Pages tagged with "Opinion"

Scotland sports fans “let down” and “disadvantaged” by UK broadcasting

It has been a good couple of weeks for Scottish sport, first the mens Football team beat Spain 2-0 and then the Scotland Men’s Curling team won a historic World Cup victory over the weekend, an event which took place at 9 pm UK time and like the football was not televised in Scotland.

It is a fair bet that if Scotland had an independent broadcasting channel, it would have been. Scotland does not regulate its own TV, which is all owned and controlled from south of the Border. It doesn't even have a government-backed channel with the same degree of independence as Wales' S4C. The Welsh language channel does a great job for Wales of showing sports events that are important to the country. 

Scotland football team’s recent two-nil victory over Spain was another historic event that too many fans could not watch -  in that case because it was pay-to-view on an expensive subscription channel. Some adults might have been able to see the game in a pub - but that left football-daft youngsters (and families in rural areas) unable to cheer on the national side. In contrast, England and Wales’ Euro qualifiers are guaranteed free to air on terrestrial channels. 

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has expressed concern over the way supporters in Scotland are being “disadvantaged” - but the UK Government has indicated it will not be doing anything about this. Because broadcasting is in Westminster’s hands, the Scottish Government can’t level the playing field. 

With independence, Scotland could protect citizens’ rights to watch their national teams.

The Curling World Championships would have been inexpensive and easy to show

Scottish sports journalist Alison Walker who covered the event from Canada for the last 12 days said there should have been TV coverage of the team led by Captain Bruce Mouat - which she said would have been inexpensive and easy to arrange.

She told the National: "The athletes work so hard and are such great people with inspiring stories. They are hugely respected and admired in Canada and to an extent would be in Scotland - if folk knew about it. It’s not about money either. It would’ve cost broadcasters very little to show more of Bruce’s journey.

“The World Curling Federation are the host broadcaster, and the ‘feed’ is offered around the world. Every one of Bruce’s games was available - so I feel the question should be asked of BBC Scotland, BBC Network, STV, Sky Sports. It’s very frustrating.”

The Scotland game was free to watch in Spain

Similarly, the Scotland-Spain football game was free to watch in Spain - and indeed across much of Europe, where governments protect citizens' right to watch their national teams without having to shell out. 

In a cost of living crisis where families are struggling to pay energy bills and put food on the table, it was a sore point that so many were left out in the cold, uniquely unable to share in what should be moments of national pride and celebration. 

Scottish MPs said Scotland fans are being “let down”

MPs on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee recently called for a review of the football situation in a report which concluded:  

“We are firmly of the view that the current lack of opportunities to watch Scottish international football on free-to-air broadcast is letting down fans in Scotland, who are at a disadvantage compared to fans in England and Wales. The UK Government must be more proactive in acknowledging and responding to the frustration this situation is causing in Scotland.”

Yet the UK government refuses to intervene

The Committee said the UK Government should:

“Establish a review to consider options to improve free-to-air access to Scottish international football – potentially including Scotland’s World Cup and European Championship qualifiers to the ‘listed events’ public service broadcasters can more easily bid for.”

But Government Minister for Sport Julia Lopez MP told the Committee that the UK Government has no intention of acting on this.

Lopez disagreed saying it was “up to Scottish rights holders to determine the best balance between ensuring events can be seen by the widest possible audience and securing money to reinvest in grassroots sport”. But the SFA has no say in how the rights to these games are bundled and sold by UEFA. 

UEFA controls the rights and packages them in a way that appeals to big players

In the absence of any legal protection by the UK Government, UEFA completely controls the broadcasting rights for Scotland’s European qualifiers. The distribution is out-sourced to their partners CAA Eleven. 

It is usual practice for distributors of entertainment content to package it in bundles designed to appeal to big broadcasters. These bundles are designed to get content out of the door in the limited window where the distributor has the rights to sell it. Under UEFA’s contracts, these bundles carry with them the legal obligation to show all the games. The Scottish games were auctioned as part of a bundle that would not have been affordable or attractive for a commercial UK broadcaster.  No UK terrestrial broadcaster bid for the rights to show Scotland’s Euro qualifiers. 

The SFA does not have a seat at the table when the rights are packaged and Scotland does not have a government-supported independent broadcaster. 

