From Scotland With Love

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Almost exactly five years ago, I was enjoying a three-week road trip in the US with a group of pals. These were the days before Bluetooth and aux cables so our driving music was restricted to CDs. Between the nine of us (and our two cars) we had only three CDs: a David Guetta album, a Black-Eyed Peas album and a mix-CD titled “Scot Rock”.

The Scot Rock CD had been prepared by the musically minded member of our group. It had the usual Deacon Blue and Proclaimers tracks but it mostly contained songs from Arab Strap, Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jet Packs, Belle & Sebastian, Idlewild etc. It was a cracker, actually, and I still regularly listen to many of those tracks.

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Like many people, there are some songs which take me back to very vivid memories. One memory which comes to mind every time I hear any of the songs from the Scot Rock CD is from one particularly long day of driving. I remember that the weather was not good but that all of us in the car were gazing out of our respective windows in that way which only happens while travelling.

Although none of the songs we were listening to were particularly about Scotland, they all seemed to capture something which reminded us of home. It was strange – even though we were all thousands of miles away and having a great time, it was clear that each of those tracks made us think about home. Although we were looking out at a foreign countryside, our minds were in Scotland.

That brings me on to the independence referendum. Some of you will be sick to death of this topic but hopefully what follows will be constructive.

Thinking back to how the Scot Rock tracks caused five guys to sit and think of Scotland in their own way got me thinking about how personal the referendum vote will be to all voters. For most of us, we are not just thinking about who will run the country for the next five years but what the future will hold for the place we call home. The future which each of us is thinking about will be entirely unique.

For example, when I think of Scotland, I tend to not think about castles, mist or saltires fluttering in the sky; I think of pipe bands at Murrayfield and walking home from Central in the rain. My vision of the future will derive from those memories and the particular way my brain has processed them.  Your vision will be based on your own memories and your own thought processes, which can only result in an infinite number of ways to approach what appears on the face of it to be a very simple question.

As most of us have lived here for a long time, it’s only natural for each of us to have a strong reaction to the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country. It’s probably an excellent thing that so many of us are passionate about our views. But when we’re dealing with each other, it might help if we remembered that there aren’t many things closer to each of our hearts than our homes. I wonder, with all that in mind, whether we might all be kinder to each other, regardless of how certain we may be that one view is right and one is wrong.

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I’ll leave you this week with a relevant Scot Rock recommendation and a Tash.

My recommendation is King Creosote’s One Night Only – it’s a track from his album From Scotland With Love, which was the soundtrack to a BBC film of the same name, made up of vintage Scottish footage and aimed at showing Scotland’s modern history in a new light.

Finally, the Tash. As one might expect of someone with credentials in music appreciation, the lad who created the Scot Rock CD has rocked a Tash for many years. He still does, even though he’s also developed a goatee type thang. Some of you will know him as Stuart, I know him as D-O-Double-B.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

If at first you don’t succeed

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I had not intended to follow up on last week’s TF straight away but I had also not expected the reaction that I received. The people spoke and their answer was:

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Here are a few examples of the responses (I have paraphrased in places to take out some of the stronger language):

“Re TF, what you are doing is laudable but nationalism is not something that can be argued dispassionately. It’s a matter of faith. Your average nationalist cannot be shaken from the belief that he is right (he loses his ability to reason when he cedes his individualism to the “nation”). Folk lamenting the lack of debate are missing the point: nationalists cannot debate. They look for arguments supporting their prejudices (same as folk who deny global warming).”

“It’s a disingenuous debate and I’m saddened by your willingness to try to take the politics out of an inherently political debate. There is no independence on offer, stop pretending that there is.”

“I know you are trying to broaden it out but the issue of the day is whether we have an Independent Scotland or not. I don’t think your thing is impartial because it implicitly accepts the premise of Nationalism. You’ve been beaten in the dressing room.”

“This weeks TF is a real self indulgent effort…”

There were other comments too and I’m grateful to everyone who responded.

The point about faith is particularly interesting. In a world that is only able to operate thanks to logarithms and science, faith can be seen as a synonym for irrationality and as something that is unhelpful when it comes to decision-making.

