked on the names of Sheila Hodgers, Bimbo Onanuga and Savita Halappanavar, all of whom paid the ultimate price for the country’s obsession with the contents of a woman’s uterus.

The voices of old-timers like former Taoiseach John Bruton – strident in their moral certainty – were drowned out by long-suppressed stories that captured the complex realities of women’s lives: the impossible situations they’d had to confront and the miles they had been forced to clock up because politicians of all hues didn’t trust them to make decisions about their reproductive destinies.

The ghosts of the dead women (and sometimes their babies) were present on Friday night as the exit polls heralded a victory not on the slimmest of margins, as previously forecast, but by a landslide that will surely make the passage of a new Abortion Bill inevitable.

Anyone trying to get a handle on the scale of this achievement need only reflect that Catholicism’s vice-like grip meant contraception was outlawed until 1980 and that, in 1995, a referendum on legalising of divorce was won by just 9,000 votes. In 1981, less than half the population believed abortion was acceptable even if a woman’s life was at risk; and, as recently as 2012, the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, was telling Time magazine that amending the law on abortion was not a priority for the government.

What happened to Savita Halappanavar later that year changed everything, of course. Her death from sepsis after doctors refused to abort the foetus she was in the process of miscarrying (but whose faltering heartbeat could still be detected) led to a new Act, which finally sanctioned abortion if a woman’s life was at risk through pregnancy complications or suicide. But it also fuelled a hunger for greater change and wrought a shift in public and political opinion.

That shift became obvious when the Irish Citizens’ Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a referendum. It was nonetheless astonishing that a largely grass-roots feminist movement last week saw off not only dinosaurs like Bruton, but sophisticated social media campaigns by the American alt-right. So successful was the Repeal the Eighth campaign that, in the end, the Yes vote crossed geographical, gender and age divides with only a majority of over-65s backing the status quo.

It doesn’t seem too much of an exaggeration to say that – more even than the legalisation of same-sex marriage – yesterday’s result marked the moment the country of Magdalene Laundries, enforced symphysiotomies and industrialised child abuse shed its ignominious past and grew up. At last simplistic notions of good and evil, of states of sin versus states of grace were swapped for a mature grappling with the dilemmas inherent in a flawed world. At the same time, many of those still uneasy about abortion appeared finally to acknowledge that banning it has never prevented it, merely driven it underground or outsourced it to other jurisdictions.

The repeal of the Eighth paves the way for new legislation which is expected to sanction unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks and abortion up to 24 weeks in certain circumstances, such as foetal abnormalities or serious risk to life and/or the mental health of the mother.

Such a change will allow most of the women who currently travel abroad to end their pregnancies in Ireland. It will put paid to the class divide where access to a termination depends on financial resources. There will be no more need to order drugs off the internet; no more underage rape victims forced to cross the Irish Sea; no more sitting alone in sterile clinics hundreds of miles from the comfort of loved ones.

So much progress; yet not for everyone. While the Irish Republic takes the first steps towards a more enlightened policy on abortion, Ulster lags behind. In Northern Ireland abortion remains illegal except where there is a serious risk to the life or mental health of the woman. Last year, only 13 terminations were (officially) carried out there, but up to 1,000 women are thought to have travelled to other parts of the UK which have started to offer abortions free to women from the Province.

The referendum result will have given Northern Irish campaigners hope; it has reopened the debate and made their voices more difficult to ignore.

Last night, after the exit polls were announced, it felt like the tide had changed. The generation of girls about to become sexually active owe a debt of gratitude to the sisters who led the campaign, the older men and women who followed their lead and the diaspora who begged and borrowed and made sure they got home in time to cast their vote.

Most of all, however, they owe a debt of gratitude to Halappanavar, whose death (along with her baby’s) became a catalyst for change. As people flocked to the polls last week, a mural of her smiling face was erected in Dublin. The wall beside it was plastered in Yes leaflets, the pavement below strewn with flowers. The way Halappanavar was treated was unconscionable, but what a legacy she has left for others. The chain of events set in motion by her passing means no woman in Ireland should ever suffer that fate again.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745524.1527412974!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745524.1527412974!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Two women look at bouquets and written notes left on a mural depicting Savita Halappanavar, who died after doctors refused to abort her child. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Two women look at bouquets and written notes left on a mural depicting Savita Halappanavar, who died after doctors refused to abort her child. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745524.1527412974!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/ukraine-violence-shows-rt-is-dangerous-says-snp-s-mcdonald-1-4745494","id":"1.4745494","articleHeadline": "Ukraine violence shows RT is dangerous, says SNP’s McDonald","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527372748000 ,"articleLead": "

The SNP’s defence spokesman Stewart McDonald has called for greater engagement in Europe’s “forgotten war” in Ukraine – and warned his own party to be wary of the “dangerous instrument” of Russian propaganda.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745492.1527351190!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ukrainian soldiers fire machine guns pro-Russian separatists in Avdiivka, Donetsk region. Picture: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

An SNP delegation visited eastern Ukraine last week and were shown the site of a battle fought around a TV tower, in an example of how Russia’s information war can spiral into deadly conflict.

In a message to politicians who appear on Russia Today (RT), including Alex Salmond, McDonald said: “When you stand on the hill of the bombed-out TV tower from which Russian separatists were bombing towns where satellite dishes were receiving fake news from Russian media outlets, it brings home to you how dangerous an instrument RT really is.”

Describing scenes of devastation that recall the sieges of Sarajevo and Grozny, with civilian areas being shelled by tanks, McDonald called on the UK to step up its involvement as a guarantor of Ukraine’s independence under agreements signed following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

He also criticised the planned expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline, which sends Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine and depriving it of vital revenue and influence.

“Nobody talks about it, and when people do talk about it, the language is always dubious,” said McDonald. “People talk about ‘the crisis in Ukraine’ but it’s a country that’s partially occupied by its neighbour.”

About 2.5 million people who fled the conflict in 2014 remain unable to return home, including 1.4 million internally displaced people. The latest ceasefire collapsed on 30 March, and fighting continues to kill soldiers and civilians.

The delegation, which included SNP MPs Douglas Chapman and Chris Law, defied UK security advice to visit the town of Avdiivka, 2.5 miles from the “contact line” to the north of the occupied city of Donetsk. Once an industrial centre, the population of the town has fallen from 35,000 to 16,000. The MPs found elderly residents living in apartment blocks riddled with shell blasts. McDonald said: “The people who remain walk around as if life is normal, but they walk past buildings where you can see the shape of the shell. It stuns you into silence.”

