Drumlanrig: How the independence debate drones on

Alex Salmond will be hoping that the piping scholars who run the Piobaireachd Society have the second sight. The Society has just produced the list of tunes the top pipers have to learn for the big competitions at Oban and Inverness in the referendum year.

Prominent on the 2014 list is the rarely heard Lament for the Union. Musicologists tell us that the tune has an unusual structure with variations that contrast with the opening melody, thus reflecting the uneasy fit of Scotland with England. Those on the BetterTogether side can take comfort from another listed tune, The Battle of Waterloo, marking a great British victory.

Clipped response to privet member’s bill

MSPs last week passed the new High Hedges Act, aimed at resolving neighbourhood disputes over monster leylandii blocking out light in gardens.

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Backbench MSP Mark McDonald is to be applauded for having taken forward an issue which causes bitterness across the country. So we have no truck with those who seek to belittle his achievements with silly jokes about MSPs sorting out their boundary reviews, or daft questions on whether the act needs cutting down to size, or puerile claims his is the first ever privet member’s bill.

The Lord GOD’s seasonal message

Lord Gus O’Donnell, former head of the UK Civil Service, was briefly in Glasgow to help launch a new book to which he contributed on the issue of independence, titled Scotland’s Future. Once known as GOD, his elevation to the upper house now means he has been elevated to the Lord GOD and he offered some revealing anecdotes about life as a Sir Humphrey. “It’s said that the Eskimos have 50 words for snow,” he declared. “And that civil servants can say no in 50 different ways.” So that’s why they call it a Rolls-Royce service.

Bottom-line on vanity and bowel cancer risk

The problem of persuading men to take part in bowel cancer screening led to an unusual plea from Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw.

“I must say to men in their 50s that they are no longer on the pull,” Carlaw said. “I know that they think that they are still an icon, the glass of fashion and the mould of form, but I am sorry to say that they are, in fact, past that. Older women are looking for toyboys, and younger women are interested only in those with money, and, frankly, that will not be anyone who lives in Scotland.”

He added: “The primary concern of men in their 50s ought to be survival. If a screening programme is available every two years, for goodness sake, take advantage of it.”

Here endeth the lesson.