Welsh fans get to see the games for free - in Welsh

The same company - Viaplay - that bought Scotland’s Euro qualifiers also bought the rights to show Wales’ games - but the Welsh games are also free to view on S4C with Welsh commnentary.  

Scotland does not have any genuinely independent Scotland-based channels (BBC Scotland and BBC Alba are regional channels operated from the BBC in London), but Wales has S4C. Now paid for via the licence fee, S4C was established as an independent channel and still has an independent board

S4C does a good job of getting sports rights for Wales. It can help in negotiations that this is a Welsh language channel, broadcasting the games with commentary in Welsh, so is not a direct competitor with an English language channel. 

S4C secured exclusive UK free-to-air broadcast rights to show the Wales games in the UEFA Nations League campaign and the European Qualifiers campaign for UEFA EURO 2024, which are available free to watch live on Sgorio Rhyngwladol.

“It is key that Wales supporters can enjoy their matches on free-to-air television."

Announcing the deal, S4C Chief Executive, Sian Doyle, said:

"We are thrilled that S4C will be the exclusive free-to-air home of the Wales men's national football team, and we believe that this is fantastic news for Welsh football supporters and the Welsh language.

"This is a golden age for the Welsh national team and for the continued growth and development of the game it is key that supporters can enjoy their matches on free-to-air television."

It's a fair bet that if Wales had been competing in the Curling Wolrd Chamipomshops, S4C would have shown the games. In contrast, Simon Pitts from STV told the select committee that, for Scottish international football and other sporting events where the likely TV audience is Scotland only, a commercial channel like STV which has no government support is unable to bid.

An insider said: “The way the Scotland games for the Euro qualifiers were packaged it would not have been possible for any UK broadcaster to bid for them”.

Another insider said: “If the UK government had intervened it might have been possible for the Scotland games to be free to view. As it stands, the games will be on pay-to-view subscription TV until 2028.”

In an independent Scotland, the government could intervene

What does it say to youngsters coming up through grassroots sports in Scotland that they can’t cheer for their national teams?  In football terms, the unfairness is even more marked this year as, for the first time in recent years, the England Euro qualifying games are free to view, on Channel Four. No terrestrial broadcaster in the UK bids for the rights to show Scotland’s Euro qualifiers. 

Scotland does not have an independent national broadcasting company. Scotland’s broadcasting sector is much weaker than that of similar-sized independent countries. Scotland does not have a government-supported Scottish-run channel. Instead, fee money goes to the BBC in London which does not even manage to spend a population share of that in Scotland. 


This is a problem the free market won't solve

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee was right to point out the “frustration” this situation causes in Scotland. They recognised that this is a problem the free market is not likely to be able to solve. Multinational pay-to-view channels that secure these rights have “no obvious commercial incentive” to relinquish exclusivity.

It will require government intervention to give Scottish sports fans the same rights to watch their national teams that citizens of independent countries take for granted, either by setting up and supporting a genuinely independent Scottish channel, or through legislation. In an independent Scotland, the Scottish government would be empowered to make sure Scots are no longer let down.  


Westminster's Section 35 block on Scottish law fundamentally undermines UK democracy

The UK Government has decided to block the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, despite the legislation falling under devolved competence. A move which Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said will almost certainly end up in court.  As we have been predicting, this is a worrying intensification of Westminster’s efforts to undermine devolution and reduce Scotland’s political autonomy.

Make no mistake: this is a political crisis for the UK and it’s one of Westminster's own making because no Westminster party has ever truly been committed to making devolution work.  Of course, they defined devolution working as stopping the inevitable rise in support for Scottish independence and in those terms, it has been an abject failure for the Union.  Devolution has been immensely popular with voters and where devolution has worked is in the Scottish Government's acting to mitigate some of the worst impacts of Westminster austerity, spending more of its budget on social care and Scotland’s NHS (roughly £100 per head) and the abolition of student fees. Where it has been a failure for Scotland is the fact that devolution within the UK comes with the continued failed economic mantra of Laissez-faire capitalism, the recent watering down of anti-casino-banking rules, political corruption and of course, being able to do nothing about the unmitigated disaster that Brexit represents. 

Devolution may have opened the door for the SNP to prove that they are able to run a country differently and with more soul and care for the people. Now that they are supported by the Greens in a majority Scottish Government, they have an unanswerable mandate for change and that is infuriating Wesminsters failing self appointed elites.  In 2017, when giving evidence to the Westminster trade Committee, I (GMK) explained that ‘Devolution was incompatible with Brexit’. I have been proven right many times over and now as both the Tories and Labour have lurched to the right to fight over the xenophobic Brexit vote the Union has become incompatible with Scotland, incompatible with democracy and incompatible with the values of the ordinary Scottish people.

