{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"world","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/world/maryland-school-shooting-injuries-reported-1-4709044","id":"1.4709044","articleHeadline": "Maryland school shooting - injuries reported","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521553982000 ,"articleLead": "

Injuries have been reported after a shooting at a high school in Maryland, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4709043.1521551377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The shooting is reported to have taken place at Great Mills High School. Picture: Google"} ,"articleBody": "

St Mary’s County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cpl Julie Yingling said there are injuries at Great Mills High School but she did not know how many or the severity of the injuries.

She also said she had no information about fatalities.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were heading to the scene.

The county sheriff said deputies are on the scene and that parents or guardians should stay away, going instead to Leonardtown High School to reunite with Great Mills students there.

Maryland governor Larry Hogan and Representative Steny Hoyer tweeted that they are monitoring reports and urged people to follow the instructions of local law enforcement at the scene.

More to follow....

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4709043.1521551377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4709043.1521551377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The shooting is reported to have taken place at Great Mills High School. Picture: Google","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The shooting is reported to have taken place at Great Mills High School. Picture: Google","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4709043.1521551377!/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/giant-inflatable-duck-found-in-australia-after-week-long-search-1-4708901","id":"1.4708901","articleHeadline": "Giant inflatable duck found in Australia after week-long search","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521544507000 ,"articleLead": "

A giant inflatable duck has been found off the Western Australian coast after it blew away in strong winds a week ago.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708900.1521545765!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Swimmers posing with Daphne the giant inflatable duck. Pic: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Daphne the duck vanished from the Cockburn Masters Swimming Club in Perth on Sunday, 11 March as preparations were taking place for an annual ocean swimming competition.

“After 50 meters she was just gone, baby, gone,” Peter Marr, the club’s president, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of his effort to swim after Daphne, who was supposed to be the event’s star attraction. “I couldn’t keep up.”

According to local reports, the $900 (£500) duck had been purchased to mark the 22nd anniversary of the event.

The club appealed for help on Facebook in its search to find the beloved mascot.

After a week long search and reported sightings, the yellow duck was found by local fishermen 30km out to sea just off Rottnest Island in the west of the city.

Mr Gibb told the BBC he found the duck at around 06:30 - only an hour after Daphne went missing.

He is meeting Cockburn Masters Swimming Club chairman Peter Marr on Wednesday about returning the duck.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708900.1521545765!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708900.1521545765!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Swimmers posing with Daphne the giant inflatable duck. Pic: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Swimmers posing with Daphne the giant inflatable duck. Pic: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708900.1521545765!/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/paris-gourtsoyannis-we-re-no-longer-shocked-by-praise-for-mussolini-1-4708720","id":"1.4708720","articleHeadline": "Paris Gourtsoyannis: We’re no longer shocked by praise for Mussolini","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521525600000 ,"articleLead": "

Extreme views that would have been condemned a decade ago barely get attention today, writes Paris Gourtsoyannis.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708719.1521491245!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steve Bannon"} ,"articleBody": "

Are we too exhausted by the crush of political events to be shocked any more? When spoken by people who trade in the controversial on a daily basis, even the most extreme views barely seem to register.

In one of the first articles published by a new US edition of the Spectator magazine, the writer Nicolas Farrell interviews Steve Bannon, the former adviser to Donald Trump, who addressed a recent conference in Switzerland.

Farrell, a biographer of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, is told by Bannon: “He [Mussolini] was clearly loved by women. He was a guy’s guy. He has all that virility. He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms. I’m fascinated by Mussolini.”

Don’t bother reading the piece for the awkward moment when the interviewer asks about, for instance, the thousands of Italian Jews deported to Nazi concentration camps. It never happens.

Nor is there any challenge when Bannon, the architect of Trump’s attempt to ban immigration from a handful of Muslim countries, says “there is nothing about banning Muslims … we can live with Islam”. Another interview by the Politico website went as far as asking about Bannon’s relationship with the US President. “I still love the guy,” we learn.

Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, would endorse many of Bannon’s views. His Fidesz party is expected to win parliamentary elections next month by a landslide. Orban’s dog-whistle vendetta against the billionaire George Soros is well known, as is his party’s opposition to migration, particularly from Muslim countries. But it takes hearing Orban’s rhetoric, undiluted, to reveal the significance of those views.

At a rally last week, he said: “We are at the epicenter of a civilizational struggle … we are not fighting the anaemic little opposition parties, we have to fight an empire-like international network. The great plan is to break Hungary, which stands in the way of the migrants … [Brussels] wants to dilute, to replace the population of Europe. They throw away our culture, our way of life, everything that makes us European and distinguishes us from other nations in the world.”

Orban concluded that “after the elections we shall, of course, seek recourse — moral, legal, and political recourse”. Or to put it another way, revenge.

A campaign video by one of Orban’s ministers is even clearer. Lázár János speaks into the camera from what he calls one of Vienna’s “infamous districts” — a shopping street in the Austrian capital that could be Lothian Road, with familiar mobile phone shops and McDonalds outlets. It soon becomes clear what the problem is. Panning around the scene, the footage slows to a sinister crawl to focus on shoppers in headscarves and turbans.

“It’s clear that these streets are more dirty,” János says, standing in a street tidier than any in Scotland. “The white Christian Austrians moved out and the immigrants took control of this neighbourhood. If we let them in and let them live in our cities, then there will be crime, impoverishment, dirt and impossible urban conditions.”

In response to the democratic endorsement of Orban’s view, the former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy suggests the problem is democracy. “Where you see a great leader, there is no populism,” Sarkozy said in a speech to a conference in Abu Dhabi, forgetting that he was elected on a promise to blast clean Paris’ multi-ethnic ghettos with a power hose. His message: democracies are weak, autocracies are strong, and elections get in the way of visionary progress. “Where is the populism in China?” Sarkozy asked. “Where is the populism here? Where is the populism in Russia? Where is the populism in Saudi Arabia? If the great leadership leaves the table, the populist leaders come and replace him.”

Longevity in power clearly concerns the former French president, who voters ousted at the earliest opportunity. “The great leaders of the world come from countries that are not great democracies,” he said.

The various comments above – by different politicians in different countries – are either proudly xenophobic, unambiguously autocratic, or express deep admiration for fascists. They were all made in the past two weeks, and all went largely unremarked — possibly because in the current climate, they are no longer remarkable. What are we walking into?

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708719.1521491245!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708719.1521491245!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Steve Bannon","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steve Bannon","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708719.1521491245!/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/theresa-may-no-other-conclusion-than-russia-behind-poisoned-spy-1-4708692","id":"1.4708692","articleHeadline": "Theresa May: No other conclusion than Russia behind poisoned spy’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521488243000 ,"articleLead": "

Theresa May has hit back at Vladimir Putin’s dismissal of the UK government’s claim Russia was responsible for the Salisbury spy poisoning.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708691.1521488238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Prime Minister said Russia had the capability, motive and intent to carry out such an attack"} ,"articleBody": "

The Prime Minister said Russia had the capability, motive and intent to carry out such an attack, adding that there can be “no other conclusion”.

Mrs May’s comments followed strong words from Boris Johnson, who accused Russia of trying to conceal “the needle of truth in a haystack of lies” over the case - after Mr Putin dismissed the idea of Russian responsibility as “nonsense”.

Arriving for a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels, the Foreign Secretary said Moscow’s denials over the incident were “increasingly absurd” as he accused the Kremlin of changing its story regarding the Novichok nerve agent Britain says was used in the attack.

The gathering of the EU Foreign Affairs Council declared its “unqualified solidarity” for the UK over the incident.

Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in the UK yesterday to take samples of the nerve agent used in the case.

Mr Johnson said: “At one time they (Russia) say that they never made Novichok, and at another time they say they did make Novichok, but all the stocks have been destroyed ... but some of them have mysteriously escaped to Sweden, or the Czech Republic, or Slovakia, or the United States, or even ... the United Kingdom.

“I think what people can see is that this is a classic Russian strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation.”

Mrs May said: “I’m clear that what we have seen shows that there is no other conclusion but that the Russian state is culpable for what happened on the streets of Salisbury.”

Following reports around the possible exhumation of bodies of other Russians who died in suspicious circumstances, she added that it is a “matter for the police”.

Mr Putin dismissed claims of Russia being behind the poisoning as “nonsense” as he was re-elected president.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia would have died instantly if they had been attacked with a nerve agent, the leader said as he celebrated the start of another six-year term.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SHAUN CONNOLLY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708691.1521488238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708691.1521488238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Prime Minister said Russia had the capability, motive and intent to carry out such an attack","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Prime Minister said Russia had the capability, motive and intent to carry out such an attack","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708691.1521488238!/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/self-driving-uber-car-kills-woman-in-arizona-1-4708611","id":"1.4708611","articleHeadline": "Self-driving Uber car kills woman in Arizona","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521480610464 ,"articleLead": "

One of Uber's self-driving vehicles has struck and killed a pedestrian in a suburb of Pheonix, Arizona, police said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708610.1521480721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: AP"} ,"articleBody": "

Officers in Tempe said the vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel when the woman was struck.

The woman, whose name has not yet been released, died of her injuries in hospital.

Uber has been testing the self-driving vehicles in Tempe and Phoenix for months.

Police said Uber is co-operating in the investigation

" ,"byline": {"email": "stephen.emerson@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Stephen Emerson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708610.1521480721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708610.1521480721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Picture: AP","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: AP","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708610.1521480721!/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/nicola-sturgeon-to-visit-china-after-10bn-trade-deal-row-1-4708451","id":"1.4708451","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon to visit China after £10bn trade deal row","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521472580000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans to visit China next month just over a year after a £10 billion investment deal with the country collapsed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708450.1521471999!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A previous memorandum of understanding signed by Nicola Sturgeon with Chinese firms collapsed"} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister is to take part in high-level business and government meetings during a visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong next month.

She says the aim of the trip will be to show the world's second largest economy that Scotland is a \"fantastic place to invest.\"

But it follows an embarrassing row for Scottish ministers just over a year back in November when Chinese state-backed companies SinoFortone and China Railway No 3 Engineering Group pulled the plug on a £10 billion investment deal in Scotland. It followed a row over secrecy surrounding the deal and previous allegations of corrupt practices surrounding the firms involved.

Read more: £10bn China deal collapses over ‘hostile’ Scots outcry
Ms Sturgeon said today: “As the world’s second largest economy, there are huge opportunities for Scottish companies to work with China.

\"I will be travelling with the message that Scotland is a fantastic place to invest, to do business, to study and to visit on holiday.

“During my visit I will meet with senior Chinese Government representatives and I look forward to exploring new ways that our two countries can work together for the mutual benefit of all our people. As with my previous meetings, we will continue to talk about the importance of equality of opportunity and respect for human rights.”

This will be the First Minister’s first visit to China since 2015. Latest figures show that goods exports from Scotland to China are increasing at a faster rate than to any of Scotland’s other top five export partners, with a rise of more than 40% last year.