Avdiivka’s coke plant, which employed thousands and was the largest producer of the industrial fuel in Ukraine, made the town a strategic target and has been repeatedly shelled.

“The manager of the coke plant has to sleep in his office, because he can’t go home,” said McDonald. “His house is in illegally occupied Donetsk.”

A six-day battle in early 2017 was one of the fiercest of the war as the Ukrainian military sought to retake Avdiivka from Russian-backed forces. Fighting centred on a hill overlooking nearby towns, where a TV tower was one of the first targets hit by separatist forces to knock out the signal from Ukrainian media.

“What was being transmitted via satellite by Russian media was that the shelling coming into those towns was from the Ukrainian armed forces. It wasn’t, it was Russian separatists,” McDonald said.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis
"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745492.1527351190!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745492.1527351190!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ukrainian soldiers fire machine guns pro-Russian separatists in Avdiivka, Donetsk region. Picture: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ukrainian soldiers fire machine guns pro-Russian separatists in Avdiivka, Donetsk region. Picture: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745492.1527351190!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745493.1527351194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745493.1527351194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald recently visited Ukraine and saw the destruction in Avdiivka.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald recently visited Ukraine and saw the destruction in Avdiivka.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745493.1527351194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/alastair-ross-seize-the-chance-to-save-young-drivers-1-4745523","id":"1.4745523","articleHeadline": "Alastair Ross: Seize the chance to save young drivers","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527372372000 ,"articleLead": "

Too many young people are killed or seriously injured on Scotland’s roads.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745522.1527356721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "In Northern Ireland, a log of training has to be signed off by an instructor before a student can sit their test. Photograph: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Road Safety Scotland says that an average of 54 accidents a week involve a young driver aged between 17 and 25. They account for ten per cent of all licence holders, yet young drivers are involved in one in five accidents. That’s an average of one death and more than 70 people injured every week.

UK Department for Transport data shows that young drivers are at a much higher risk of being killed or seriously injured on the road when they drive at night. The level of accidents at night is vastly disproportionate to the number of drivers on the road and the mileage they have clocked up.

It’s worst at weekends, when young drivers can be as much as 20 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured. But even throughout the week, young drivers cause a vastly disproportionate number of accidents between midnight and 4am.

So what’s the answer? Scotland on Sunday has highlighted the TRL report commissioned by Transport Scotland, which found off-road driving courses aimed at under-17s could put them at greater risk of accidents (News, 13 May).

Off-road experience is no equivalent to qualified on-road instruction. The report author, psychologist Dr Neale Kinnear, said: “In the absence of controlled evaluation, the simplest way to control the risk of harm would be to introduce a minimum learner period.”

Northern Ireland is doing just that in a new Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) scheme. Under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act passed at Stormont in 2016 young drivers there may still send off a driving test application form on the day they turn 17. However, under the new law they will have to wait and practise for another six months until the can sit their test.

This Minimum Mandatory Learning Period will introduce regulations for a learner driver programme including a compulsory log of training which needs to be signed off by an Approved Driving Instructor before a student can sit their test.

It will also restrict when and how many passengers a newly qualified driver can carry. Between 11pm and 6am drivers up to the age of 24 who have fewer than six months on their licence will be prohibited from carrying more than one passenger aged between 14 and 20 years old. There will be exemptions for family members and other specific circumstances, but the ban will tackle the problem of young inexperienced drivers travelling too fast at night with a car full of their peers on board egging them on.

The ABI would go further still. We propose a 12-month minimum learning period but we’d want young people to start learning earlier, at 16 and a half. We also want to see intensive driver training courses banned.

Improving young driver safety and minimising the risks they pose is also the most sustainable way of tackling the high cost of insurance they face.

There is political support for GDL and maybe a window of opportunity too. Prime Minister Theresa May asked officials to look into GDL after Labour MP Jenny Chapman raised it at Prime Minister’s Questions.

UK Transport Minister Jesse Norman is looking at the Northern Ireland scheme as a pilot to gather evidence on the potential for GDL in Great Britain.

Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf would like to see DfT take GDL forward for the UK or else see those powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

In a Westminster Parliament divided by Brexit, a minority government might just find the cross-party support for a new law to protect our young drivers – and the rest of us.

Alastair Ross is Head of Public Policy for the Association of British Insurers

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Alastair Ross"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745522.1527356721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745522.1527356721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "In Northern Ireland, a log of training has to be signed off by an instructor before a student can sit their test. Photograph: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "In Northern Ireland, a log of training has to be signed off by an instructor before a student can sit their test. Photograph: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745522.1527356721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/world/ireland-votes-overwhelmingly-to-repeal-anti-abortion-law-1-4745530","id":"1.4745530","articleHeadline": "Ireland votes overwhelmingly to repeal anti-abortion law","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527358155000 ,"articleLead": "

Ireland has voted by 66.4% to 33.6% in favour of changing its strict abortion laws.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745529.1527412990!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A woman breaks down in tears as the results are announced in the referendum. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The public decided by a two-to-one landslide to repeal part of the state’s constitution which effectively prohibits terminations unless a mother’s life is endangered.

A referendum was held on Friday and produced overwhelming consensus for reform amongst men and women, nearly all classes and age groups, and across most counties in Ireland.

READ MORE: Exit polls suggest landslide win for Repeal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed the culmination of a “quiet revolution” and said a new law could be in place before the end of the year.

Referendum returning officer Barry Ryan said a majority of more than 700,000 voted Yes to repeal.

About two million people voted and results showed urban dwellers and a significant proportion of rural voters backed repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the constitution.

READ MORE: Plane taking voters home to vote struck by jet

In parts of Dublin almost 80% favoured liberalising restrictions on abortion in early pregnancy.

About 170,000 Irish women have travelled to the UK and other places for the procedure since 1980.

Pollsters suggested the stories of women forced to travel or take illegal pills obtained on the internet helped sway public opinion, as well as the death of an Indian dentist denied the procedure while she miscarried.

Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Varadkar said the result represented “the culmination of a quiet revolution”, one that had been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 to 20 years.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745529.1527412990!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745529.1527412990!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A woman breaks down in tears as the results are announced in the referendum. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A woman breaks down in tears as the results are announced in the referendum. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745529.1527412990!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/world/north-korea-still-open-to-summit-with-trump-1-4745395","id":"1.4745395","articleHeadline": "North Korea ‘still open’ to summit with Trump","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527330049000 ,"articleLead": "

President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from a plan to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month in Singapore caught a lot of people off guard, including, it appears, Kim Jong Un.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745393.1527330046!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Activists gather in front of the U.S. embassy to demand peace for the Korean peninsula after the cancellation of the U.S. and North Korea summit. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Every indication is that Pyongyang still wants to make the meeting happen. And as soon as possible.