Whether you like it or not, a majority Scottish Government has the mandated right to call an independence referendum; whether you like it or not, it has a mandated right to pass its Gender Recognition Reform legislation. Blocking these moves amounts to nothing more than an assault on democratic principles.  

Westminster enacted Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, a previously unused mechanic which has been described by political commentators as the ‘nuclear option’. Section 35 allows the Scottish Secretary of the UK Government to intervene with the passing of a devolved bill if it is believed to adversely affect the operation of reserved matters, that is, areas outside the remit of the devolved government. Despite having years to make amendments and consult with the Scottish Government, the current Conservative Scottish Secretary Alister Jack instead used Section 35 to block the GRR Bill. Translated - essentially, the UK Government is blocking this bill because they don’t like it, which sets a dangerously antidemocratic precedent.

This ruling comes hard on the heels of the UK Supreme Court’s recent move to block a second Scottish independence referendum, as well as an extension to challenges to devolved legislation such as the Rights of the Child Convention. Today the UK Government will push ahead with its regressive Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill which will remove all the mostly eminently sensible EU-derived legislation from the statute book by the end of the year. It's almost as if they thought Brexit isn't going as well as it should because there were still too many protections for exporters and that the food and drink industry needed a harder Brexit.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the first use of Section 35 is to limit a bill which had caused division in both the pro-independence camps. It is a clear divide and rule tactic with Westminster hoping for a muted response due to the nature of the policy involved. Regardless, the bill was approved by two-thirds of MSPs gaining votes from five different political parties. This included the current leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar and former leader Richard Leonard, as well as the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw.

This move sets a worrying precedent for how Westminster responds to bills passed by Holyrood in the future. We have to ask what else a UK Government which is politically opposed, hostile even, to the majority elected current Scottish Government might also move to restrict. This does not just undermine devolution but also threatens the tenets of Scottish democracy. 

Finally, regardless of anyone’s opinion of the GRR Bill, it is important to ask: will the UK Government really stop here? What happens if Wesminster blocks legislation on devolved healthcare? On education? On the environment? This ruling exposes a fundamental flaw of devolution as an expression of self-determination - one where it can be overridden when the central government feels like it, especially when they diverge from the devolved government. 

Until Scotland is fully independent, its political autonomy will always be under threat. New Labour are back: Starmer has moved the UK party to the right of Thatcher and is big into Brexit and refuses to defend the blocking of a bill that was supported by 18 out of his party’s 22 elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament. He offers no alternative even for voters of Labour in Scotland. Independence is normal and completely compatible with democracy and the clear desire of the Scottish people to rejoin the EU.

5 Things You Need to Know About Labour’s Latest Vow on Constitutional Reform

In Leeds today, Keir Starmer, flanked by former-PM Gordon Brown, unveiled Labour’s plans for UK constitutional reform. There is a clue in that first sentence as to why it's not going to blunt moves towards Scottish independence. This report is about Labour reclaiming its so-called 'Red Wall' seats from the Tories and it offers nothing new for Scotland. In fact, it confirms that Labour are committed to Brexit and therefore the power grab that goes with it. The key recommendations are focussed on England and the English regions, with the devolved nations as an afterthought. Included in the report is the abolition of the House of Lords and further powers for the English regions. For Scotland, we can expect more promises of increased devolution for the Scottish Parliament, a tune we’ve heard played by Brown and Labour time and again.

5 Things to know about this report and what it means for Scotland:

1. Scotland gains no new major powers

The report says that Labour will not abolish the Scottish Parliament, a condescending statement as they already promised that in ‘the Vow’ in 2014, and the people of Scotland would not accept its closure under any circumstances.  The report says that Scotland would be able to enter into international agreements when it comes to devolved matters. Devolved matters however do not include issues of EU membership, retention of nuclear weapons/participation in illegal wars, trade deals and immigration - all the actual powers that would help Scotland's economy. Scotland would also have access to regional support through the British Regional Investment Bank. Not only is Scotland not a ‘region’, this is also a policy that is only required because of decades of Westminster mismanagement of Scotland’s natural and economic wealth. In fact, Scotland already has its own National Investment Bank- evidently Labour is having trouble coming up with original ideas for devolution. 