Read more: FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon criticised over collapsed Chinese trade deal
The first direct Scotland-China air route was announced last week, with Hainan Airlines set to offer a twice-weekly service between Edinburgh and Beijing from June this year.

In December last year, the First Minister met with Vice Premier Liu Yandong in Edinburgh during her visit to the UK.

Liz Cameron, Director and Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the aim is to show Scotland \"open for business\" with the rest of the world.

\"That means being able to trade and invest easily with international markets, and Scotland remaining an attractive destination for inward investment,\" she said.

“The Chamber Network’s Business Mission to China will see Scottish companies meet directly with Chinese suppliers, investors and buyers, providing commercial business opportunities and partnership exchanges. With our dedicated Scottish Trade Office in Yantai, coupled with Scotland’s entrepreneurial business diaspora and the unparalleled reach of the Scottish Chamber Network, I am confident we will deepen the business to business relationships between Scotland and China and grow our economy.”

Karen Betts, Chief Executive at the Scotch Whisky Association, said China represents a \"huge opportunity\" for growth.

\"Exports to China increased by 47% last year along as more Chinese consumers start appreciating the heritage, craft and quality of Scotch,\" she added.

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708450.1521471999!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708450.1521471999!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A previous memorandum of understanding signed by Nicola Sturgeon with Chinese firms collapsed","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A previous memorandum of understanding signed by Nicola Sturgeon with Chinese firms collapsed","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708450.1521471999!/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/lesley-riddoch-can-facebook-be-trusted-with-our-data-1-4708052","id":"1.4708052","articleHeadline": "Lesley Riddoch: Can Facebook be trusted with our data?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521449285000 ,"articleLead": "

What was the most important story about foreign interference with British democracy this weekend?

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708051.1521449280!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: AP"} ,"articleBody": "

The suggestion Moscow will troll Nicola Sturgeon because of her strong backing for Theresa May’s anti-Kremlin stance? The alleged air-brushing of Corbyn’s hat on a Newsnight backdrop to make it look more Russian? The ever-weakening health of the father and daughter at the centre of the Salisbury nerve agent attack? Alex Salmond under more pressure over his RT programme?

Vladimir Putin rolling to another sizeable victory in yesterday’s Presidential election? Or a hard to understand story published in the Observer suggesting data from 50 million people’s personal information and preferences was harvested from Facebook accounts without permission and may have been used to subvert democracy in America and Britain and influence election results?

According to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, he and another Cambridge academic obtained Facebook data for genuine academic research about fashion trends and social preferences. Apparently, Aleksandr Kogan, developed a Facebook app featuring a personality quiz, and Cambridge Analytica paid people to take it. The app recorded answers, but also collected data from the quiz-taker’s Facebook account and from their Facebook friends as well to create individual patterns and build an algorithm predicting results for other Facebook users. Friends’ profiles provided a testing ground to fine tune the algorithm and make it a politically valuable resource because each user had to have a Facebook account and be an American voter to qualify for payment, so tens of millions of profiles could instantly be matched to electoral rolls. From an initial trial of 1,000 “seeders”, the researchers obtained 160,000 profiles. Eventually a few hundred thousand paid test-takers would allow data to be extracted from millions of voters. All without the knowledge or permission of those taking part in the quiz or their entirely unsuspecting friends.

Cambridge Analytica (CA) then created voter personality profiles to target individual Facebook users with tailored political messages on behalf of Donald Trump during the presidential campaign – an effort that netted them $6.2 million. Back then the company - owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and formerly headed by ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon – boasted that its “psychographic” profiles could predict the personality and political leanings of every adult in the United States. He went on to claim a major involvement in the EU Leave campaign. Journalist Carole Cadwalladr has been tracking the story down for two years; “It’s an incredible revelation. Our intimate family connections, our “likes”, our crumbs of personal data [are] all sucked into a swirling black hole that’s expanding and growing and is now owned by a politically motivated billionaire.”

Of course Facebook are trying to say the company is clean because it simply approved the use of data for academic “in app improvements” and were assured it would then be destroyed. It isn’t their fault if that didn’t happen.

So should we be worried? After all, rules governing data protection will toughen in mid May as the EU enacts tough new regulations that will survive Brexit. Under the general data protection regulation (GDPR) “silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity” will no longer imply consent. Companies will have to explain clearly why they are collecting personal data and if it’s to be made available to third-party providers (like Facebook, Google Analytics or telemarketing companies) explicit consent will be needed. Users will also have the right to access their own personal data and request its removal. So will this be enough to make the online environment secure? No it won’t.

There’s an old adage; if it’s free you are the product. And uniquely on Facebook, so are your friends. Facebook makes money by allowing other websites to access the wealth of choices, likes, browsing history and advert clicks made by millions of its users through tracker numbers stored as cookies on computers. Companies then use Facebook’s data to create personally targeted adverts. These days, most of us wearily accept that our browsing and shopping preferences drive the customised adverts we see. But we may not know how much further data is derived from our responses, or from our friends answering innocent-looking Facebook surveys. In the words of one media analyst; “Companies are fine-tuning your reactions like lab rats and selling on the back of it.” Which is slightly creepy – but not illegal.

The real furore is the suggestion Facebook has entered the political domain by allowing customised political messages to be sent and monitored based on the likes and preferences of millions of users. Of course any misuse occurred when the data was handed over to Cambridge Analytica – but did Facebook simply fail to take precautions or was there more to it?

In the USA Robert Mueller’s investigation traced the first Russian efforts to disrupt the US election to Cambridge Analytica’s meeting with a Russian oil company to outline its datasets, capabilities and methodology. According to material leaked by Christopher Wylie, the presentation had little to do with “consumers” but instead focused on election disruption techniques. On the strength of this, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the US House intelligence committee, wants Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the committee again and explain how his company came to provide private user information to an academic with links to Russia.

Meanwhile Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, wants Zuckerberg over here to explain whether the Brexit vote was similarly affected and potentially compromised.

That could prove a tad embarrassing to the Prime Minister, because back in 2016, Theresa May was reportedly set to deploy Cambridge Analytica as; “an army of computerised ‘mind-readers’ to help her win the next Election.” Veteran US pollster Frank Luntz said at the time: ‘They have figured out how to win. There are no longer any experts except Cambridge Analytica.’ Mind you, the miscalculated “snap election” suggests there may be serious limitations to polling predictions based on mined data alone.

So has Facebook been careless and sloppy – or worse? Can the company be trusted to act honourably with massive sets of personal data, or not?

If Westminster doesn’t haul Zuckerberg over, individual voters must decide whether to keep using Facebook or quit the world’s most addictive bit of social media until a new, more ethical and transparent platform comes along. Amidst the current international panic, who saw that coming?

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708051.1521449280!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708051.1521449280!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Picture: AP","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: AP","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708051.1521449280!/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/vladimir-putin-sails-to-russia-election-victory-1-4708014","id":"1.4708014","articleHeadline": "Vladimir Putin sails to Russia election victory","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521448402000 ,"articleLead": "

Vladimir Putin has rolled to a crushing re-election victory for six more years as Russia's president.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708013.1521446978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Putin addresses a rally during his election campaign. Picture: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

He told cheering supporters in a triumphant but brief speech that \"we are bound for success\".

The election came amid escalating tensions with the West as Moscow was blamed for the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury.

The incident came as Russian internet trolls were suspected of waging an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 US presidential election.

Britain and Russia last week announced expulsions of diplomats over the spy case and the US issued new sanctions.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond accused of being 'Putin's useful idiot' amid calls to ban RT

In his first public comments on the poisoning, Mr Putin on Sunday referred to the allegations against Russia as \"nonsense\".

Moscow has denounced both cases as efforts to interfere in the Russian election.

But the disputes likely worked in Putin's favour, reinforcing the official stance that the West is infected with \"Russophobia\" and determined to undermine both Putin and traditional Russian values.

There had been no doubt that Mr Putin would win in his fourth electoral contest; he faced seven minor candidates and his most prominent foe was blocked from the ballot.

His only real challenge was to run up the tally so high that he could claim an indisputable mandate.

With ballots from 80% of Russia's precincts counted by early Monday, Mr Putin had amassed 76% of the vote.


Observers and individual voters reported widespread violations including ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the claims are unlikely to dilute the power of Russia's longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin.

As the embodiment of Russia's resurgent power on the world stage, Mr Putin commands immense loyalty among Russians.

More than 30,000 crowded into Manezh Square adjacent to the Kremlin in temperatures of minus 10C (15F) for a victory concert and to await his words.

Mr Putin extolled them for their support - \"I am a member of your team\" - and he promised them that \"we are bound for success\".

Then he left the stage after speaking for less than two minutes, a seemingly perfunctory appearance that encapsulated the election's predictability.

Since he took the helm in Russia on New Year's Eve 1999 after Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation, Mr Putin's electoral power has centred on stability, a quality cherished by Russians after the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union and the \"wild capitalism\" of the Yeltsin years.

But that stability has been bolstered by a suppression of dissent, the withering of independent media and the top-down control of politics called \"managed democracy\".

There were widespread reports of forced voting Sunday, efforts to make Russia appear to be a robust democracy.

Election officials moved quickly to respond to some of the violations.

Overall national turnout was expected to be a little more than 60%, which would be several points below turnout in Mr Putin's electoral wins in 2000, 2004 and 2012.

He did not run in 2008 because of term limits, but was appointed prime minister, a role in which he was widely seen as leader.

Alexei Navalny

Mr Putin's most vehement foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was barred from running because he was convicted of fraud in a case widely regarded as politically motivated.

Mr Navalny and his supporters had called for an election boycott but the extent of its success could not immediately be gauged.

The election took place on the fourth anniversary of the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, one of the most dramatic manifestations of Mr Putin's drive to reassert Russia's power.

Crimea and Russia's subsequent support of separatists in eastern Ukraine led to an array of US and European sanctions that, along with falling oil prices, damaged the Russian economy and slashed the ruble's value by half.

But Mr Putin's popularity remained strong, apparently buttressed by nationalist pride.

In his next six years, Mr Putin is likely to assert Russia's power abroad even more strongly.

Just weeks ago, he announced that Russia has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defences.

The Russian military campaign that bolsters the Syrian government is clearly aimed at strengthening Moscow's foothold in the Middle East, and Russia eagerly eyes any reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula as an economic opportunity.

At home, Mr Putin must face how to groom a successor or devise a strategy to circumvent term limits, how to diversify an economy still dependent on oil and gas, and how to improve medical care and social services in regions far removed from the cosmopolitan glitter of Moscow.