Pyongyang made that clear yesterday with a surprisingly conciliatory response to Trump’s sudden breakup letter, suggesting North Korean officials may now be thinking they overplayed their hand with defiant rhetoric and by deliberately missing preparatory meetings over the past couple of weeks.

That presents an opening for diplomacy to continue if Washington is still game.

But the question remains: Should it be?

READ MORE: North Korea ‘demolishes’ nuclear test site with series of blasts

Kim has lots of reasons for wanting the summit. Sitting down as an equal with the US president would go a long way toward legitimizing his regime on the world stage and weakening the rationale for continued trade sanctions, particularly by neighboring China. It also lowers the chances of military conflict, at least as long as talks are underway, and if Kim plays his cards right it could give him de facto recognition as the leader of a nuclear power.

Trump also appears to still want the summit to go through at some point. But his position is a bit more complicated.

Well before he decided to pull the plug on the 12 June summit plan, concerns were growing that the gap between the two leaders on the most fundamental issues was so wide that the potential danger of a major breakdown outweighed the benefits which might come from simply sitting down together for what would be a historic first.

It’s not even clear if Kim intends to give up his nuclear arsenal any time soon.

The Washington-Pyongyang rift widened dramatically after national security adviser John Bolton suggested the North must unilaterally give up its nuclear arsenal before it can expect any easing of US economic and political pressure. For added impact, he said Libya, whose leader agreed to give up his nuclear program only to be deposed and killed, would be a good model.

One of the loudest voices protesting Bolton’s hard line was Kim Kye Gwan, a senior nuclear negotiator and first vice minister of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

But it was in his name the North issued its response to Trump’s decision yesterday. In a major tone shift, he not only left the door open to more talks, he virtually begged Trump to walk on through.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745393.1527330046!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745393.1527330046!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Activists gather in front of the U.S. embassy to demand peace for the Korean peninsula after the cancellation of the U.S. and North Korea summit. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Activists gather in front of the U.S. embassy to demand peace for the Korean peninsula after the cancellation of the U.S. and North Korea summit. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745393.1527330046!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1504529852192"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/exit-polls-suggest-landslide-vote-for-reform-in-irish-abortion-referendum-1-4745373","id":"1.4745373","articleHeadline": "Exit polls suggest landslide vote for reform in Irish abortion referendum","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527321012000 ,"articleLead": "

Ireland’s historic abortion referendum looks to have delivered a landslide win for those advocating liberalisation, after two major exit polls recorded huge victory margins.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745372.1527321010!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Workers wait to start counting votes at Dublin's RDS. Picture: PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

One poll by national broadcaster RTE suggested almost 70 per cent of the electorate have voted to end the country’s all but blanket ban on terminations, with another, by The Irish Times, recording 68 per cent in favour of reform.

Counting does not begin until Saturday morning, with a formal result not due until later in the day, but the data suggests Ireland is on the cusp of a defining moment in its social history.

Reacting to the exit polls, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a vocal proponent of liberalisation, tweeted: “Thank you to everyone who voted today. Democracy in action. It’s looking like we will make history tomorrow.”

Meanwhile prominent No campaigner Cora Sherlock expressed disappointment at the polls.

“Exit polls, if accurate, paint a very sad state of affairs tonight,” she tweeted late on Friday.

“But those who voted No should take heart. Abortion on demand would deal Ireland a tragic blow but the pro-life movement will rise to any challenge it faces. Let’s go into tomorrow with this in mind. #8thref”

Thousands of Irish citizens living overseas travelled home in droves to exercise their democratic right on the emotive issue.

The vote saw citizens effectively opt to either retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment of the state’s constitution, which prohibits terminations unless a mother’s life is in danger.

The specific question people were asked was whether they wanted to see the Eighth Amendment replaced with wording in the constitution that would hand politicians the responsibility to set future laws on abortion, unhindered by constitutional strictures.

If the Yes vote is confirmed, the Irish Government intends to legislate by the end of the year to make it relatively easy for a woman to obtain the procedure in early pregnancy.

Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

The Behaviour & Attitudes poll for RTE surveyed 3,800 people at 175 polling stations across the country.

READ MORE: Polls open for Ireland’s abortion referendum

With a margin of error of +/- 1.6 per cent, 69.4 per cent voted to repeal the Eight Amendment of the constitution while 30.6 per cent voted No.

The exit poll conducted for The Irish Times indicated a 68 per cent to 32 per cent Yes vote.

That poll saw 4,000 voters interviewed by Ipsos/MRBI as they left 160 polling stations on Friday.

The margin of error is estimated at +/- 1.5 per cent, the newspaper said.

The polling data suggests a huge gulf in views held by Ireland’s youngest and oldest generations.

Both exit surveys recorded support for the Yes camp at approaching 90 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds.

By contrast, the over-65 group was the only age bracket to vote No, with around 60 per cent wanting to retain the Eighth Amendment.

Ireland’s deputy premier, Tanaiste Simon Coveney, another Yes campaigner, said the referendum had made him proud to be Irish.

“Thank you to everybody who voted today - democracy can be so powerful on days like today - looks like a stunning result that will bring about a fundamental change for the better,” he tweeted late of Friday night.

“Proud to be Irish tonight.”

Health minister Simon Harris, whose proposed new abortion laws were subjected to intense scrutiny during the campaign, tweeted: “Will sleep tonight in the hope of waking up to a country that is more compassionate, more caring and more respectful.”

As predicted, urban areas appear to have been more strongly in favour of repeal, at just over 70 per cent.

But according to the polls, rural areas also voted Yes, with around 60 to 63 per cent in favour.

A total of 3.3 million citizens were registered to vote in Friday’s referendum.

The Catholic Church was among influential voices calling for a No vote, arguing that the life of the unborn should be sacrosanct.

The Yes camp, which portrayed itself as modernising and in step with international opinion, said repeal would demonstrate Ireland’s compassion for thousands of Irish women forced to travel to England for the procedure.

The debate during eight weeks of campaigning was emotive and divisive.

While the leaders of all the main political parties backed change, there were also many vocal and high profile advocates for the retention of the Eighth.