I can see the merits in that point of view, but if our lives were ruled by logic, would it not be a terribly lonely and uneventful place? Would we risk heartbreak by entering into relationships with people who, at least at first, are strangers? Would we have children? Also, to what extent do we base our “logic” on notions that we don’t fully understand? For example, how many of us use modes of transport that rely on the internal combustion engine or aerodynamics without really knowing how or why they work? How many of us understand how and why modern medicine operates? These are all things I don’t understand but in which, I suppose, I have faith.

It’s also not accurate to say that only a “yes” vote is based on faith. A “no” vote will also involve faith; just a different kind. I also don’t accept that we can’t have a conversation which involves faith. I think that we need to tailor the way we talk to each other in order to take into account where folk are coming from.

To conclude, I don’t think that we should go into the voting booths on 18 September and make a decision based on faith alone. After all, we wouldn’t get on a plane if it’s wings looked a bit rickety and we wouldn’t take medical advice from a doctor who was drunk. The point I’m trying to make is that faith does have a part to play in the independence discussion.

For the sake of offering all points of view (and to preempt this being thrown in my face), I’ll leave you with a contrary view from this week’s Tash: Friedrich Nietzsche

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.”

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

People of Scotland, lend each other your ears

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

For once, the subject of this week’s TF is not a Tash-toting festival of humanity (although, of course, such a person will be included) but is a topic that will impact many of us and generations of Scots to come. This week, I’m talking about the referendum which will ask whether Scotland should be an independent country

I must say from the outset that I will not be offering my view in relation to the referendum. My aim this morning is to offer a way for us to have civil and constructive conversations about our hopes and fears for Scotland in the future. It’s important that we have these discussions now because the way in which we talk about the referendum will shape how we talk about Scotland from 19 September onwards.

To start that process, I invite you to consider this Commitment to Respectful Dialogue.  Some of you may have seen this in The Herald and The Scotsman a couple of weeks ago, and many of you will recognise a few names amongst the signatories:

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A group called Collaborative Scotland presented the Commitment following a series of meetings which took place over the last 6 months or so. The meetings, which were chaired by John Sturrock QC (an internationally recognised facilitator of constructive discussions and negotiations), gave those who attended the chance to test the theory behind the Commitment. The meetings were specifically not an opportunity to debate the referendum but were an opportunity to talk about how we have conversations about the future.

The magic of the process was that when the 50 of us sat down in groups to talk about our aspirations for Scotland, we discovered that the hopes and fears that we have in common are far more numerous than those that divide us. During our conversations, it was generally impossible to tell which way others would vote and, tellingly, that didn’t seem to matter.

So what does this have to do with you? Well, I know how many of you read TF every week and I suspect that many of you would find the conversations which I observed informative and inspiring. I also know that many of you are influential within your work/social circles and it strikes me that, together, we could spread the Commitment to a wider audience.

After all, on 18 September, we will be given the opportunity to shape Scotland’s path for centuries to come. We should take that opportunity to act as positively and constructively as we can. For my part, I’m planning to help host a conversation in Glasgow, and if there’s an appetite for it, I will invite all of you to come along.

I’ll therefore leave you with a link to the Collaboration Scotland website, where you can sign up to receive further information and offer your support to the Protocol; a request that anyone who might be interested in coming along for an evening of conversation in Glasgow sends me an email; and a quote from this week’s Tash, Mahatma Ghandi:

“We may have our private opinions but why should they be a bar to the meeting of hearts?” 

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It seems that every week that passes, this question becomes more important: what’s next?

Have a great weekend folks!