READ MORE: Donald Trump: ‘Putin didn’t meddle in US elections - I asked him’

" ,"byline": {"email": "stephen.emerson@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Stephen Emerson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708013.1521446978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708013.1521446978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Putin addresses a rally during his election campaign. Picture: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Putin addresses a rally during his election campaign. Picture: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708013.1521446978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5750458247001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scots-firms-being-used-to-launder-dirty-money-from-russia-1-4707992","id":"1.4707992","articleHeadline": "Scots firms ‘being used to launder dirty money from Russia’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521410644000 ,"articleLead": "

Prime Minister Theresa May has been warned she must take action over controversial Scottish shell companies used to funnel hundreds of millions of pounds out of former Soviet countries in the wake of the nerve agent attack blamed on Vladimir Putin’s government.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707990.1521410639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ian Blackford appearing on Peston on Sunday. Picture: ITV"} ,"articleBody": "

Prime Minister Theresa May has been warned she must take action over controversial Scottish shell companies used to funnel hundreds of millions of pounds out of former Soviet countries in the wake of the nerve agent attack blamed on Vladimir Putin’s government.

Scottish Limited Partnerships have been condemned as a legal means to facilitate organised crime, money laundering and tax evasion, with thousands set up using ordinary addresses in Scotland through 100-year-old legislation.

READ MORE: Russia researching nerve agents for assassinations, Boris Johnson claims

Demands for financial penalties on Russia in the wake of the Salisbury attack have focused on the so-called Magnitsky Amendment, seeking restrictions on individuals suspected of human rights abuses.

However, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said SLPs could no longer be ignored as scrutiny falls on wealthy Russians sheltering their assets in the UK.

The call came as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faced embarrassment after admitting that he played a game of tennis with the wife of a former Russian minister who donated £160,000 to the Conservatives.

READ MORE: ‘Kremlin trolls target Nicola Sturgeon’ after Russia criticism

Lubov Chernukhin – a long-standing donor – bid for the game at a fundraising auction at a Tory event. The match took place in 2014, when Mr Johnson was mayor of London.

Mr Johnson said yesterday there should not be a “miasma of suspicion on all Russians” and insisted the donation was “not a matter for me”.

In presidential elections yesterday, Mr Putin secured a landslide victory, but turnout fell on 2012 numbers in an election that featured no major opposition candidates.

Mr Blackford has written to the Prime Minister calling on her to bring together party leaders and impose new restrictions on SLPs, which are operated under financial regulations reserved to Westminster.

He told The Scotsman: “Now is the time for the UK government to show that it is serious and finally take the tough action needed.”

One SLP registered in Glasgow was used to transfer £160 million out of Russia last year. A network of 21 SLPs was involved in a billion-dollar fraud that siphoned money worth more than a tenth of Moldova’s GDP from the former Soviet republic’s banks.

While SLPs and most of their users are legal, they have been linked to drug trafficking, child pornography and mercenary organisations operating in the Ukraine.

Mr Blackford said the flow of money “must be stopped”. He said: “The UK government has acted as a roadblock to reforms in recent years. They prevented our attempts to introduce effective Magnitsky legislation, and blocked SNP amendments on tackling the use of SLPs to funnel millions of pounds in dirty money.

“We must take strong and robust action to protect our national security, and tackle these corrupt and criminal activities.”

Asked about the donation from Mrs Chernukhin –now a British citizen whose husband served under Mr Putin as a finance minister until 2004 –Mr Johnson admitted that he had played a tennis match in exchange for the £160,000.

Mrs Chernukhin is also understood to be the donor who paid £20,000 earlier this year to have dinner with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. The dinner has not yet taken place.

Mr Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Unless and until evidence is produced against individual Russians, I do not think the entire nation should be calumnified.

“There are many Russians who have come to this country, made their lives here and contributed magnificently to our culture and our society. They feel threatened … it is very important that we do not allow a miasma of suspicion about all Russians in London.”

He added: “It is quite extraordinary at a time when you have two people lying gravely ill in hospital in Salisbury, when a police officer is still not out of hospital, for the fire somehow to be turned on Conservative Party funding. To the best of my knowledge all possible checks have been made and they will continue to be made.”

Labour said Mr Johnson and the Conservative Party had “serious questions to answer” about donations from sources linked to the Kremlin.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has suggested a package of measures to make up an “oligarch levy”, including new taxes on offshore property purchases and powers to confiscate illegal “unexplained wealth”.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said: “We know the Tories have taken more than £3m in Russian-linked donations since 2010, including £800,000 under Theresa May’s leadership, but we don’t know the nature of all those funds. The Conservative Party can’t remain silent any longer, the public have a right to know what checks if any they made to establish the source of all the wealth amassed by their donors.”

Conservative spokespeople have insisted all donations comply with electoral law.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4707990.1521410639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707990.1521410639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ian Blackford appearing on Peston on Sunday. Picture: ITV","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ian Blackford appearing on Peston on Sunday. Picture: ITV","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4707990.1521410639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5752726847001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/pressure-on-facebook-after-uk-firm-harvests-50m-accounts-1-4707962","id":"1.4707962","articleHeadline": "Pressure on Facebook after UK firm ‘harvests’ 50m accounts","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521406142000 ,"articleLead": "

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is facing calls to appear before MPs amid allegations a British data firm “harvested” 50 million user profiles.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4702575.1521406134!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Around 50 million Facebook accounts are thought to have been hacked. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Whistleblower Chris Wylie, a former research director at Cambridge Analytica, said the firm obtained the mostly American Facebook profiles in 2014 while attempting to build a system which could influence voters.

The data was collected using an app called thisisyourdigitallife, which was built by Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research (GSR).

Following details published in The New York Times and The Observer, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, was yesterday accused of “deliberately misleading” parliament when he appeared before MPs last month.

Damian Collins, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, said it was clear Mr Nix had given “false statements” to MPs.

According to Mr Wylie, Cambridge Analytica, a firm previously linked to former White House strategist Steve Bannon, used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a 
system that could profile 
individual US voters in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

Facebook said that, despite assurances at the time this was discovered in 2015 that the data had been destroyed, the company was informed in recent days that this had not happened.

Mr Collins said Mr Nix had denied to the committee that his company had received any data from GSR, adding: “From the evidence that has been published by The Guardian and The Observer this weekend, it seems clear that he has deliberately misled the committee and parliament by giving false statements.

“We will be contacting Alexander Nix next week asking him to explain his comments and answer further questions relating to the links between GSR and Cambridge Analytica, and its associate companies.”

He added: “I will be writing to Mark Zuckerberg asking that either he, or another senior executive from the company, appear to give evidence in front of the committee as part our inquiry.

“Someone has to take responsibility for this. It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page.”

Facebook said Dr Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, parent company Strategic Communication Laboratories and Mr Wylie’s accounts would all be suspended “pending further information”.

In a response to its suspension, Cambridge Analytica said it fully complied with Facebook’s terms of 

It added: “No data from GSR was used by Cambridge 
Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

“Cambridge Analytica only receives and uses data that has been obtained legally and fairly. Our robust data protection policies comply with US, international, European Union and national regulations.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4702575.1521406134!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4702575.1521406134!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Around 50 million Facebook accounts are thought to have been hacked. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Around 50 million Facebook accounts are thought to have been hacked. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4702575.1521406134!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4707961.1521406138!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707961.1521406138!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Damian Collins urged Mark Zuckenberg to provide answers. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Damian Collins urged Mark Zuckenberg to provide answers. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4707961.1521406138!/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/uk/sergei-skripal-exposed-to-nerve-agent-through-car-vents-reports-1-4707852","id":"1.4707852","articleHeadline": "Sergei Skripal exposed to nerve agent through car vents - reports","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521389212000 ,"articleLead": "

Former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia may have been exposed to a deadly nerve agent through his car’s ventilation system, US media has reported.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4703672.1521389324!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal had been living in Britain since a high-profile spy swap in 2010. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The pair are still fighting for their lives after being exposed to Novichok in Salisbury two weeks ago.

ABC News is reporting that intelligence officials said the nature of the substance, described as “dusty”, is now clear.

READ MORE: ‘Kremlin trolls target Nicola Sturgeon’ after Russia criticism

The US news outlet said UK officials now have a clearer picture of how the attack was carried out and that the Skripals may have been exposed to the substance through his BMW’s ventilation system.

The development comes as counter-terrorism police renewed their appeal for sightings of Mr Skripal’s burgundy BMW 320D saloon car, registration HD09 WAO, in Salisbury on the morning of Sunday March 4.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “We are learning more about Sergei and Yulia’s movements but we need to be clearer around their exact movements on the morning of the incident.”

Scotland Yard would not comment on the ABC News report.

READ MORE: Russia expels 23 British diplomats as stand-off intensifies

ABC also reported that intelligence officials said that up to 38 individuals in Salisbury have been identified as having been affected by the nerve agent, but the full impact is still being assessed, and more victims sickened by the agent are expected to be identified.

This is not the first time the US media has reported updates from intelligence officials about incidents in the UK.

British police temporarily suspended intelligence-sharing with the US in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing last May following a series of leaks to American media.

CBS disclosed the name of the bomber, Salman Abedi, citing US sources, at a time when the British authorities were asking media to withhold the information to protect the investigation.

The New York Times then published detailed photographs taken from the bomb scene which had been taken by British investigators.

Meanwhile, The Sun on Sunday reported that Yulia Skripal’s boyfriend was a Russian secret service agent.

The newspaper also said that Ms Skripal had worked in the US Embassy in Moscow.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4703672.1521389324!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4703672.1521389324!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal had been living in Britain since a high-profile spy swap in 2010. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal had been living in Britain since a high-profile spy swap in 2010. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4703672.1521389324!/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/uk/russia-expels-23-british-diplomats-as-stand-off-intensifies-1-4707499","id":"1.4707499","articleHeadline": "Russia expels 23 British diplomats as stand-off intensifies","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521285710000 ,"articleLead": "

Russia’s government is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707497.1521285705!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, leaves after a meeting at the Russian foreign ministry building in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)"} ,"articleBody": "

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it is also ordering the closure of the British Council in Russia and ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St Petersburg.

It ordered the diplomats to leave within a week.

READ MORE: Leader comment: This is Russia’s weak spot

The statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more “unfriendly” moves toward Russia.

British Prime Minister Theresa May this week expelled 23 Russian diplomats and severed high-level contacts over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

They remain in critical condition in hospital.

Moscow and London have both ordered diplomats to be expelled in the deepening dispute.

READ MORE: Defiant Alex Salmond says “I can say what I like” on Russia Today

Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, spoke on Saturday after Russia ordered 23 British diplomats to leave the country and that the British Council in Russia to be closed.

Britain this week ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave the country, saying that Russia was not co-operating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found poisoned by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia.