The amendment is a clause in the Irish constitution which was written after a previous referendum on the issue in 1983 recognised the right to life of the unborn child.

It protects the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn and effectively prohibits abortion in most cases.

In 1992, women in Ireland were officially given the right to travel abroad, mostly to the UK, to obtain terminations.

Pro-repeal campaigners say almost 170,000 have done so.

The liberalisation campaign gathered momentum in 2012 after an Indian dentist, Savita Halappanavar, died in hospital in Galway aged 31 when she was refused an abortion during a miscarriage.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, said she repeatedly asked for a termination but was refused because there was a foetal heartbeat.

In 2013, following an outcry over Mrs Halappanavar’s death, legislation was amended to allow terminations under certain tightly restricted circumstances - the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

When doctors felt a woman’s life was at risk due to complications from the pregnancy, or from suicide, they were permitted to carry out an abortion.

Under pressure from the UN about alleged degrading treatment of women who travelled to England for terminations, the Irish Government began exploring the possibility of further reform, culminating in the calling of Friday’s referendum and the promise to legislate.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "DAVID YOUNG"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745372.1527321010!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745372.1527321010!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Workers wait to start counting votes at Dublin's RDS. Picture: PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Workers wait to start counting votes at Dublin's RDS. Picture: PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745372.1527321010!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/stephen-jardine-m-s-needs-to-focus-on-what-it-s-good-at-1-4745294","id":"1.4745294","articleHeadline": "Stephen Jardine: M&S needs to focus on what it’s good at","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

High street giant Marks and Spencer appears to have been surprised by the popularity of internet shopping, says Stephen Jardine.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745293.1527269614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Marks & Spencer has announced the closure of some 100 stores (Picture: Getty)"} ,"articleBody": "

This isn’t just high street trouble, this is Marks and Spencer trouble. It’s been a rough few years for one of the biggest names in retail.

Fashion sales slumped as younger customers turned to brands like H&M and Zara while attempts to lure that audience alienated the traditional core audience of older consumers. Strategy changed, bosses moved and influencers like Alexa Chung were drafted in to create collections designed to put M&S on the fashion map.

This week’s news showed none of that is working. A day after announcing the closure of 100 stores, the company confirmed a huge slump in pre-tax profits, down 62 per cent on the back of the costs of earlier restructuring plans. With one in three of its core clothing and home stores set to shut, another £150m of closure costs are in the pipeline so there is little light at the end of the tunnel.

Perhaps the biggest worry for the company is lurking down in the food hall. While other areas of the business struggled, food sales remained strong. The spaces grew into supermarkets selling mainstream brands other than Marks and Spencer.

READ MORE: Stephen Jardine: Food industry is silent on benefits of Brexit

However time doesn’t stand still. While M&S was changing so was the rest of food retail. At a time of recession and austerity, discount brands like Aldi and Lidl pulled in savvy shoppers forcing the other big supermarket brands to sharpen their prices. Meanwhile M&S is still selling £15 jars of Manuka honey.

Chief Executive Steve Rowe admits the food part of the business is underperforming and blames gaps on shelves resulting from environmental commitments and tough price competition. As the discounters have lured away the price sensitive, stores like Waitrose have developed the sort of new innovative products M&S was once famous for.

Add the rush to online retail and a strategy too focused on traditional big stores and you have a perfect retail storm. So what next? The company’s sustainability mantra could not be less helpful. “Plan A because there is no Plan B,” it trumpets. In reality, the M&S board must now been on Plan W when it comes to business strategy. On the surface, the cuts announced this week look brutal but at this stage there is no alternative if the business is to survive. After 115 years of trading, Britain’s biggest fashion retailer has built up a bulging portfolio of property in the wrong places. Much of it is either too big or requires serious investment. Any closure that costs jobs is bad but to save the patient surgery was required.

READ MORE: Stephen Jardine: Was social media goldrush for fools?

What’s needed now is a laser-like focus on what the business is about. It has some amazing strengths. The brand is famous and loved by many. It also has huge visibility on our high street including some iconic sites like Princes Street in Edinburgh. But the remaining stores need serious investment to become exciting retail environments where people shop because they want to not because they feel an obligation.

There also needs to be some serious integration between online and instore. The shift to digital has been happening for nearly 20 years but appears to have caught M&S by surprise.

The company grew online sales by five per cent last year which sounds fine until you realise John Lewis and other big names are advancing at double that rate. Bosses admit some systems are ‘too slow’ and ‘outdated’ and the central distribution depot struggles to cope with demand. Given the speed of advance of firms like ASOS, all these problems need to be fixed now.

Downstairs in food, prices also need to fall to make M&S less Waitrose and more mainstream. There are specialist stores if you want to buy expensive almond butter but few places on the high street where you can buy affordable food and drink. They could do that. Doing less better might be a good mantra moving forward.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Stephen Jardine"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745293.1527269614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745293.1527269614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Marks & Spencer has announced the closure of some 100 stores (Picture: Getty)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Marks & Spencer has announced the closure of some 100 stores (Picture: Getty)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745293.1527269614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/henry-mcleish-corbyn-must-now-take-up-the-fight-against-a-hard-brexit-1-4745297","id":"1.4745297","articleHeadline": "Henry McLeish: Corbyn must now take up the fight against a hard Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

Labour leader has to realise Britain desperately needs to change course, writes former Scottish First Minister Henry McLeish.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745295.1527269640!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jeremy Corbyn's support for the Remain camp during the Brexit referendum has been described as lukewarm. (Picture: PA)"} ,"articleBody": "

There was never a case for Brexit but now it’s crumbling. The cheap patriots who led the Leave campaign are in a state of panic and the shambolic negotiations with the EU remain stalled as the Tory civil war intensifies. In sharp contrast, Westminster now seems to be strengthened in its resolve to derail and fatally damage the most insane decision Britain has made in the post-war period.

Now is also the time for Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn to abandon ambiguity and ambivalence – maybe politically useful at some point in dealing with Brexit, but now a political liability – and embrace the wishes of both his party and the country, who are moving towards rejecting Brexit, especially the hard-line version, supported by the ideologues and the delusional in Theresa May’s Cabinet.

Sadly and tragically, a hard Brexit could still become a reality because of her failure to distinguish between party politics and practical realities.

Corbyn has been a consistent opponent of EU membership. Labour history includes post-war mistrust of moves to create a new Europe with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. Concerns about the future of the Commonwealth, worries about British sovereignty, opposition from the mining unions and the views of Prime Minister Clem Attlee ensured little appetite for such ambitious plans – a position then at odds with sister Socialist parties in Europe. The high point of Labour opposition to European integration was in the Tony Benn years and the Labour manifesto of 1983 included a pledge to leave the then EEC!