2. It doesn’t lay a path back into the EU for Scotland

Central to Labour’s plan for the next election is to rebuild the ‘Red Wall’ in the North of England. This requires a full commitment to Brexit that the Scottish people will never accept. 

With 72% of Scots saying they would vote Remain if the vote was held today and with Labour offering no path back into the EU, it is clear that Scottish voices will once again be silenced on this issue. 

Labour have said we need stronger economic growth but won’t rejoin the Single Market, the one thing that would guarantee this. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning to promote the report, Starmer made the remarkable claim that rejoining the EU and being part of the world's biggest single market wouldn't boost economic growth, saying: “I don’t think it would. And there’s no case for going back to the EU or going back into the single market.” Starmer has previously claimed the opposite, so is he lying now or was he lying then? The OBR has forecast the UK faces a 4 per cent fall in economic growth compared to if we had remained in the EU - so no one can take such claims seriously. Clearly independence is Scotland’s only route back into the EU. 

3. There’s no commitment to the reforms they’ve promised

Labour is proposing what they say are radical solutions to a widespread constitutional crisis facing the whole of the UK. However, when these policies are examined in detail, the end result is underwhelming. There is a promise to abolish the undemocratic House of Lords, within Labour’s first term. That is a promise they have been making for a century and have failed to deliver on every time they have been in office and had the power to act. The House of Lords represents a serious issue in the political structure of the UK but the proposed reforms are still subject to further consultation - so they will be watered down. If Labour are serious about offering long-term, systemic change as soon as possible, why can they still not commit even now to the most important proposal from this paper?

4. Federalism is unworkable for Scotland

This report once again presents federalism/devolution as an alternative to Scottish independence but this is a pipe dream. England has 84% of the UK population and federalism cannot work under these conditions. To sell Federalism to the wider UK public would require major parties to concede that the UK system is broken beyond repair and commit to truly radical solutions. This would also require a UK wide referendum and England won't vote for it. Also to say they have a mandate to change the constitution with a Westminster General Election majority but that the SNP can't change the constitution as it refers to Scotland with a majority of MPs is just dishonest and antidemocratic. 

Independence is normal but Labour still refuses to give countenance to that fact. Once again, they offer a bland unworkable compromise between unionism and independence, which is actually err…more unionism. While federalism is championed by Labour as the winning democratic solution to save a broken Britain, in practice they do not offer the radical solutions they promise.

5. Labour will ignore the wishes of the people of Scotland

The plans announced by Labour today require that the Scottish people abandon their commitment to independence and accept a bland list of recycled constitutional reforms that should have been implemented last century, dredged up by an ex-Prime Minister who never won a General election and has lost all credibility when it comes to making promises to Scotland. Labour cannot accept that everything changed after the first independence referendum and Brexit which followed.

While this conference and paper did acknowledge the UK is broken, they refuse to admit that blocking a second referendum is the most high-profile example of the British state’s disregard for democracy. Keir Starmer as PM would not listen to the people of Scotland and if any extra powers offered to Scotland don't allow us back into the EU or at least the Single Market then they do nothing for Scotland.  At the press conference for the launch of this report, Gordon Brown stated that Labour would push on with these proposed constitutional reforms even if the people of Scotland reject them at the ballot box - which they will.

In the end, isn't that all you need to know about Brown and how far Labour have fallen?

Devo Max won't be on the indyref2 ballot paper - here are five reasons why

Why are we even talking about devo max again? In Scotland today, a vote for Labour is first and foremost a vote against self-determination for the people of Scotland. As the demographic trend towards independence continues, the Labour Party in Scotland finds itself battling the Conservatives for a dwindling hard Unionist vote, largely in older age groups. They would like to be in a position to challenge the SNP but that looks like a distant prospect. 

Anas Sarwar’s strident Unionism is not polling well - a recent Opinium poll showed Labour’s revival south of the border is not matched in Scotland - they are predicted to get just one seat in a General Election. The May council elections will be another test and the omens are not good for Labour. 

Labour leader Keir Stamer is waiting for, or rather banking on, the result of Gordon Brown’s Commission on the Constitution and says that he does not support the status quo. The Labour Party may then try to break the political deadlock by moving to a more nuanced position - such as that they support another referendum if devo max is on the ballot paper - but it won't be. 