“It is possible that (Britain) will continue to respond; we are ready for this. But London must understand that this will not do anything, it is useless to talk with Russia with such methods,” Mr Dzhabarov was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA Novosti.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4707497.1521285705!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707497.1521285705!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, leaves after a meeting at the Russian foreign ministry building in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, leaves after a meeting at the Russian foreign ministry building in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4707497.1521285705!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5752726847001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/nicholas-kristof-dictators-love-trump-and-he-loves-them-right-back-1-4707329","id":"1.4707329","articleHeadline": "Nicholas Kristof: Dictators love Trump and he loves them right back","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521266400000 ,"articleLead": "

Trump has spoken sympathetically about massacre of Chinese pro-democracy protesters and Saddam Hussein’s counter-terrorism policies, and laughed when the Philippine’s Duterte called journalists “spies”, writes Nicolas Kristof.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707328.1521227349!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "All smiles as Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte link hands at the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila (Picture: AFP/Getty)"} ,"articleBody": "

If you’re a murderous dictator, this is a joyous time to be alive.

No one will make much of a fuss if your opposition leader is jailed, if an annoying journalist goes missing or if, as happened in Congo, a judge who displeases the dictatorial president suffers a home invasion in which goons rape his wife and daughter.

As President Donald Trump replaces Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with the more hawkish Mike Pompeo, let’s note something that goes far beyond personnel to the heart of the American role in the world: The U.S. has abandoned a bipartisan consensus on human rights that goes back decades. I’m back from Myanmar, where leaders are finding that this is also the optimal time to commit genocide. The army conducted a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya ethnic minority, with soldiers throwing babies onto bonfires as they raped the mothers. What has Trump said to condemn Myanmar for these atrocities? Essentially nothing.

In the past, human rights was at least one thread of our foreign policy. This was pursued inconsistently, grudgingly or hypocritically, and it jostled constantly with realpolitik considerations, but in the past it was one of the factors in play.

READ MORE: Number 10 condemns Donald Trump for spreading Britain First videos

I periodically assailed Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush for not doing more after atrocities in Syria, Darfur or South Sudan, but both Obama and Bush were clearly anguished and frustrated that they didn’t have better tools to stop the slaughter. In contrast, Trump seems simply indifferent. Trump defended Vladimir Putin for killing critics (“What? You think our country’s so innocent?”), and praised Egypt’s brutal president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, for “a fantastic job.” Trump hailed the Philippines’ president, Rodrigo Duterte, whose dirty war on drugs has claimed 12,000 lives, for an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

Sarah Margon of Human Rights Watch notes in Foreign Affairs that when Trump visited Manila, he laughed as Duterte called reporters “spies” — in a country where aggressive journalism has landed people in the morgue.

“In country after country, the Trump administration is gutting U.S. support for human rights,” Margon writes. So dictators see a clear field: A record number of journalists are in prison worldwide, by the count of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Joel Simon, the organization’s executive director, says Trump has met with the leaders of each of the three top jailers of journalists — China, Russia and Turkey — and as far as we know, has never raised the issue of press freedom with them.

“What’s completely gone is the bipartisan consensus that was a cornerstone of our foreign policy, that if you imprison journalists and restrict the media, there will be consequences,” Simon said. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen approvingly cited Trump’s attacks on fake news as a precedent for closing down radio stations and the much admired newspaper Cambodia Daily. After the crackdown, in November, Trump posed for a photograph with Hun Sen, flashing a thumbs-up — and Hun Sen praised the American president for his lack of interest in human rights.

“Your policy is being changed,” Hun Sen declared gratefully, and he lauded Trump for being “most respectful.”

READ MORE: US Congress asks if Russian cash funded Trump’s golf courses

Trump told the king of repressive Bahrain, “there won’t be strain with this administration.” Nabeel Rajab, a heroic Bahraini who is one of the Arab world’s leading human rights campaigners, says the government responded a few days later by killing five protesters — and, just last month, the government followed up again by sentencing Rajab himself to five years in prison for his tweets. Trump’s soft spot for authoritarianism goes way back. He has spoken sympathetically of the Chinese government’s massacres of pro-democracy protesters in 1989, and of Saddam Hussein’s approach to counterterrorism. Important human rights jobs in the administration aren’t even filled, although some conservatives are rallying support for the appointment of Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute, which would be a good first step.

Periodically, Trump does raise human rights issues, but only to bludgeon enemies like North Korea or Venezuela. This is so ham-handed and hypocritical that it simply diminishes American standing further.

In some respects, Trump has united the world. Against us.

A recent Gallup poll shows that across 134 countries, approval of the United States has collapsed to a record low of 30 percent. Indeed, more people now approve of China than of the United States. Russia is just behind us.

“Trump has been a disaster for U.S. soft power,” says Gary Bass of Princeton University. “He’s so hated around the world that he’s radioactive. So on those rare occasions when he does something about human rights, it only tarnishes the cause.”

This is a tragedy for the United States. But the greatest loss is felt by people who are helpless as loved ones are raped, tortured or murdered. In Myanmar, a young Rohingya man pleaded with me: “Please don’t let us be treated as animals. Please. Please. Don’t break our trust.” What do we tell him?

© 2018 New York Times News Service

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4707328.1521227349!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707328.1521227349!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "All smiles as Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte link hands at the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila (Picture: AFP/Getty)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "All smiles as Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte link hands at the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila (Picture: AFP/Getty)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4707328.1521227349!/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/john-mckendrick-darien-colony-failure-has-lessons-for-russia-stand-off-1-4707323","id":"1.4707323","articleHeadline": "John McKendrick: Darien colony failure has lessons for Russia stand-off","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521266400000 ,"articleLead": "

Scots – not England and King William – were mostly to blame for the disaster that paved the way for the 1707 Act of Union, says John McKendrick.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707322.1521280507!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Darien ships set sail from the Port of Leith in an illustration from William Daniell and Richard Ayton's A Voyage Round Great Britain"} ,"articleBody": "

A bench outside the Maltings in quiet Salisbury was a strange place to reflect on a turning point in Scottish history. Reading the British papers on a rare trip back from the Caribbean, I was struck by the British press’ interest in our beleaguered Prime Minister’s and Foreign Secretary’s attempts to secure diplomatic support for action against the Putin regime. All of a sudden our ‘buccaneering Britain’, ‘open seas’, post-Brexit world has embraced the need for our European, and other, allies to hold our hands, to stand up to thugs from Moscow.

Understanding a wider world and the motivation of our friend and enemies, is, unsurprisingly, an essential aspect of worldly success.

As I researched the failure of the Scottish colonial venture of Darien in the steaming Panamanian jungle, the traditional explanation (blame the English) for this pivotal failure looked simplistic.

Most of us know a little about the Scottish attempt in the late 17th century to form a trading colony in modern-day Panama. William Paterson, that energetic founder of the Bank of England, promoted the “door of the seas and key of the

universe” – a fascinating idea to found a colony to trade goods from Europe to the Americas and onwards to Asia and back.

It could have been impoverished Scotland’s salvation, but as we know it was, in the moment, at least, a disaster, and led to the Act of Union. Received historical wisdom blames the English and King William in particular for Caledonia’s failure.

READ MORE: Was Scotland’s Darien colony doomed to fail?
The English, understandably, did not want a state-backed rival to the East India Company – so strangled efforts to create Patterson’s Company of Scotland in London. More damning, King William had his Governor in Jamaica, Sir William Beetson, publish a proclamation on 9 April 1699, banning all subjects from trading with the new-found Scots colony of Caledonia (note: New Caledonia is part of a different continent). These two facts are high on the Scots’ indictment against the English to account for our own failure.

The reality is, unsurprisingly, more complex. Darien was not aided by the English (why would a rival nation help?) but most of the reasons for Caledonia’s tragic failure can be firmly placed at our own door.

Chief amongst them was our inept survey of late 17th century geopolitics and our lack of allies and diplomatic savviness. At that time, Europe and its possessions in the New World were complex places. Newcomers were required to tread with care. Nobody behind Caledonia worked that out to their own significant, personal cost.

Darien, the ideal trading post, was not, as the un-worldly Scots assumed, unclaimed. In fact, it was very close to the most fundamental beating artery of the Spanish Empire: the Camino Real. This ‘pathway’ brought the huge volume of gold and silver from Spain’s American possessions from the Pacific to modern-day Panama City, and from there across the thin isthmus to the Caribbean, where this robbed wealth was sailed to Cadiz, to prop up the ailing Habsburg pretensions in


READ MORE: The Scots ex-pat who sailed to the failed colony of Darien

New Edinburgh was placed too close to this vital artery. Caledonia could never be allowed to succeed. The Spanish King wrote to his New World commanders saying “to evict them [the Scots] is of the greatest importance to the Monarchy, for it concerns Our Holy Catholic Church, the preservation of Our Kingdom of Peru and Tierra Firma, the stability of the rest of the Indies, the riches and trade within them and not least the reputation and credit of our army and nation”.

He was serious and Spain would stop at nothing to remove the Scots. In the face of this powerful Hispanic mobilisation, the Jamaica Proclamation was neither here nor there. And, of course, while William was king of both England and Scotland, he was also a Dutchman. His foreign policy dictated protecting his homeland from Louis XIV of France. As the ailing Carlos II would soon die childless, William was desperate to stop Louis’ son taking the Spanish throne. William was therefore engaged in a considerable diplomatic battle in Europe and part of this was also played out in the New World.

William could not be seen to support the Company of Scotland, jeopardising his careful diplomatic overtures towards Spain. The Caledonians appreciated very little of this. Without proper allies, their cause was sunk.

So, whilst contemporary Caledonians were happy to place the blame for the collapse of Darien on the English, the real fault lay with their own assessment of geopolitics and the complex world of European alliances. In fact, communications from one Spanish general to another in January 1700, singled out English Admiral Benbow for protecting the Scots from the mighty Spanish Windward fleet. So much then for the Proclamation: a gesture for a Hispanic audience.

Benbow was the admired admiral who battled pirates and, depending upon the political context, the French or the Spanish armadas in the Caribbean. The Spanish military correspondence, which was found in the Panamanian archives, makes clear Benbow used his formidable fleet to protect the Caledonians from a Spanish incursion. Curious then that no contemporary account of the engagements makes mention of such crucial English assistance. In fact, this important role by the English navy has been lost for more than 300 years. The Caledonians needed a bogeyman to help explain away their own failure, who better to blame than their close neighbours?

Benbow lies buried in a cool church in Kingston, Jamaica, cut down aged 52 by the French. He was not the first Englishman to look out for the Scots abroad.

Going it alone in after the UK’s departure from the European Union will require a firm understanding of how and where Britain can push ahead. Buccaneers were pirates who harassed the Spanish main from their Caribbean hideouts – hardly a fitting description for post-Brexit Britain. Our need for alliances and friendship has been brought dramatically into focus this week.

And the Caledonians’ fate demonstrates the dangers of blindly going out alone.

John McKendrick is a QC and the author of Darien: A Journey In Search of Empire. He currently lives in the Caribbean.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "John McKendrick"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4707322.1521280507!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4707322.1521280507!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Darien ships set sail from the Port of Leith in an illustration from William Daniell and Richard Ayton's A Voyage Round Great Britain","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Darien ships set sail from the Port of Leith in an illustration from William Daniell and Richard Ayton's A Voyage Round Great Britain","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4707322.1521280507!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1509472203356"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-urged-to-take-action-over-snp-nec-member-s-role-on-salmond-show-1-4706619","id":"1.4706619","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon urged to take action over SNP NEC member’s role on Salmond show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521204975000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of turning a blind eye to a “direct funnel of money and influence” from the Kremlin into the SNP amid growing controversy over Alex Salmond’s contentious show on state-funded broadcaster Russia Today (RT).

