curiosity about the ways of the world

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 8)

Bye bye blackbird…and our Edinburgh urban jungle

Through the window I saw a robin on the bird table, two blackbirds underneath, a grey squirrel in the white stemmed birch, four fat pigeons and three pretty doves squabbling on the ground.  If we had a pear tree perhaps there would have been a partridge in it.  A record-breaking cold spell brought hungry wildlife into our back garden. That’s something to celebrate just a short walk from Edinburgh city centre.  Oddly, it added to my sense of loss as we packed to leave our old urban jungle home.

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Ghosts of census past and present

Thursday 17 March 2022.  Approaching Census night the old kitchen has the look of a Victorian museum, or maybe a low budget costume drama.  Granny’s white cotton nighties hang in front of the shiny black range. Crisp and cool to the touch, they are the very devil to iron.

These are things of impressive though now impractical beauty and I rediscovered them during one of those lockdown cupboard clear-outs of 2020.  On impulse, I dug them out again to spruce them up in time for our Scottish Census 2021 – postponed because of Covid.  Removing the creases and wrinkles from yards and yards of best cotton, tackling the finicky fine tucks and broderie anglaise round the neckline, I’m thankful for the steam iron.  A Victorian maid standing in the old scullery (more or less where I am typing now) would have been applying flat irons heated on the coal-fired range, and no doubt listening out for the bells summoning servants to other tasks in grander parts of the house. Let’s call on Elizabeth…

Ironing granny's nightie: Fay Young
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Why are we waiting?

Is the NHS equipped to deal with floods, gales and heatwaves of extreme weather?  

Can democracy Deliver in Time?

We knew it was coming.

This week’s IPCC special report on Climate Change (‘code red for humanity’) should leave no-one in any doubt that we cannot afford to waste more time on promises yet to be delivered.

We’ve been good at promises in Scotland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. Bold declarations of climate emergency and world beating targets came before the pandemic showed just how quickly human behaviour can change. We can do it when we have to. Yet last year’s euphoric thoughts of ‘building back better’ seem to have got lost.

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Who can heal our crippling inequality?

I knew about inequality. Of course I did. As journalist and editor I read and write about people whose daily lives are very different to mine. I did not feel the difference in my guts before.

Seven days and four nights in hospital brought me a close up and very personal view of the state of our nation. Across every part of the UK Covid has exposed the grotesque inequalities of our society. But it did not cause them.

After successful surgery I returned home to a genteel part of Edinburgh where people like me can expect to live 21 years longer (twenty one years longer, let that sink in) than people in the neighbourhoods my husband and I passed on our short journey to and from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. As I wrote for Sceptical Scot (see It Hurts Us All post below the line), I can see no solution, no genuine Covid recovery plan until we address that cruel imbalance. We seem to be hurtling towards a second devastating lockdown. Once again the most severe pain will be felt by those without the protection of secure homes and incomes. What is our plan?

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Schools ahead of their time – and ours

What will the future bring? Children at my sons’ primary school down the road had bright ideas nearly twenty-five years ago. 

“…a robot teacher in every classroom, ‘see-through’ classrooms made of glass, blackboards rubbed clean at the touch of a switch and electronically operated toilets.”

The school of the future hasn’t turned out quite as pupils imagined in 1996 though ‘see-through classrooms and electronically operated toilets’ could come in handy to combat Covid-19.  The centenary book my sons and I helped to produce turned up in a lockdown study clear-out. A bit of a museum piece, Broughton Primary 100 casts not always favourable light on the present.  

Writing this for Sceptical Scot’s last issue before the holiday break, I was struck by a cruel irony we had never anticipated at the parent-teacher-pupil editorial meetings 25 years ago: the school of the future would have much in common with the school of the past.  In the late 19th century medical officers of health were acutely aware of the links between ill health, mortality and poverty.  That harsh reality reinforced again by the latest National Register of Scotland report of deaths involving Covid-19:

“People in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times more likely to die with COVID-19 than those living in the least deprived areas.”

National Register of Scotland July 2020

A crucial difference between then and now – in the 1890s local medical officers of health had the power to take pre-emptive action where and when it was needed. 

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Leith: where local needs are global

Another important thing…we need to know how power works, how politics works. You can’t just order democracy online and get it delivered the next day!

Jane Jones

The place is packed. The hall is fairly humming with that unmistakeable sound of people getting properly engaged. All ages. Busy tackling the big issues of local life. So why are we worried about who is not here?

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What’s the story in a Russian passport?

Some passports arouse an obliging smile
While others are treated as mud. Vladimir Mayakovski

A passport can conceal or reveal, open or close. Who knows how the true-blue British passport will be treated after Brexit, but right now Russian travellers are likely to be attracting more than average scrutiny at border control. And none too many smiles. Continue reading

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