But most in the Labour party have now put this attitude to Europe behind them.

READ MORE: Scotland to ‘step up’ links with other EU nations after Brexit

Corbyn should take his lead from the members of what is now the largest political party in Europe after he helped persuade huge numbers of people to join. As an obsessive advocate of the power of the party, he must recognise that there is overwhelming support to remain in the EU, from young people, constituencies, trade unionists and affiliates, and individual members. Many voters and party members believe that Labour’s weak, confused, and ineffective EU referendum campaign allowed Brexit to triumph. They now look to Labour and Corbyn to make amends.

This is nothing less than a battle for the future of Britain and Labour cannot be seen to be remotely linked to the possibility or reality of a hard Brexit and some of the madness that goes with the dismantling of Britain’s credibility at home and abroad.

Corbyn’s decision to support a new Customs Union with the EU is to be welcomed, but this doesn’t go far enough. Staying in or around the Single Market, based on the Norway model, is the next bold step. That could destroy Brexit and allow us to establish a new relationship with Brussels, holding out the prospect of later regaining full membership.

The idea of a “people’s vote” on the outcome of the EU negotiations is something I would support, but I can also understand Corbyn’s reluctance to commit. Concerned about the number of Labour areas who voted to leave, especially in the north of England, Corbyn should ponder the notion that the EU referendum was an abuse of democracy and was a commentary on the state of Britain, not the EU. After the 2008 economic crisis, people are understandably angry and have many grievances. But like Trump voters in the US, Brexit voters in the “rust belt” areas of Britain will gain absolutely nothing and will probably be much worse off after we leave the EU.

READ MORE: More EU nationals choosing to live in Scotland despite Brexit

Labour and Corbyn need to tackle the real issues that these voters are protesting about. These are British problems, not European! On a more positive note, the EU has led on policy areas close to Corbyn’s aspirations – employee protection, social and fundamental human rights, environmental safeguards, and tackling climate change are areas where progressive EU ideas have served Britain well, especially in times of Tory Governments.

Labour, working with other progressive parties and politicians, is key to delivering a new approach to the EU. Labour is an internationalist party, a pro-European party, a party of partnership and cooperation, a party committed to fight economic nationalism, isolationism, racism and xenophobia. That’s why the Labour leader must rethink his position and withdraw, in any form, his support for Brexit.

Britain has already paid too high a price, even before a tsunami of social and economic consequences wash over our country and undermine social cohesion.

In Scotland there is no escape from the constitutional question. It is inextricably linked to the politics of this new age. Brexit will reignite the independence issue as Scots see their relationship with the UK and the EU permanently altered. The closer Labour remains to the EU, the more difficult it will be for the SNP to exploit Brexit. Time is running out for Westminster to take seriously Scotland’s growing impatience with the way Britain is being run. Scotland’s Parliament has devolved powers over certain policy areas, but no shared political or constitutional power!

Northern Ireland and the whole of Ireland will take a massive constitutional hit if a hard Brexit happens. Only the inclusion of the UK in a Customs Union will solve the border problem, despite the fantasies of “maximum facilitation”.

Finally, a lurch into an isolationist foreign policy, creating an intensified Anglosphere with the US, makes no sense in an unpredictable world. We shouldn’t be looking into dark and dangerous places to salvage a post-Brexit trade deal or acquire new and dubious friendships, when we have the stability, security, and prosperity of the EU.

Corbyn must see that a once-great Conservative party is being hollowed out by weak political leadership, treachery, and the consequences of a poisonous 30-year civil war over Europe. Brexiteers asked Britain to look backwards and called it the future. In the Commons and in the country, the Labour leader must catch the mood of a Britain that desperately needs to change course.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Henry McLeish"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745295.1527269640!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745295.1527269640!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jeremy Corbyn's support for the Remain camp during the Brexit referendum has been described as lukewarm. (Picture: PA)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jeremy Corbyn's support for the Remain camp during the Brexit referendum has been described as lukewarm. (Picture: PA)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745295.1527269640!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/susan-dalgety-on-memorial-day-the-us-forgets-its-fallen-children-1-4745299","id":"1.4745299","articleHeadline": "Susan Dalgety: On Memorial Day, the US forgets its fallen children","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

Donald Trump and the NRA should tremble in their cowboy boots, because America’s blindness to school shootings is set to be challenged amid the rise of women in politics, writes Susan Dalgety.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745296.1527269641!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Patrick McCallister, a Vietnam War era army veteran, places flags on the graves of veterans at the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh ahead of Memorial Day (Picture: AP)"} ,"articleBody": "

It is Memorial Day weekend in the States, an annual event when the nation remembers all those who have died in battle.

On Monday, across the county, the Stars and Stripes will fly at half-mast until noon, when they are raised high again. There will be a Memorial Day concert at the US Capitol, and at three in the afternoon, the country will fall silent as it pays respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Only this year, perhaps other victims of war will be remembered, not just the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War, or the 13 members of the US military who have been killed so far this year while on deployment.

But perhaps – hopefully – the country will also say a silent prayer for the 27 children slaughtered this year while they sat at their school desks. The Sante Fe High School shooting, where nine students and one teacher were murdered in cold blood by a fellow student running amok with his father’s gun, is the latest tragedy to hit young America.

The response to this carnage is far more muted than the aftermath of the Parkland massacre.

There are no student survivors organising marches on the Capitol, and challenging senior politicians, live on television, to drop their association with the National Rifle Association.

There are no badges proclaiming #NeverAgain. No school walk outs. No palpable anger.

Only deep, gut-wrenching sadness as families come to terms with the loss of their children.

“I don’t want to upset anyone,” said Bree Butler, an 18-year-old senior at Sante Fe High.

READ MORE: Ten killed in school shooting in Texas

Last month her friends staged a school walkout in solidarity with their Parkland peers. “Our community needs time to heal,” she says now, as the first funerals of her classmates take place.

Sante Fe, in Texas, is a conservative, rural town, where guns are as much part of everyday life as barbecues and Walmart. In Texas, teachers can carry firearms on school premises, after passing a training course.

And in some parts of the Lone Star state, people have the right to openly carry handguns. Just like John Wayne – except this is real life, not the movies.

But it is not just in Texas where guns are an integral part of the culture. It is everywhere.