Same Rules Apply

Morning Tash Appreciators,

A couple of weeks ago I saw Filth, the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh‘s book of the same name. For the first 45 minutes or so the audience laughed as Bruce Robertson – a dirty, racist, sexist, drug- addled cop – strutted around Edinburgh causing chaos and doing his utmost to manipulate his way to a promotion:

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After that though, the perception of his appearance changed as the audience discovered the reasons why Bruce is the way he is. I don’t think I’m ruining the plot by saying that, while he is all of the things I’ve already mentioned, beneath his filthy veneer is a broken, lonely man struggling with mental illness. At the end of film, as the credits whizzed by to “Love Really Hurts Without You” by Billy Ocean, I was in bits. It’s stuck with me since then and I’ll never listen to that song (or a cover of “Creep” by Clint Mansell) the same way again. This week’s Tash, by the way, is Billy Ocean:
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I was thinking about the film afterwards, and what really upset me was that Bruce was totally alone. He was alone because of the way he treated those around him but it struck me that he had lost his family, he bullied his only “friend” and he hated his colleagues. Even without any underlying issues, circumstances like those would pose a problem for any person. After all, by my reckoning, we spend the majority of our lives in three ways: asleep; with our friends and family; or with our colleagues. If something has upset our relationships with one of those groups then that would be upsetting, but if something is wrong with all three then that’s a perfect storm – just like the tempest in Bruce Robertson’s mind.

The same rules apply to family, friends and colleagues: we don’t often choose them; we don’t always like them; we will in all likelihood be around them for a significant time; but, if by some quirk of fate we find ourselves with people who end up being a blend of family, friend or colleague then that’s something to really cherish. In the film, Bruce’s problem is that once he’s lost his family, his friends and colleagues follow shortly after.

TF usually has a point and this week’s is two-fold: firstly, people who appear to have filthy characters tend to be that way for a reason; and, secondly, most of us are driven, intelligent folk who could, if we wanted, manipulate those around us for our own ends. The most common example of that is in the workplace but, to my mind, getting ahead in that way is a pretty hollow victory – is it not better to be able to say your colleagues are friends rather than being promoted but without any support? The other thing is that if you act in a way that is manipulative or underhand then, when someone has the opportunity to get you back, the same rules apply.

If you get the chance to see Filth, take it: James McAvoy is unbelievable:

Have a great weekend folks!

Redemption squared

Salut Tash Appreciators,

With the Tour de France starting in Corsica tomorrow, cycling is our starting and ending point this week:

Although that picture includes four world-class riders, it wasn’t taken in France, or anywhere with a particular culture of cycling. It was actually taken during the UK National Road Race last Sunday, which took place in Glasgow.

The front chap, in blue, is David Millar – Scotland’s top road cyclist. Some of you may have heard of him because of his “colourful” past as an ex-doper. He was caught, banned and almost jailed for his part in the doping culture of early 2000s. But since then, he has done more than anyone else in cycling to make/keep it clean. He always been proud of his Scottish background but Sunday seemed to have a special significance for him. You could tell that not only from his performance (which was superb) but also from the tweets he posted after the race:


There are, as I see it, similarities between Millar and the city he was racing in: both have had a rough time and both looked like their best days were behind them. However, like Millar, Glasgow did itself proud on Sunday. The race itself was fantastic: it was well organised and well supported. But it also seems to have been good for other people too. For a start, it prompted the Council to fix the roads in the centre of town, which is a big deal for the drivers of Glasgow. Not only that, but the Council has carried on with the work and other roads are now being improved. It also got people excited about a sport which is growing in Scotland. I’ve heard stories of customers chatting about the race in shops, and if Instagram and Facebook are anything to go by, many folk who had no interest in cycling enjoyed it almost as much as the sad acts (like me) who watched it from beginning to end.

There are plenty of other things going on in the city at the moment too: the east end is more or less being re-developed for the Commonwealth Games; Strathclyde University is building what seems to be a new campus in the middle of town; and many of the huge tower blocks are being demolished to make way for more sociable social housing. If you look to the east of the country, the new forth crossing (have they picked a name for that yet?) is growing out of the depths at an impressive rate and on an impressive scale and if you look north Aberdeen seems to be booming.

We haven’t had a really positive message from TF for a few weeks now, primarily because there hasn’t seemed to be a lot to be positive about. However, that makes it all the sweeter when you look around and see things improving.

So, to the Tash. Unfortunately, Dave Millar appears to have never rocked a Tash. However, there’s a cyclist who will hopefully be on your screens for the next three weeks who does. I saw him riding in the Giro a few weeks ago and made a quick note of his name. Ladies and gents, this chap must be the happiest looking man ever to ride the Tour, Jose Perez:
Have a fantastic weekend folks!
Keep going!