They may see devo max as positioning themselves as being in the political centre. There is evidence that if you offer people three choices - eg “large”, “medium” and “small” drinks, people will choose the middle one regardless of what they would select without that prompt.

If the devo max position had been adopted straight after the 2014 referendum, as promised in the Vow, it might have helped Labour to hang onto more of their support. But now, it seems too little too late. How could Scotland vote No for a second time based on the same promise made in 2014 but never delivered? Here are five major reasons why devo max is not a good option in the Scottish context. 

1 Devo max can’t address the Brexit issue

A lot of people voted No in 2014 largely because they thought that was the best way to preserve Scotland’s EU membership. One of Better Together’s strongest arguments was that a newly independent Scotland might find itself out in the cold for years. 

In the 2016 EU referendum, there was a clear division between Scotland and England. Scotland voted 62% Remain and every council area in Scotland voted to Remain. Only a third of voters and a much smaller percentage of the total electorate than in England voted to leave the EU.

And yet this huge constitutional change was forced upon Scotland without any attempt to respect its democratic will. The Scottish Government’s offers of a compromise - something like the NI protocol were dismissed out of hand.

Brexit is hurting Scotland’s economy. The only part of the UK that exports more than it imports, since Brexit, its export trade has suffered a major hit. Imports are becoming more expensive, pushing up the cost of food and consumer goods. Supply chains have proved most vulnerable at their endpoint - rural areas in the Highlands and Islands which have seen repeated breakdowns in suppl

Scotland’s agriculture, food production, hospitality, and care sectors have been hit by the exodus of EU staff. Not being able to recruit from the pool of EU citizens is pushing many of these industries to breaking point and only by rejoining the EU can Scotland regain the substantial benefits of being part of the largest trading area in the world.

Opportunities for Scots are also much reduced - the ability to live and work freely across Europe has gone. Looking across the water, we can see Ireland’s people embracing everything the EU has to offer; from opening Irish bars in European towns, to encouraging the young to aspire to be the next Ursula von der Leyen  (the Irish Government “A Career for EU” strategy aims to increase the number of Irish people working in EU institutions).  

2 Devo max can’t deal with immigration 

One of the events of last year that will make it into the history books was the Kenmore Street protest when a peaceful crowd surrounded a van that was attempting to deport two people from the area, eventually winning their release.  

The UK Government’s “hostile environment” has little support north of the border. Scotland has an aging population. It needs to attract young and talented people to come here in order to build a strong society.  But the Home Office mandates that asylum seekers and refugees who live in Scotland can’t work - despite evidence that this is the best way for them to integrate and that they often have a great deal to offer their communities. The EU is adopting a much more enlightened policy on this. 

This week, Bloomberg ran a story headed Migrants Are Saving Germany From a U.K.-Style Trucker Shortage reporting that a quarter of German trucks are now driven by migrant workers who also fill a quarter of chef roles. 

Another example - Scottish universities are now much less able to attract EU staff and students and their ability to offer work visas to global international students post study is under Home Office control. 

3 Devo max would not confirm the“Rights of the Child” 

In 2021, the Scottish Parliament ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. This was the culmination of many years of work by children’s rights campaigners. Any attempt to protect children from abuse starts from a position of respecting their human rights as individuals. 

This convention is the most widely recognised in the world. It mandates that children have a right to be consulted over decisions that concern them. They have a right to housing, food and education.

These rights were unanimously accepted by every party in Holyrood. But the UK Government chose to go to court over it. There may be cases, for example, where the UK’s determination to deport children and families could conflict with the Convention. 

In October, the UK Government succeeded in establishing that because the UK Constitution rests on the principle of Westminster’s Parliamentary Sovereignty, Holyrood could not ratify this convention.

4 Devo max can’t get rid of Trident

Devo max would leave defence in the hands of Westminster. They would retain Trident at its base in Scotland. It is unlikely that any area of England would consent to have nuclear submarines based there. With defence being one of the powers that would still be reserved to Westminster not only nuclear weapons policy but the decision to send troops to war would be out of Scotland's hands.

Devo max would indeed leave all of the great offices of state in the hands of the UK Government. Whatever its political colour, Westminster would appoint the Secretaries of State for defence and foreign affairs, it would appoint the UK’s representatives abroad such as ambassadors, consuls, people nominated to international bodies and committees. It would determine the policy choices for the UK at state level, whether that was NATO, the UN or climate change conferences. History suggests that these choices would often be against Scotland’s wishes. 