In Barnes and Noble, that most middle-class of bookstores, we found magazines extolling the virtue of assault rifles, like the one used to massacre 17 children at Parkland, on sale next to National Geographic and Homes and Gardens.

In every Walmart there is an aisle for ‘Gun Safety and Cleaning’, next to the ‘Gardens and Lawn’ section.

Even the fly swatters on sale in an upmarket Maryland camp site came in the shape of pistols. Why swat the beasts, when you can shoot ‘em up.

Guns are as much part of American life as peanut butter and their beloved flag.

“I have a friend, a registered Democrat, who owns an assault rifle,” explains Miguel over a curry. We are in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to catch up with friends we made while volunteering on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign.

“I say to him, why do you need an assault rifle, you only use it for target practice. There is no skill in going, brrrr, brrrr, brrrr. A small kid could hit the target with one of those things. If you need to shoot, why not use a handgun? At least it requires skill.

“And do you know what he said? He said, ‘I like the assault rifle. I like the way it makes me feel. It is my right to have one.’

“I think it makes him feel like a man. But you don’t need a deadly weapon to be a man, surely?”

READ MORE: Susan Dalgety: The city that celebrates 72 hours without a fatal shooting

Sadly there are a lot of American blokes who seem to need a gun to make them feel like their distorted vision of a man.

Gang members in Baltimore who use guns instead of fists to decide neighbourhood disputes. Teenage sociopaths who use assault rifles to blow out the brains of their classmates, because the voices in their head told them to. Middle-aged men, like Miguel’s friend, who use assault rifles to make them feel alive. And because it is their constitutional right to bear arms.

Unlike Dunblane, where we as a nation said #NeverAgain, and changed the law to ban handguns, the tears of the mothers whose babies were slaughtered at Sandy Hook in 2012 did not have the power to move politicians in thrall to the second amendment and the NRA.

But there is a new wave coming in American politics. In November, the mid-term elections will select a new House of Representatives as well as other key positions across the country.

The Democrats are slated to win a majority in the House. But here’s the thing, it is women, many new to politics, who are winning the Democratic nominations.

Already women make up more than 40 per cent of the nominees, more than double that of the 2010 midterms when President Obama was in the White House.

And women are running for all levels of government, local, state and federal. Emily’s List, the campaign that supports women candidates, says 34,000 women have recently contacted them, interested in running for office. In the 2016 election cycle only 920 women got in touch.

Leading this new generation of women politicians is Stacey Abrams. On Tuesday she became the first black woman nominated for governor by a major political party. The first ever.

She is standing in Georgia, that most southern of states, and could well win come November.

“Now is the time to defend our values and protect the vulnerable – to stand in the gap and to lead the way,” she declared in a powerful speech after winning the nomination.

She supports gun control. And investment in mental health services. Her brother Walter, who is mentally ill, is currently serving time in prison. A family tragedy she does not hide.

Sitting in the White House, President Trump screams “WITCH HUNT” at his television, fearful of the special investigation.

Perhaps the man who boasts of grabbing “pussy” should be more scared of the women who are coming to Congress later this year. The gun lobby he admires so much should definitely be quaking in their cowboy boots.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Susan Dalgety"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745296.1527269641!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745296.1527269641!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Patrick McCallister, a Vietnam War era army veteran, places flags on the graves of veterans at the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh ahead of Memorial Day (Picture: AP)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Patrick McCallister, a Vietnam War era army veteran, places flags on the graves of veterans at the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh ahead of Memorial Day (Picture: AP)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745296.1527269641!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745298.1527269645!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745298.1527269645!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 20: Boy scouts salute as a funeral procession for Benjamin Wheeler, 6, enters the Trinity Episcopal Church on December 20, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Benjamin, a member of Tiger Scout Den 6, was killed when 20 children and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 20: Boy scouts salute as a funeral procession for Benjamin Wheeler, 6, enters the Trinity Episcopal Church on December 20, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Benjamin, a member of Tiger Scout Den 6, was killed when 20 children and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745298.1527269645!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/leader-comment-an-epic-battle-with-the-atlantic-ocean-1-4745307","id":"1.4745307","articleHeadline": "Leader comment: An epic battle with the Atlantic Ocean","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

Until fairly recently, more people had walked on the Moon than had managed to row solo from west to east across the Atlantic Ocean.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745306.1527271250!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Duncan Hutchison built his own boat, named Sleipnir, in his shed in the village of Lochinver, Sutherland. (Picture: SWNS)"} ,"articleBody": "

So when Duncan Hutchison, a 52-year-old former lifeboat volunteer from Lochinver, Sutherland, sets off from New York tomorrow – heading for home in a wooden boat he built himself – he will be attempting to join a rather select band.

Normally, cross-Atlantic rowers travel east to west because the prevailing winds and currents are more favourable. And some consider the Atlantic to be the second most dangerous ocean in the world, after the Indian.

So the risks of the voyage – undertaken in aid of the charity Water Aid – should not be understated; his skills as a carpenter as well as a rower face a significant test.

In addition to the threat from storms and giant rogue waves, exhaustion will surely be a danger as he plans to row for 12 hours a day for an estimated 100 days.

However, looking on the bright side, in addition to making an epic journey of a lifetime, he will miss more than three months of the interminable debate about Brexit.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745306.1527271250!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745306.1527271250!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Duncan Hutchison built his own boat, named Sleipnir, in his shed in the village of Lochinver, Sutherland. (Picture: SWNS)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Duncan Hutchison built his own boat, named Sleipnir, in his shed in the village of Lochinver, Sutherland. (Picture: SWNS)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745306.1527271250!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/nicola-sturgeon-growth-commission-report-candid-about-indy-challenges-1-4745290","id":"1.4745290","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon: Growth Commission report candid about indy challenges","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

The Sustainable Growth Commission’s report is a frank assessment of what an independent Scotland might be like, writes First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745289.1527329706!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Thousands march in a pro-independence rally in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

The publication of the Sustainable Growth Commission’s report is an opportunity to begin a fresh debate in Scotland – one focussed on the massive opportunities our country has and how we make the most of them.

Since the report was published yesterday, there has already been a huge amount of interest and extensive discussion. The report is intended to provoke debate and create a platform on which we can build a positive vision and prospectus for Scotland’s future.

That is a welcome change from the ongoing despair about how we minimise the damage of Brexit. The Commission’s report is based on optimism about our future and it challenges all of us to consider how we do better and raise our performance as a country. I hope it’s a debate that people of all political and constitutional persuasions will take part in.