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706684.1521204969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh works alongside Alex Salmond on Russia Today (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)."} ,"articleBody": "

Opposition parties have demanded action over the position of former MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh on the SNP national executive committee at the same time as she produces and co-presents the Alex Salmond Show on RT.

READ MORE: Defiant Alex Salmond says “I can say what I like” on Russia Today

Senior SNP figures voiced their disquiet after Mr Salmond defiantly rejected calls to end his association with the Russian broadcaster in the wake of the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, telling his critics: “I say what I want.”

RT, branded a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin’s government, has questioned Theresa May’s claim that Moscow is “culpable” for the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

One SNP MP told The Scotsman that party members had the right to feel “resentful” over the way the former first minister has undermined Ms Sturgeon’s response to the Salisbury attack.

In a swipe at party colleagues who have appeared on RT, such as MP Douglas Chapman and MSP James Dornan, they added: “No serious politicians appear on RT. That should tell you something.”

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh is an elected office-holder of the SNP, serving as national women’s and equalities convener, a position that gives her a place on the party’s ruling body.

Ms Sturgeon was accused of hypocrisy after she used First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood to attack Ruth Davidson over donations to the Conservative Party from wealthy Russian nationals.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “The SNP might like to manufacture outrage about donations from people who happen to be Russian. Yet at the same time a key decision-maker on their NEC is directly employed by Russia’s state broadcaster.

“That’s a direct funnel of money and influence going from the Kremlin straight into the SNP.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The Tories accepted £20,000 from a Vladimir Putin crony to dine with Ruth Davidson – the hypocrisy is breathtaking.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has lodged a motion at Holyrood calling on all groups and individuals in public life “end any commercial relationships with Russian state-backed media outlets”.

“Nicola Sturgeon has rightly warned that Russia’s actions cannot be tolerated,” Mr Cole-Hamilton said.

“She and the wider public will doubtless be concerned that a conflict exists between Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh’s role as a member of the SNP national executive and her paid commerical relationship with RT.

“The SNP should consider whether this is appropriate for a member of their governing body.”

Yesterday former SNP candidate Gordon Guthrie called on Mr Salmond to quit RT, writing in an open letter posted online: “In the name of your legacy, and your reputation, you need to shift to the right side of that line.”

Answering the mounting pressure to quit RT, Mr Salmond said there was not “conclusive evidence” the Russian state was behind the poisoning.

On yesterday’s edition of his show, he said the Salisbury poisoning was a “heinous crime” that should be “universally condemned”, but expressed sympathy with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that more evidence was required to link the attack to Russia.

Mr Salmond said: “To succeed, the evidence has to be overwhelming and the case cast iron – as the leader of the opposition correctly pointed out to the PM.

“He didn’t get much support for making that point in the House of Commons but that doesn’t make him wrong.”

He added: “I host this independently-produced television show, which is broadcast on RT International.

“Within the broadcasting laws that normally pertain to this country, I can say what I like about any issue and so can any one of my interviewed guests. Not a single one of them has complained about being silenced because not a single one of them has been.

“I hold no brief from the Kremlin, nor am I required to have. No-one has tried to influence the content of this show in any way, shape or form whatsoever.”

Mr Salmond said RT could not be a “propaganda station” because it is regulated by Ofcom.

The watchdog has said that it will carry out an urgent review of whether RT is fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence in light of the accusations against Russia.

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said calls to ban RT were neither “liberal” nor “democratic”. When faced with calls for Ms Sturgeon to condemn Mr Salmond’s link to RT, the spokesman would go no further than referring back to remarks made by the First Minister when it first became known that Mr Salmond was hosting a show on RT.

At the time, Ms Sturgeon said she would have advised Mr Salmond against appearing on the channel.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis and Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706684.1521204969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706684.1521204969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh works alongside Alex Salmond on Russia Today (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh works alongside Alex Salmond on Russia Today (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706684.1521204969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706618.1521151749!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706618.1521151749!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond on Russia Today.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond on Russia Today.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706618.1521151749!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5752726847001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ {"gallery": {"id":"1.4706212","galleryImages":[ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706193.1521118500!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706193.1521118500!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond addressing the SSE Hydro on Nicola Sturgeon's tour in late 2014.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond addressing the SSE Hydro on Nicola Sturgeon's tour in late 2014.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706193.1521118500!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706194.1521118502!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706194.1521118502!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Opening a new stable complex at Musselburgh Racecourse in 2010.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Opening a new stable complex at Musselburgh Racecourse in 2010.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706194.1521118502!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706195.1521118504!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706195.1521118504!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Salmond with Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar, at The Scotsman Debate in 1999.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Salmond with Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar, at The Scotsman Debate in 1999.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706195.1521118504!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706196.1521118506!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706196.1521118506!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Appearing on the set of his show for Russia Today.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Appearing on the set of his show for Russia Today.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706196.1521118506!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706197.1521118509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706197.1521118509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "At the launch of his autiobiography in 2015.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "At the launch of his autiobiography in 2015.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706197.1521118509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706198.1521118510!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706198.1521118510!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "On the campaign trail at Stirling University in 1999.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "On the campaign trail at Stirling University in 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Westminster after the 2015 General Election - seen here venting his fury at House of Commons Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "He returned to Westminster after the 2015 General Election - seen here venting his fury at House of Commons Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706200.1521118512!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706201.1521118514!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706201.1521118514!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Laughing in Scottish Parliament in 2006.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Laughing in Scottish Parliament in 2006.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706201.1521118514!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706202.1521118515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706202.1521118515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "On stage prior to his Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, 'Alex Salmond: Unleashed'.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "On stage prior to his Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, 'Alex Salmond: Unleashed'.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706202.1521118515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706203.1521118517!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706203.1521118517!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "On the road again, the stress of campaigning.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "On the road again, the stress of campaigning.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706203.1521118517!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706204.1521118518!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706204.1521118518!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Pictured in front of the Forth Rail Bridge, one of the Seven Wonders of Scotland.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pictured in front of the Forth Rail Bridge, one of the Seven Wonders of Scotland.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706204.1521118518!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706206.1521118520!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706206.1521118520!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon launch their SNP election manifesto in the mid-00s.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon launch their SNP election manifesto in the mid-00s.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706206.1521118520!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706207.1521118521!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706207.1521118521!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Standing down as First Minister after the Scottish independence referendum.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Standing down as First Minister after the Scottish independence referendum.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706207.1521118521!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706209.1521118523!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706209.1521118523!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Scottish Conservatives take a shot at the SNP leader.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Scottish Conservatives take a shot at the SNP leader.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706209.1521118523!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706210.1521118525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706210.1521118525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Working on the Yes campaign with SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon in 2012.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Working on the Yes campaign with SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon in 2012.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706210.1521118525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706211.1521118527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706211.1521118527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "With his father Robert Salmond watching cricket at the Grange.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "With his father Robert Salmond watching cricket at the Grange.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706211.1521118527!/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/world/finland-named-happiest-place-in-the-world-as-uk-just-makes-top-20-1-4706361","id":"1.4706361","articleHeadline": "Finland named happiest place in the world as UK just makes top 20","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521125919000 ,"articleLead": "

Finland may boast long, dark winters like Scotland, but that hasn’t stopped it being named the happiest place in the world.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706360.1521125914!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finland is the happiest place in the world."} ,"articleBody": "

The Scandinavian nation knocked Norway from top spot in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report.

The UK remained ranked in 19th spot – just one behind the United States, which slipped four places compared to last year.

Burundi was the least happy, taking over from the Central African Republic.

A total of 156 countries were ranked by their happiness levels.

The World Happiness Report measures “subjective well-being” – how happy people feel they are and why.

The annual report published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network also evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants for the first time.

Nordic countries regularly appear in the top five, while war-hit countries and a number in sub-Saharan Africa regularly appear in the bottom five.

Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland were the other countries in the top five.

Togo was the year’s greatest climber, rising 17 places, while the biggest loser was Venezuela, which plummeted 20 places to 102nd spot.

The Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia rounded out the top ten.

READ MORE: Bill Jamieson: Why the Maybot could steer us through the global storm

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706360.1521125914!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706360.1521125914!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Finland is the happiest place in the world.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finland is the happiest place in the world.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706360.1521125914!/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/nicola-sturgeon-says-scotland-ready-for-chemical-weapons-attack-1-4706176","id":"1.4706176","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland ready for chemical weapons attack","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521118467000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has declared Scotland ready to deal with a future chemical weapons incident in the aftermath of the Salisbury attack.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706175.1521117685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Daniel Leal"} ,"articleBody": "

The SNP leader branded the nerve attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal a “gravely serious issue” at First Ministers Questions today, but said emergency services were prepared for a similar incident on the streets of Scotland.

The First Minister said: “Scotland’s preparedness to successfully respond to attacks of this nature - chemical biological, radiological attacks - have been developed over a number of years.

“In relation to the type of incident encountered in Salisbury, our excellent emergency services would be in a position to respond to the initial incident.

“But again as this investigation progesses and as more information comes to light, we will continue to discuss these matters with our emergency services, involving of course our resilience arrangements more generally, to make sure that they have the capability and the resources that is required.”

Ms Sturgeon discussed the issue with Prime Minister Theresa May during talks in London yesterday, along with the national Security Advisor.

READ MORE: Defiant Alex Salmond says “I can say what I like” on Russia Today

Ms Sturgeon also indicated that the Scottish authorities could play a role in stripping UK-based Russian oligarch of their assets and called for ongoing “dialogue and discussion.”

There have been claims that shell organisations registered north of the border as Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLP) have been linked to money laundering and corrupt wealth.

She added: “If it is the case that further action is proposed in future, for example action that may include asset recovery of sanctions, then whereas that is the responsibility of the National Crime Agency in other parts of the UK, in Scotland, of course, it is the responsibility of Police Scotland and the Crown Office and the civil recovery unit in particular.

“So it is important that there is ongoing discussion and dialogue on these matters as well.

“Perhaps if there is any criticism to be made of the behaviour in the past of the UK, it’s perhaps that there has not been a stronger response in the past in terms of the influence of Russian money.

“These matters all require to be looked at very very carefully.”

READ MORE: Russia will expel British diplomats ‘soon’

Ms Sturgeon’s assertions came as Britain’s defence secretary said Russia should “go away and should shut up” as Britain prepares for retaliation from Moscow over its response to the Salisbury attack.

Gavin Williamson said relations with Russia were in an “exceptionally chilly” period and called for the whole country to unite behind Mrs May.

It comes as the Prime Minister visited Salisbury to speak to emergency services, members of the public and local businesses.