5 Pensions would still be subject to Westminster cuts 

The UK Government pays the worst state pension in the developed world and has recently broken its manifesto pledge and removed the triple lock protection on state pensions which will see Scottish pensioners lose £520 in 2022, and a cumulative £2,600 over the next five years. In direct comparison, the Scottish independence movement is campaigning for a pension rise in an independent Scotland to £200.00 from the standard basic UK pension of £137.60 a week. 


We have seen over recent years how defenceless Scotland is against a hostile UK Government determined to cut pensions and Scotland budgets in real terms with austerity budgets. Westminster has declined to pass to Holyrood the powers that have come back through Brexit, even the ones that were already supposedly devolved, making its own decisions about Scotland’s spending priorities without consulting Holyrood. 

UK Government in 2014 rejected the opportunity to add Devo Max to the ballot paper - probably because polling shows it would be likely to split the No vote more than Yes. On the eve of that vote, the Gordon Brown made a Vow that devo max would effectively be delivered anyway. It wasn’t. Devo max won't be on the ballot paper in 2023 either and Scotland wont fall for that trick twice.

Scotland emerges stronger after backlash as Westminster plots to freeze out FM from COP26

Scotland’s role in the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow has been strengthened by the backlash to reports that the UK government was working to sideline First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the event.

Messages have been leaked from advisers from No 10 and the Westminster Cabinet Office outlining their plan to downplay Ms Sturgeon's role at the historic climate change conference in November. Their fears that the event, which will focus world attention on the climate crisis, will become an ‘advert’ for independence have been made to look petty and ridiculous.

The revelations coincide with what has been called a ‘fortnight of showdowns’ the UK government faces with peers over its post-Brexit green protections widely derided as being too weak.

The notes also reveal a determined effort to ensure that the Union flag is displayed as much as possible at the summit

The advisers’ messages suggest that Boris Johnson should "neutralise" the First Minster by not sharing a platform with her at the event and including other devolved leaders where possible . One message referred to Sturgeon and said: "This can be labelled as a role for her [as one of the UK's leaders] but avoids her taking centre stage."

Another said: "We can't let this be used as an advert for an independence campaign."  The notes also reveal a determined effort to ensure that the Union flag is displayed as much as possible at the summit.

The irony of the UK government’s messages will not be lost on observers. While complaining about the First Minister’s ‘obsession’ with independence they suggest that public statements tied to the summit should focus on Glasgow as a city in the UK, and that mentions of Scotland should refer to its place within the United Kingdom wherever possible.

The First Minister responded on social media, tweeting: "All that matters is that COP26 delivers an outcome to meet the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

"We must work together and maximise contributions towards that. Anyone – me or PM –  who allowed politics to get in way would be abdicating that responsibility."

A UK government spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has been clear that there is a role for all the First Ministers from across the UK at COP26 and we are working together with the Scottish Government to ensure this crucial summit is a success." Which is not exactly a denial of the story.

There was no mention of Boris Johnson’s previously revealed statement that he ‘didn’t mind seeing a Saltire or two on that summit, but I want to see a Union flag – I don’t want to see Nicola Sturgeon anywhere near it."

The Prime Minister refused to meet the First Minister to discuss COP26 during his ill-fated trip to Scotland last month. Reports now suggest this was a deliberate decision as part of the wider effort to frame COP26 and green investment as a “UK win”.

The UK government is now facing tough challenges to its post-Brexit green protections. An alliance of crossbench and opposition peers has tabled more than 100 amendments to the environment bill in an attempt to beef up protections for nature, air quality and water standards and give the new green watchdog more powers.

UK ministers may be in the position of arguing in favour of reduced domestic environmental standards while trying to claim a global leadership role before the Glasgow climate conference.

They are also in an embarrassing position as more than 200 health journals worldwide today publish an editorial calling on world leaders to take emergency action on climate change and protect health.

The British Medical Journal said it is the first time so many journals have come together to make the same statement. The editorial says that ahead of COP26 “we – the editors of health journals worldwide – call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.

The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature

“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.’

It adds: “The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature. Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world.'

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the BMJ and one of the co-authors of the editorial, said: “Health professionals have been on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis and they are united in warning that going above 1.5C and allowing the continued destruction of nature will bring the next, far deadlier crisis.’