As a starting point, I believe there are some things in this report that we can all agree on. The report shows that Scotland is a wealthy nation with huge resources, encompassing our traditional strengths in innovation, our hi-tech sectors, energy reserves, food, drink and tourism strengths – and perhaps above all our strength in human capital, with a highly educated population.

It also shows that despite those enormous strengths, similar-sized nations have performed better over decades – all of them independent but most of them with fewer resources than us. So it is right that the Commission asks why that is the case and what can be done about it.

READ MORE: SNP Growth Commission report: Five key points

The Growth Commission also recognises, as everyone can see, that the context in which this debate is taking place has changed since 2014. The Brexit vote means there is no status quo any more – and we know that being taken out of Europe and out of a market around eight times bigger than the UK market will hit our economy. The Governor of the Bank of England identified this week that incomes are around £900 a year less than they would have been without Brexit. It’s only right that we take the time to consider better alternative approaches that Scotland could pursue. In response, the Growth Commission sets out policies to increase our population, to ensure everyone in our society is able to participate fully in the economy, and to drive forward improvements in productivity that will boost our growth rates. The Scottish Government is working hard to achieve all of that with the powers of devolution, but as well as offering new ideas for what we can do now, this report sets out how much more could be achieved with independence.

The 30 recommendations on ways in which we can boost growth are recommendations I and the Scottish Government will study carefully to identify if there are any we can and should adopt now. Some of the recommendations are in areas where, without independence, we would need the agreement of the UK Government, such as the proposals for a flexible approach to migration in Scotland focussed on our population needs, rather than Scotland being tied to economically damaging UK targets.

READ MORE: SNP Growth Commission report: ‘Enough grandstanding’ say opposition parties

However that co-operation historically hasn’t been forthcoming and so there are many areas where it will require the powers of independence for Scotland to move forward, and that is a debate we must have. Of course, alongside how we grow the economy, the Sustainable Growth Commission also addresses the challenges an independent Scotland would face. There is a candour to the report that is a refreshing change to the fictions peddled by the Brexiteers.

In arguing for oil revenues to be taken out of day-to-day spending – and instead invested for the long term – the Commission makes a bold proposal that could help steward the benefits of our natural resources. The suggested solidarity payment moves the debate on from arguments of the 2014 referendum and demonstrates one way in which a continued strong relationship between Scotland and the UK can be assured. Similarly, the plan for reducing the deficit built up under the UK model suggests a way forward that firmly rejects austerity and ensures above-inflation spending growth. All of this can now be debated and discussed.

The report also explicitly acknowledges an independent Scotland can have its own currency and that this is a perfectly reasonable, credible and rational proposal. However, even the most ardent supporters of an independent currency recognise that it would take preparation and that, in the meantime, people need the certainty and clarity of knowing the currency they will use – so the report makes the proposal that Scotland should continue to use the

Pound for a period until certain tests are met and while vital preparatory work, for example the creation of a Scottish Central Bank, is undertaken. The Commission’s recommendations are not final policy decsions, but they do provide strong foundations for the SNP, the Yes movement and the public to debate. Some people will dismiss the report without even having read a word of its findings. That’s their prerogative but such an approach does a disservice to the public who I suspect want us to focus on maximising Scotland’s potential. The UK Government dismissed it within 60 seconds of publication, before they’d even read it. That’s indicative of the current lack of ambition the UK Government and the Tories have when it comes to Scotland.

As the Fraser of Allander Institute said, this report not only puts forward challenges to me and the Scottish Government, “it also represents a challenge to other political parties. They too need to set out their vision for Scotland and how they seek to deliver economic prosperity in the years ahead”.

We will now listen to the views of civic Scotland, trade unions, the business community, third sector and most importantly to people across the country. We will look at the recommendations for growth and identify those which can be taken forward as part of the Government’s commitment to growing the economy, creating jobs and tackling inequality, while the SNP will hold a series of national assemblies over the summer where the detail of the report can be discussed.

The publication of the Sustainable Growth Commission has started a debate about Scotland’s future that is founded on optimism and I hope everyone can agree that that is exactly the discussion we should be having.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745289.1527329706!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745289.1527329706!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Thousands march in a pro-independence rally in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Thousands march in a pro-independence rally in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745289.1527329706!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5789587885001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tom-peterkin-bizarre-release-of-snp-s-independence-report-1-4745319","id":"1.4745319","articleHeadline": "Tom Peterkin: ‘Bizarre’ release of SNP’s independence report","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

Compared with the razamataz of Alex Salmond’s immaculately choreographed independence White Paper, the launch of the indyref2 document was something else entirely.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives the Sustainable Growth Commission report from commission chair Andrew Wilson. Picture: PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Instead of an all-singing and dancing press conference on the banks of the Clyde, hapless hacks were left scurrying around a hotel near the Scottish Parliament seeking hard copies of Andrew Wilson’s magnum opus.

“An absolute shambles” was one of the kinder – and cleaner – descriptions of the bizarre way the SNP chose to “manage” the print media interest in the long-awaited paper making the economic case for independence (take two). Scribes arrived at the parliament bemoaning the lack of a press conference and the chance to hurl questions at Mr Wilson and others. They had expected that the document would be published online at 9.30am. The minutes ticked by before word got out that there would be actual copies at the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel. Hacks hotfooted it to the hotel. The broadcasters were ensconced in the “library” with Mr Wilson. But still no sign of the report or the online version.

Tempers frayed and after - what seemed like a lifetime - a SNP spinner finally arrived clutching a small number of hefty ring binders containing the document. There was a scuffle as journalists shoved each other out of the way to grab a copy. “Why aren’t there any more?” one demanded. “Steady on, they cost £80 each,” said the spinner.

The arrangements for the media was not the only contrast between yesterday and the White Paper era. Where Mr Salmond’s production exuded unbridled optimism, Mr Wilson’s document made a virtue of “realism”.

“Independence must never be seen as a magic wand or a quick and easy step to success,” his introduction said. “Indeed there is no pot of gold, black or otherwise, at the foot of the independence rainbow.”

A decade to sort out public finances so that Scotland was fit for a new currency. A quarter of a century to get economic performance up to that of other advanced small nations. Mr Wilson made little attempt to gloss over the challenges faced on the road to independence.