She will also receive a briefing from Public Health England.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee in London to discuss the latest situation.

And Environment Secretary Michael Gove led a cross-governmental ministerial recovery group looking at support to go to the people and city of Salisbury in the aftermath of the incident.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned Moscow would expel British diplomats “soon” after Mrs May announced the biggest expulsion of Russian embassy staff since the Cold War.

During a visit to Bristol, Mr Williamson said: “It is absolutely atrocious and outrageous what Russia did in Salisbury. We have responded to that.

“Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up.”

Mr Williamson described Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s response as “disappointing”.

READ MORE: Mark McDonald collects £7,000 pay-off after quitting Scottish Government

France publicly backed the Prime Minister’s assessment that Russia was culpable for the attack and said it stands in solidarity with the UK.

Mrs May and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone at 7:30am to discuss the latest developments in the case.

The talks came after reports of a lukewarm response from the French government, but Paris later issued a statement saying there was “no other plausible explanation” for the poisoning.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson confirmed the UK would submit a sample of the nerve agent to the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for it to carry out its own tests.

The US threw its diplomatic weight behind the UK, saying it “stands in solidarity with its closest ally”.

Mr Johnson said the UK’s response means Russia’s intelligence capabilities in the country had been “basically eviscerated” for decades.

He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to send a message to any defecting Russians that “you’re going to die”.

Announcing sanctions in the House of Commons, the PM said the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia amounted to “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

Mrs May announced the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia, including a boycott of this summer’s World Cup by Government ministers and members of the royal family.

She said Russian state assets will be frozen “wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents”.

Twenty-three Russian diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence officers have been given a week to leave the UK, in the largest mass expulsion since 31 were ordered out in 1985 following the defection of double agent Oleg Gordievsky.

Mr Corbyn drew criticism for his stance on the Salisbury incident after his spokesman said the history of the use of information from UK intelligence agencies is “problematic” and refused to say that the Labour leader accepted the Russian state was at fault.

The spokesman’s comments prompted Labour backbencher John Woodcock to table an Early Day Motion “unequivocally” accepting the “Russian state’s culpability” for the attack, and supporting “fully” the statement made by Mrs May in the Commons.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706175.1521117685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706175.1521117685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Daniel Leal","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Daniel Leal","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706175.1521117685!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5750315203001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/defiant-alex-salmond-says-i-can-say-what-i-like-on-russia-today-1-4705933","id":"1.4705933","articleHeadline": "Defiant Alex Salmond says “I can say what I like” on Russia Today","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521111683000 ,"articleLead": "

A defiant Alex Salmond has declared he can “say what I like” on Russia Today (RT), claiming any move to shut down his television show would make a “mockery of freedom of speech”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705932.1521103508!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The former Scottish First Minister said no guests invited on his show aired on the Kremlin-backed broadcaster had been “silenced”.

He also denied operating to any brief or directive from the Kremlin.

The determined stance was issued with The Alex Salmond Show under investigation by UK broadcaster Ofcom.

Ofcom had warned on Tuesday RT could lose its right to broadcast in Britain if it failed a so-called “fit and proper” test.

READ MORE: Tom Peterkin: Why Alex Salmond must now quit Russia Today show

Russia’s foreign ministry has warned British media will be expelled if the UK shuts down RT.

Speaking at the end of this morning’s episode, Mr Salmond stressed his show was “independently produced” amid calls for the programme to be banned from British airwaves.

“I host this independently produced television show, which is broadcast on RT International,” he said.

“Within the broadcasting laws that normally pertain to this country, I can say what I like about any issue and so can any one of my interviewed guests.

“We have included current heads of state and government, past Prime Ministers and presidents, MPs from different parties, baronesses, lords and knights of the realm.

“Not a single one of them has complained about being silenced because not a single one of them has been.

“I hold no brief from the Kremlin, nor am I required to have.

“No-one has tried to influence the content of this show in any way, shape or form whatsoever.

“By definition RT has not been a propaganda station because it is regulated under a UK licence by Ofcom.

“Yes, it’s had breaches of the Ofcom code, but so have Sky, ITV and BBC. For some however, independent regulation is not enough.

“Newspapers who objected to even the mildest of statutory regulation of their own industry now think that independent regulation is somehow inadequate for broadcasting and should be replaced by effective state censorship.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had previously made clear her dislike of RT – and then questioned if her Tory rival had spoken out against Russian donations to UK political parties.

But she also stressed the “bigger issues” raised by the Salisbury attack, describing it as a “gravely serious incident”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “What happened in Salisbury is a matter of very serious national security. It has very grave implications.

“These are the issues I think we should be focused on. That is why I gave support to the Prime Minister for the initial actions she has taken.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell called for Mr Salmond to “reconsider his position” over his programme’s connections to RT.

“I think Mr Salmond really ought to reconsider his position,” he said.

“I just think whatever the rights or wrongs are, the fact that he’s associated with a broacasting outlet, which is very largely believed to be under the control of the Russian Government at this particular moment, may be thought to be by many people, to put it mildly, unfortunate.”

Mr Salmond’s comments come with British Prime Minister Theresa May announcing yesterday that 23 UK diplomats were being expelled from the UK as part of the Government’s “full and robust response” to the “barbaric” poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The former First Minister added: “Don’t shut down TV stations because you’re standpoint is so uncertain that you must exclude other perspectives.

“Between Monday and yesterday, the Prime Minister sensibly drew back from that proposal, but nor should this be attempted by pressure on an independent regulator.

“To censure would make a travesty of the concept of nations speaking unto nations, a mockery of freedom of speech and it would portray an image of a country lost in self doubt.

“It would also strike a fatal barrier.

“Liberal democracies don’t succeed in international confrontations by sacrificing their dearest held values of freedom of speech. Until next week – I hope – goodbye for now.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon backs Theresa May as Russian diplomats expelled

Mrs May said Russia was guilty of “an unlawful use of force” against the UK and it was time to “send a clear message” to Vladimir Putin.

But Mr Salmond issued a warning to the UK Government, hinting Mrs May had gone a step too far in blaming the Russian state for the Salisbury poisoning attack without “conclusive” evidence.

“The chemical poisoning in Salisbury was a heinous crime and should be universally condemned,” Mr Salmond said.

“The best way to deal with crime is to take the suspects when identified thought the courts, domestic and international.

“The UK government is totally convinced that the Russian state is involved and are therefore entitled to take a range of additional measures, diplomatic and economic.

“Of course, it’s much more effective to operate in concert with friends and allies.

“To succeed the evidence has to be overwhelming and the case cast iron as the leader of the Opposition correctly pointed out to the Prime Minister.

“He didn’t get much support for making that point in the House of Commons, but that does not make him wrong.

“Pursuing the case internationally is essential and you’re unlikely to succeed at the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons or at the United Nations without the production of such conclusive evidence.

“When the UK Government produces their evidence then the Russian Government will have no alternative but to answer.”

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill: UK’s Brexit strategy means it’s alone against Russia

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705932.1521103508!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705932.1521103508!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705932.1521103508!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5750315203001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/russia-will-expel-british-diplomats-soon-1-4706016","id":"1.4706016","articleHeadline": "Russia will expel British diplomats ‘soon’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521110386000 ,"articleLead": "

Russia’s foreign minister has declared the country will expel British diplomats “soon” as it moves to match the UK’s aggressive stance.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706015.1521110383!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov"} ,"articleBody": "

Sergei Lavrov told Russian media the expulsions would “definitely” happen.

The announcement follows suit with the UK, with Prime Minister Theresa May having confirmed yesterday that 23 Russian envoys would be made to leave Britain within a week.

Mrs May also revoked an invitation to Russia’s foreign minister and said the Royal family would not attend the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this year.

The UK took its action after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy and his daughter in Salisbury.

Moscow has denied any responsibility.

The allegations by Mrs May have been labelled “insane” by Russia’s foreign ministry.

When asked when the expulsions would happen, Mr Lavrov was quoted as saying: “Absolutely. Soon. I promise you that.”

He reportedly referred to the UK allegations against Russia as “absolutely boorish”.

Mr Lavrov has linked Britain’s reaction to the spy poisoning affair to Brexit.

He said the UK’s approach to the matter was partly prompted by the Government’s problems over negotiating its way out of the European Union.

READ MORE: Defiant Alex Salmond says “I can say what I like” on Russia Today

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4706015.1521110383!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4706015.1521110383!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4706015.1521110383!/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/tom-peterkin-why-alex-salmond-must-now-quit-russia-today-show-1-4705858","id":"1.4705858","articleHeadline": "Tom Peterkin: Why Alex Salmond must now quit Russia Today show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521102365000 ,"articleLead": "

Amid mounting tensions between the UK and Russia, former SNP leader Alex Salmond should axe his RT show, writes Tom Peterkin.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705857.1521102362!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former First Minister Alex Salmond Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

It is time for a confession. Some time ago I made the mistake of appearing as a political pundit on RT, the Kremlin-backed broadcaster.

A journalist from RT, formerly Russia Today, rang up and asked me if I’d care to comment on the impact that Brexit would have on the SNP’s drive for Scottish independence.

READ MORE: Defiant Alex Salmond says “I can say what I like on Russia Today

I told the journalist I was extremely busy writing stuff for the paper (I was … believe it or not) and would struggle to find the time.

Not to worry, he said. It would only take a couple of minutes and he would come to me. Before I knew where I was and without thinking through what I was doing, I found myself outside the Scottish Parliament doing my best to answer questions on the complexities of the EU withdrawal bill.

As I rushed back to my Holyrood office, it dawned on me that the moment or two I had spent appearing on RT was perhaps not the most sensible act of my career.

Through a mixture of misjudgement and naivety I had left myself open to accusations that I had become a pawn of Putin or one of Lenin’s “useful idiots” – guilty of legitimising a Russian propaganda outlet.

As I settled down at my keyboard and got on with the day job, I consoled myself that if I was a pawn or an idiot, I was – in the grand scheme of things – a rather insignificant one.

Surely the unpaid appearance of a rather shabby middle-aged Scottish journalist on RT was unlikely to make anyone sit up and take notice.

READ MORE: Russia warns UK: ‘No one should threaten a nuclear power’

Nevertheless I cursed my naivety and silently vowed to reject RT’s advances if they were to come my way again.

Adding to my irritation was the fact that I had gone on RT despite having written an article that pointed out that it distributed pro-Putin propaganda.

My article had also described criticism directed against a prominent politician for using the channel to attack UK mainstream media and BBC “propaganda”.

The politician in question was Alex Salmond, who appeared to have undergone an irony bypass when he appeared on RT. Back then the former SNP leader was promoting his 2014 referendum diary “The Dream Will Never Die”. This was long before he became one of RT’s highest profile presenters.

Between then and now I had cause to reflect on my RT appearance as I reported on the Kremlin-backed Sputnik news agency opening an office in Edinburgh amid suggestions it had done so to destabilise the UK.