Perhaps Mr Wilson’s injection of a heavy dose of reality could explain the SNP’s reluctance to host an all-singing and dancing press conference to show off latest plans. Perhaps it was also an acknowledgement that in a divided country the notion of indyref2 has yet to set the heather on fire beyond Nicola Sturgeon’s supporters.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives the Sustainable Growth Commission report from commission chair Andrew Wilson. Picture: PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives the Sustainable Growth Commission report from commission chair Andrew Wilson. Picture: PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745382.1527411014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745318.1527327634!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745318.1527327634!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The MacDonald Holyrood Hotel near the Scottish Parliament, where reporters were seeking hard copies of the SNP's Growth Commission report","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The MacDonald Holyrood Hotel near the Scottish Parliament, where reporters were seeking hard copies of the SNP's Growth Commission report","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745318.1527327634!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5789587885001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/john-mclellan-growth-commission-report-sparks-all-mighty-ruck-1-4745288","id":"1.4745288","articleHeadline": "John McLellan: Growth Commission report sparks all-mighty ruck","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1527310800000 ,"articleLead": "

Growth Commission report divides even those who back independence, says John McLellan.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745287.1527329587!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "New Zealand, whose capital Wellington is seen here, spends much less on health and welfare than Scotland"} ,"articleBody": "

The great British Lions captain Willie John McBride had a simple message to his team at the start of what was expected to be a brutal 1974 test series against the Springboks: “Get your retaliation in first.”

No “99” calls are needed to spark a punch-up over the SNP Growth Commission report finally published yesterday, but its chair Andrew Wilson used his skills as a public relations consultant to make sure that, in the ensuing political ruck, the first blow was going to be his. So the initial trails on Wednesday evening which duly appeared in Thursday’s papers were that if an independent Scotland matched the economic performance of other similarly sized countries we would all be £4,100 better off.

The high-ground duly commanded and the idea of a four grand prize duly planted, the second wave of publicity confirmed what had already been widely leaked, that the Commission was lancing the currency boil that had infected the 2014 campaign by urging the new country to set up its own currency. That one of three sections is devoted to currency shows not only how difficult the establishment of a truly independent economy would be, but also how much work wasn’t done by the SNP last time round.

READ MORE: SNP Growth Commission report: ‘Enough grandstanding’ say opposition parties

But no matter how much detail on currency the report contains, if it scared the horses then, it will do so again and the report hadn’t even been officially launched before the first problems arose, firstly from Glasgow University macroeconomics professor Ronald MacDonald who inconveniently pointed out that £300 billion would be needed to establish a central bank to underpin the new system.

Then on the supposedly sympathetic Common Space website, tax campaigner Professor Richard Murphy of City University London slammed the suggestion that Sterling should be kept for a transition period. The commission, he wrote, has “crushed any chance of a fiscal stimulus by committing Scotland to decades of austerity with the sole purpose of keeping the old oppressor in London happy ... For those who hoped for a bright independent future it offers nothing but despair.”

At least Wilson’s report summary was ahead of the game in admitting “inevitably, much of what we recommend involves further work, analysis and consideration”. That’s one box already ticked.

In fairness to Wilson and his team, the report has many commendable ideas but on even a cursory glance few require the break-up of Britain to deliver. Even the extensive recommendations on encouraging immigration through a “Come to Scotland” programme are not impossible under current arrangements. Similarly, expanding universities and attracting more international post-graduates does not rely on independence. As for “securing a frictionless border with the rest of the UK”? That’s two boxes.

READ MORE: SNP Growth Commission report: Five key points

As we all know, the problem with offers that seem too good to be true is they almost always are, and the “£4,100 better off” number glosses over the yawning gap in public expenditure which even by the Commission’s own numbers would cost £27bn over ten years to become manageable. Maybe people really are prepared to pay more tax to cover costs rather than see public services eviscerated? The new shining example Scotland should follow, New Zealand, actually raises only around £38bn through taxation compared to approximately £45bn here and, according to the New Zealand Treasury, it spends a total of about £23bn on health (£8bn) and welfare (£15bn), compared to Scotland’s £35bn (£12bn and £23bn).

Nor do the aggressive population targets the report contains come without consequences, claiming that if growth elsewhere had been matched then Scotland’s population would already be up to 6.1 million, even though authorities like Edinburgh are already struggling to cope.

Of all the unanswered questions in this paper, the biggest one for the person who commissioned it is whether it provides the solid launch-pad for another tilt at independence. It may well have re-opened a debate First Minister Nicola Sturgeon didn’t wanted closed in the first place, but it is also opening up differences within the independence movement. Wilson was certainly on the money when he wrote: “We do not expect universal support from within the party or indeed from anywhere.” Another box ticked.

Complaints backfire

The Scottish Government didn’t get what it expected when the Independent Press Standard Organisation this week threw out its complaint against the Daily Express for alleging that rule changes limiting the flying of the Union Flag on Scottish public buildings was a snub to the Queen. Sometimes even if you are convinced you are right, making a complaint just isn’t worth it, like two other cases just off the IPSO conveyor belt.

A Hamilton man was convicted for assaulting a man in a shop after he himself had been assaulted and the sheriff remarked, “There’s no doubt Mr Burns was the victim of an assault but there is also no doubt what happened 47 kicks later.” The Scottish Sun ran the story under the headline “Boozed-up Hamilton thug John Burns kicked and stamped on shop attack victim 47 times”. After a ruling that there had been a breach because he was not drunk, the paper has to publish the following correction: “We would like to clarify that Mr Burns was in fact sober when he launched his ‘sustained attack’”.

And agitator Katie Hopkins complained about a Mirror story headlined “Katie Hopkins banned from leaving South Africa after taking ketamine”. She had been taking the drug for a shoulder injury and in fact the ban had been for spreading racial hatred. Bet she’s glad the record is straight ... IPSO upheld both complaints, so the moral is if you’ve done the crime, it doesn’t pay to whine.

Different boats

My colleague Cllr Mark Brown took some flak from the PC brigade for asking on Twitter, in best traditional Glesca, if the SNP’s Growth Commission thought we’d come up the Clyde in a banana boat. A white-supremacist, post-colonial, racist slur apparently. There is the 1956 Harry Belafonte song I suppose, but I always thought the phrase referred to the pudding involving a dollop of ice cream with two halves of a banana sliced long-ways on either side. Nevertheless, describing naiveté by coming up the river of your choice on a Jacob’s water biscuit is a safer choice these days...

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "John McLellan"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4745287.1527329587!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4745287.1527329587!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "New Zealand, whose capital Wellington is seen here, spends much less on health and welfare than Scotland","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "New Zealand, whose capital Wellington is seen here, spends much less on health and welfare than Scotland","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4745287.1527329587!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5789587885001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}