And then, of course, there was Mr Salmond’s hugely controversial decision to cement his relationship with RT by hosting a current affairs show on it.

By no means can Mr Salmond be cast as an insignificant pawn. As a highly experienced politician with a consuming interest in world affairs, he must have known exactly what he was doing when he took the Russian Rouble.

READ MORE: Leader comment: Russia is creating a new Cold War

As has been well documented, Mr Salmond’s choice of broadcaster for “The Alex Salmond Show” has not gone down well with his colleagues.

Nicola Sturgeon said she would have advised her predecessor against furthering his broadcasting career on RT – a form of words that when put into political context expressed a great deal of displeasure.

The SNP MEP Alyn Smith was more blunt. “What the f*** is he thinking?” exclaimed Mr Smith when told about his former boss’s career move. Meanwhile his critics made the point that when it came to talk of pawns and idiots, securing the services of a politician of Mr Salmond’s status was of considerable usefulness to RT.

The weekly RT screening of The Alex Salmond Show has looked increasingly incongruous as tensions between the UK and Russia have escalated in the most distressing circumstances.

Last week the show failed to mention the big news story of the week – the attempted murder with a Moscow-made military nerve agent of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

By any normal journalistic standards, it was an extraordinary omission. Facing a growing clamour to cut his ties with RT, Mr Salmond has suggested this remarkable oversight will be corrected when his programme is screened today.

“I shall be addressing the developing crisis on Thursday, so watch the show to find out what I think,” Mr Salmond said this week, encouraging viewers to tune into the controversial RT channel.

In the current climate, anything short of ending his relationship with RT will fail to extricate him from this row, which has done so much damage to his reputation.

In the past, Mr Salmond has argued that his programme is independently produced and broadcast on a station which is licensed by OfCom, the UK’s broadcast watchdog. But maintaining that argument looks increasingly difficult with Ofcom investigating whether RT is “fit and proper” to hold a licence.

Even if Mr Salmond uses his RT platform to condemn the Salisbury attack and unequivocally condemn Putin’s murderous regime, his reputation is still tarred by appearing on the channel.

It can be argued that a Salmond denunciation of Putin would suit RT in that it would enable the broadcaster to argue that it does tolerate dissent at the same time as it continues to push a pro-Putin message. The bottom line is that it is Mr Salmond’s association with RT that serves to legitimise the Kremlin-backed broadcaster.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705857.1521102362!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705857.1521102362!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former First Minister Alex Salmond Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former First Minister Alex Salmond Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705857.1521102362!/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/kenny-macaskill-uk-s-brexit-strategy-means-it-s-alone-against-russia-1-4705915","id":"1.4705915","articleHeadline": "Kenny MacAskill: UK’s Brexit strategy means it’s alone against Russia","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521098534000 ,"articleLead": "

No Government can allow violence to be perpetrated upon its soil and most certainly not by another country’s forces, as a state has no greater duty than to keep its citizens safe. For that reason alone, the Prime Minister had to speak out about the attack upon Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705914.1521098530!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May would be better having closer integration with our natural allies, not farflung mythical mates"} ,"articleBody": "

Theresa May was also right that the evidence does point towards Russian involvement, though the case isn’t conclusive. Past actions, the modus operandi and even the nerve agent used make it look like the work of a state agency. So, maybe not proof beyond reasonable doubt but it certainly casts a huge shadow of suspicion.

Where I take issue with her is how she’s acted on Brexit and where that leaves Britain’s ability to act.

For there to be effective actions over the Salisbury incident and more widely to curtail Russian actions elsewhere, international co-operation’s required. Yet, on that front, she and her Brexiteer colleagues have played right into Russian hands. When solidarity is required she has undermined it, deserting the organisation best placed to face down Russia, side-lining allies and pursuing false friends.

For sure, expelling some diplomats and restricting international engagement with Russia sends a message of reproach. But, it was ever thus through the Cold War and it’ll hardly make a dent in the Russian machine, whilst having the Royal Family and Ministers boycott the World Cup is frankly laughable.

Sanctions on Russian oligarchs and others who are in the UK and have invested much of their ill-gotten gains here are long overdue. There’s been far too close a relationship between many senior Tories and some of these people. Questions are rightly being asked about substantial donations from dubious sources.

READ MORE: Russia warns UK: ‘No one should threaten a nuclear power’

But, beyond that, actions to freeze or confiscate assets will be limited. There are legal restrictions on what can be done, and more importantly, the reason that many people, not just Russians, are in London and the UK is they can hide and move their money pretty freely. Transparency International and other nations have long complained of London, never mind British dependencies, being the source of financial obfuscation to put it mildly.

If it’s being applied to Russians, what about other nationalities where a few oligarchs and their super rich also use London, the British Virgin Islands or wherever to launder their cash? The UK has been far to free and easy in welcoming investment. But, with Brexit looming, that was what many sought – a global trading entrepot welcoming cash from everywhere and asking few questions. They’re unlikely to roll back on that.

There’s still the possibility of closing down RT which would be popular with some, but so what? Many can’t even get it, let alone want to watch it. It might also result in a retaliatory closing down of the BBC Russian service, problematic for efforts to sustain wider democratic society there.

For Russia is far from benign under Putin as not just individuals in the UK have discovered to their cost, but entire countries and even her own citizens. Georgia may have been foolish in its provocation of the Russian Bear but it paid a heavy price when the tanks rolled in.

READ MORE: Leader comment: Russia is creating a new Cold War

Ukraine has seen the Crimea annexed and parts of its eastern border lands fall under Russian control. Moldova and Georgia have seen similar territorial loss with what to all intents and purposes are Russian client states established. They may have Russian minorities or even majorities in parts but annexation by force is illegal under international law and many are frankly almost bandit states.

The Baltic states have likewise seen Russian minorities stirred up, threats made to democratic nations and even cyber-attacks perpetrated upon them. As a consequence of all that international sanctions have been applied to Russia but despite that Putin and the regime survive.

Russia has financial challenges despite huge natural wealth, and faces marked population decline. But, it remains a country prepared to endure hardship, even at great suffering to its people to achieve its aims, and it’s been ever thus from the days of the Mongol hordes, through Napoleon to Nazi Germany. International solidarity is what’s required and there May’s been found wanting. The organisation best placed to deal with it is the EU, yet not only is she seeking to exit it but she’s been alienating almost every major leader within it.

Her Brexiteer zealots have argued it was Nato that kept the peace in Europea after the Second World War and in that they have a point, given establishment dates and military power. But, future security and a long-term solution is more likely to be provided by a closer working of the EU than through Nato, which has lost its way over recent years.

Formed to keep the USA involved in Europe as a bulwark to the USSR, it has seen America firstly pivot towards Asia and then became about getting other nations’ “boots on the ground” involved in American ventures. Trump has also undermined it with caustic comments about other member nations.

So, whilst it might be Nato troops that provide immediate defence, the long-term solution is through closer European integration. Rather than pursuing trade deals with Singapore or Saudi Arabia, the UK should have been showing greater solidarity with the Ukraine and closer integration with the Baltics.

An offer of solidarity from Trump is as empty as his commitment to a free trade deal. For him, it’s about America First not a safer Europe, never mind his courting of Putin. Europe is threatened not just militarily but economically by Russia through supplies of natural gas.

Working together for common solutions both to protect borders and identify new resources is essential. May now seeks support from those she’s treated with disdain and undermined.

She’s swapped our natural allies to pursue mythical relationships and now we face the consequences. For it’s a common interest in our shared European home that best fends of the Great Bear.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Kenny MacAskill"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705914.1521098530!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705914.1521098530!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Theresa May would be better having closer integration with our natural allies, not farflung mythical mates","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May would be better having closer integration with our natural allies, not farflung mythical mates","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705914.1521098530!/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/nicola-sturgeon-backs-theresa-may-as-russian-diplomats-expelled-1-4705368","id":"1.4705368","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon backs Theresa May as Russian diplomats expelled","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521095478000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has won praise for the SNP after backing Theresa May’s tough response towards Russia over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4704446.1521051044!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: John Linton/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister insisted that “Russia’s actions cannot be tolerated”, in stark contrast to the response from Jeremy Corbyn, who was jeered and accused of “appeasement” for refusing to accept Russia’s responsibility.

Britain is braced for retaliation from Russia after the Prime Minister said she was expelling 23 spies from the UK, declaring that Moscow was “culpable” for a chemical weapons attack on UK soil.

Mrs May announced the biggest such mass expulsion since the Cold War and suspended high-level contact with Russia over the poisoning of a double agent in Salisbury with a deadly nerve agent. Russian diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence operatives have been given a week to leave the UK, and no Royals or ministers will attend the football World Cup in Russia this summer.

The Russian government ignored a UK ultimatum to explain by midnight on Tuesday its involvement in the poisoning of Russian double agent ­Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on 4 March. Both victims and a police officer who came to their aid remain in a serious condition in hospital.

READ MORE: MI5 set to probe claims of Russian link to Scot’s death
Mrs May told MPs that the government would take immediate action to “dismantle the Russian espionage ­network in the UK” and impose new sanctions on foreign agents who pose a threat to Britain.

The move is expected to provoke a tit-for-tat response from Moscow, with a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman condemning the UK as “fully-fledged liars” and promising “fitting … symmetrical measures that are completely appropriate for the situation”.

Last night the UN Security Council was set to meet in an effort to agree an international response to the UK’s accusation that Russia committed an “unlawful use of force” – although Russia’s veto is 
likely to block any significant action.

Speaking after face-to-face Downing Street talks with the Prime Minister on Brexit, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish and UK governments were “united in our condemnation of Russia’s actions”.

“I expressed my support for the initial steps that the Prime Minister has outlined in the Commons this afternoon,” she said.

“As legislation is brought forward, we will scrutinise that carefully, but it’s very clear that Russia cannot be permitted to unlawfully attempt to kill on the streets of the UK with impunity.”

Responding to the Prime Minister’s Commons statement, the SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said “there has to be a robust response to the use of terror on our streets”.

But there was anger at the Labour leader, who called for multilateral action in response and said it was a matter of “huge regret” that the UK’s diplomatic network had been cut by 25 per cent in the past five years.

Conservative MPs shouted “shame” throughout Mr Corbyn’s statement, and gestured at the Labour leader as Mr Blackford offered the government the SNP’s support.

The Prime Minister was told by Labour MP John Woodcock that a “clear majority” on the Opposition benches backed her stance on Russia, not their leader’s.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman was later condemned by the Prime Minister after he questioned the reliability of information from Britain’s spy agencies.

Seumas Milne indicated that the Labour leadership does not yet believe there is enough evidence to blame Russia, and suggested the “problematic” history of the intelligence services left open the possibility of Moscow being framed.

Mr May condemned the comments as “shocking” and “outrageous” after a Conservative MP raised them in the Commons chamber.

Addressing MPs, the Prime Minister said: “It was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation, but their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events.

“They have provided no ­credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent. 

“No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law. Instead they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”The Prime Minister added: “There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter - and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. 

“This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.”

In addition to the expulsions and the suspension of high-level bilateral contact, Mrs May said new measures will extend powers to stop foreign agents at the border who deemed to be a risk to the UK. Existing powers only apply to terrorist suspects.

The Prime Minister signalled that the government will accept calls for the UK to adopt measures contained in the US Magnitsky Act, which will create new powers to crack down on the travel and assets of Russians accused of human rights abuses.Setting out her efforts to build international support for the UK’s stance, Mrs May told MPs: “In the last twenty-four hours I have spoken to President Trump, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron. 
“We have agreed to co-operate closely in responding to this barbaric act and to co-ordinate our efforts to stand up for the rules based international order which Russia seeks to undermine. 
“I will also speak to other allies and partners in the coming days, and I welcome the strong expressions of support from NATO and from partners across the European Union and beyond.”

The Prime Minister said the UK had notified the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons about the use of the nerve agent, and that officials were “working with the police to enable the OPCW to independently verify our analysis.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4704446.1521051044!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4704446.1521051044!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: John Linton/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: John Linton/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4704446.1521051044!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705367.1521032245!/image/image.jpeg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpeg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705367.1521032245!/image/image.jpeg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpeg","alt": "Russian President Vladimir Putin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Russian President Vladimir Putin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705367.1521032245!/image/image.jpeg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpeg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5750315203001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/leader-comment-hawking-was-an-inspirational-scientist-and-human-being-1-4705860","id":"1.4705860","articleHeadline": "Leader comment: Hawking was an inspirational scientist and human being","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521093600000 ,"articleLead": "

Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist achieved such global fame. Professor Stephen Hawking made profound contributions to our understanding of the universe, discoveries that will remain important for centuries to come, according to his contemporaries.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705859.1521057192!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity during a flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. "It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," he said."} ,"articleBody": "

Commenting on his death, Lord Martin Rees, a Royal Society ex-president who studied with Hawking at Cambridge, said: “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen out insights into gravity, space and time.” In any discussion of his life, his brilliance as a scientist should always come first.

READ MORE: ‘An extraordinary man’: Professor Stephen Hawking dies
But Hawking was also much more than a physicist – he was an inspiration to the world. Few people will ever face such adversity as he did. Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, he said his “expectations were reduced to zero”. At that time, it was a death sentence, he was not expected to survive beyond a few years. One thing to make clear is that he did become depressed. He was not some kind of superhero who could simply brush off such a monumental setback and he responded as any of us would. In that display of ‘ordinariness’, this extraordinary person demonstrated there is always hope even in the direst of situations. And that is something which should give comfort to anyone experiencing the worst of times whether from disease, grief or other seemingly insurmountable tragedy. Speaking about assisted suicide, Hawking once said he agreed “the victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants”, but added: “I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

READ MORE: 12 of Professor Stephen Hawking’s most memorable quotes

Unlike many scientists, he was unafraid to be political. Trump was a “demagogue”; Brexit was a mistake because “gone are the days we could stand on our own against the world”; and the NHS was a life-saver. Only in January, he joined campaigners against NHS privatisation in taking Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to court.

But while he could be serious, he also had a sense of humour. He was not afraid to be the butt of the joke on TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, he because a Simpsons cartoon character, and Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in The Theory of Everything, described him as “the funniest man” he’d ever met.

On several fronts, the death of this shining star of a human being leaves the world a less brilliant place.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705859.1521057192!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705859.1521057192!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity during a flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. "It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," he said.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity during a flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. "It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," he said.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705859.1521057192!/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/leader-comment-this-is-russia-s-weak-spot-1-4705862","id":"1.4705862","articleHeadline": "Leader comment: This is Russia’s weak spot","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521093600000 ,"articleLead": "

In The Art of War, the famous Chinese strategist Sun Tzu wrote: “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705861.1521057212!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Russian President Vladimir Putin (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)"} ,"articleBody": "

Fortunately the UK is not at war with Russia, despite that country’s refusal to explain how one of its chemical weapons was used to attack several people on British soil. But that did not stop Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova from saying: “Who does Britain think it is, issuing ultimatums to a nuclear power?”

This rather gauche remark, which seemed to dismiss the UK’s nuclear weapons, was clearly designed to intimidate.

READ MORE: Russia warns UK: ‘No one should threaten a nuclear power’

However, there is one area in which Britain is far stronger than Russia – freedom of speech. Harsh words may not seem like much of a response but they do have an impact.

The greater the level of fuss the UK can kick up about Moscow’s actions, the more people, companies and, possibly, countries will begin to turn away from Russia.

And, in our globalised world, that may end up being more of a sanction than the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats announced yesterday by Theresa May.

READ MORE: UK expels 23 Russian diplomats and cuts off high-level ties

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705861.1521057212!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705861.1521057212!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Russian President Vladimir Putin (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Russian President Vladimir Putin (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705861.1521057212!/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/bill-jamieson-why-the-maybot-could-steer-us-through-the-global-storm-1-4705856","id":"1.4705856","articleHeadline": "Bill Jamieson: Why the Maybot could steer us through the global storm","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1521093600000 ,"articleLead": "

Theresa May and her Mogadon chancellor, Philip Hammond, are the perfect antidote for our turbulent times, writes Bill Jamieson.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705855.1521057161!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Donald Trump's dismissal of Rex Tillerson is the latest in an alarming string of high-profile firings (Picture: Getty)"} ,"articleBody": "

Just when we yearned for a few days peace and quiet, you can’t look away for a minute.

Out of the blue, yet another senior member of the Donald Trump administration is fired by inglorious tweet. You would need the constantly renewing fingers and toes of an alien to keep track of all the quick-fire sackings of this presidency. You cannot but wonder what credence can now be placed on policy statements from senior US figures, looking at the hire and fire rate – a management style more akin to a spaghetti western.

And all this in between launching an international trade war, announcing an astonishing ‘summit’ with the head of North Korea contrary to all previous angry tweets, pushing through tax cuts – and railing yet more bitterly at the ‘fake news’ mainstream press. Never has there been a presidency like it. But never in the post-war era has anger, fraction and instability seemed to be more ubiquitous or more threatening.

In Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel is struggling – again – to construct a coherent coalition. In Italy, the Euro-zone’s third largest economy, confusion reigns as what sort of coalition can be patched up to run the country after the recent election that was supposed to clarify matters. Is there anything in Italian politics that makes sense?

Populist, anti-immigration sentiment is still on the rise, however much cosmetic is applied to create an appearance of stability and normalcy. Angry demonstrations erupt and any sense of tranquility punctured. In Russia a presidential election struggles to gain pace as critics are sidelined, barred or bumped off. In Slovakia – an EU member – a journalist and his partner have been murdered in a suspected assassination after writing about property tax fraud.

READ MORE: Donald Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

What is normal – and what is not? In Brussels, a top administrative post is filled by an extraordinary smuggling in of a chosen favourite in the sneakiest fashion and with the minimum of scrutiny. Martin Selmayr, head of the cabinet of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, was made secretary-general on the very day the previous secretary-general announced his resignation, thus avoiding a proper candidate selection. Amid rising criticism of the unaccountable ways of the European Commission, the status quo is protected with consummate ease. An outrage, say some. Normal, say others.

You do not have to peruse the world news headlines for long to feel a certain nostalgia for the relative tranquility and orderliness here. Scottish politics seems totally becalmed by comparison, barely a ripple troubling the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and a Cabinet that seems set in impermeable granite. And down south you would struggle to recall that Theresa May’s hapless administration has been beset by crisis for months. Its imminent downfall has been solemnly predicted with almost every week that passes. Yet it grinds on, impervious to the blasts and explosions. Indeed, few administrations have turned ‘Groundhog Day’ into such a featureless ’24-7’ twilight zone. The relentless, predictable repetition, the dullest of speaking styles, the eyelid-drooping immobility of her ministers and an endless treadmill of drearily uninteresting announcements: could there be anything more stifling?

Yes: the sleep-inducing ‘Spring Statement’ this week from that most Mogadon of chancellors, Philip Hammond. ‘Nothing to see here’ might well have been his opening line. Do we not yearn for a more active, interesting government? But then along comes yet another dramatic departure from the Trump administration – Rex Tillerson. His spokesman said he only learned he was out of a job when he saw the President’s tweet thanking him for his service as top US diplomat. He was appointed only last year. As if by way of explanation, Trump said his differences with Tillerson came down to “personal chemistry. We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.” Evidently.

READ MORE: Philip Hammond hails ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for economy

Tillerson is the latest in a long line of senior officials who have quit, been fired, or eased out by the White House. Earlier this month saw the departure of Gary Cohn, chief economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, opposed to Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

His exit followed hard on the heels of Hope Hicks, White House communications director – Trump’s fourth. Prior to this, Rob Porter, another top aide quit amid allegations by two ex-wives of abuse. January saw the departure of Andrew McCabe, FBI deputy director who had faced repeated criticism from Trump over ties to the Democrats. Tom Price, health secretary, left in September after eight months amid allegations of insider trading while he worked on healthcare laws, which he denied.

Arguably most spectacular was the firing of Steve Bannon, chief strategist, after a year as Trump’s campaign chief. The alt-right ideologue was fired amid a public backlash to Trump’s response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In July, Anthony Scaramucci, another communications director, was fired after a series of accusations against then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and for attacking Bannon in an expletive-filled rant on the phone with a reporter. Time in post? Ten days – though he was fired 15 days ahead of his official start date. Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer were also fired that month. This followed one of the most dramatic departures – that of James Comey, FBI director, last May, who led an investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A special award – of sorts – is surely due to Michael Flynn, national security adviser, fired last February after just 23 days – the shortest serving national security adviser in history. His departure followed weeks of deepening scandal in which it emerged that he had misled White House officials over his contact with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Other departures have included Sally Yates, acting attorney general, after ten days in post, Preet Bharara, New York federal prosecutor, and Paul Manafort, Trump campaign manager.

It is said that Trump has brought a much-needed bracing style of a business leader to the White House. But unstable and confidence-sapping corporate leadership of this sort would appal major investors and Trump’s own removal would be swift.

So let us count our blessings, minimal though they may seem, for the dull, boring style of UK politics at present and in particular a chancellor who has deliberately set out to play down expectations of an imminent spending and borrowing spree.

Given all the uncertainties and hazards that lie ahead, a sleep-inducing Spring Statement was arguably the best we could wish for. Let’s not add to the already tottering pile of hostages to fortune. And hey, let’s be grateful at the very least that no guns went off.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bill Jamieson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4705855.1521057161!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4705855.1521057161!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Donald Trump's dismissal of Rex Tillerson is the latest in an alarming string of high-profile firings (Picture: Getty)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Donald Trump's dismissal of Rex Tillerson is the latest in an alarming string of high-profile firings (Picture: Getty)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4705855.1521057161!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}