It's morning again in Scotland

This morning we woke up in a country where newly elected members of its parliament took their oath or affirmation in at least eight different languages from all over the world.They included Gaelic, Scots, Doric, Orcadian, German, Urdu, sign language and even Zimbabwean Shona.

This morning we woke up in a country where its new parliament contains 58 women MSPs out of a total of 129. A parliament which has just seen its first two women of colour elected and where its first permanent wheelchair user has joined the ranks of MSPs.

A country where our parliament’s ruling party insists that the top place in its regional lists must be reserved for either a Bame or a disabled candidate.

This a parliament which is trying and improving, which knows that more work is needed and is determined to do it

This morning we work up to a country with a parliament which is not perfect, where we have not yet achieved gender parity, or enough LGBT representation; where we have very far to go before our Bame communities are properly represented numerically and where women need more help to play an active role in political life.

But this a parliament which is trying and improving, which knows that more work is needed and is determined to do it.

This morning we woke up in a country which is sending a 28-year-old Muslim woman to represent Airdrie and Shotts at Westminster. Anum Qaisar-Javed won the seat for the SNP after the party’s previous MP Neil Gray stood down to successfully stand for Holyrood.

After the result was announced Ms Qaisar-Javed said she wanted to be a role model not just for women or people of colour but for anyone from any minority group.

This morning we woke up in a country where a community can stand against the UK Home Office and protect its own

This is a country where we send immigrants and the children of immigrants to parliaments, to the very seats of power. A country where we do not send them ‘home’.

This morning we woke up in a country where a community can stand against the UK Home Office and protect its own.

Yesterday morning Pollokshields woke up in a country where immigrants can face a UK immigration raid  and a neighbour’s first reaction was to throw himself under a van to prevent two men from being hauled off.

A country where he was quickly joined by hundreds of others who gathered in the streets demanding that the two men be released from custody.

A country appalled that such a raid could take place in the heart of one its most ethnically diverse areas just as the Muslim community celebrated Eid.

Kenmure Street in Glasgow’s Pollokshields was soon thronged with people determined to make sure the immigration van could not move with the men inside.

They chanted: ‘These are our neighbours, let them go’ and ‘refugees are welcome here’. A banner hung from an overlooking window saying: ‘If this is Team UK we reject it.’

This morning we woke up in a country where such despicable behaviour by UK immigration officers is called out by our own government. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the area’s constituency MSP, tweeted: ‘I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid. My office is making urgent enquiries.’

And Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he and the First Minister had been in touch with the Home Office to abandon the operation.

He said: ‘I have expressed the Scottish government’s deep concern and anger about this operation by the Home Office …To take this action in Pollokshields a day after the First Minister warned of an upsurge in Covid cases in the south side of Glasgow is completely reckless.’

Other voices were added to the outcry. Scottish rock band Primal Scream, Outlander star Sam Heughan and singer Karine Polwart were among those who took to social media to express their support for Pollokshields and their pride in the community action.

When the two man were eventually released from their ordeal with the help of the human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar the local hero who had crawled underneath the van had been there for eight hours.

This morning we woke up in a country where communities are not afraid to stand up to injustice and inhumanity.

We live in a country where we have the opportunity to put humanity and decency  at  the heart of our society and our government

It is a country where we are not intrinsically ‘better’ than those living in other countries or elsewhere in the UK.  There are people Liverpool, in Manchester, in London, who have stood up to power and would have done so if confronted with a similar situation as those living in Pollokshields.

But we live in a country where we have the opportunity to put humanity and decency  at  the heart of our society and our government. A country where we have a chance to reject the heartless brutality of the Home Office, the corruption and greed of Westminster.

Don’t we have a responsibility to those living elsewhere who believe there is an alternative to to the current, morally bankrupt UK to seize the chance to make it a reality.

This morning we woke up in a country which stood together to protect the vulnerable in the name of common humanity. These are times we have rarely had more cause to Believe in Scotland.

Boris Johnson does not have the power to block a second independence referendum

The apparent shift today in Boris Johnson’s anti independence referendum stance from ‘‘not ever’ to ‘not now’ is nothing more than a desperate bid to play for time. If he believes it will distract voters from his extremist  anti-democratic actions he is deluded.

The Prime Minister is as intractably opposed to indyref2 as ever but has become aware that his unyeilding stance is playing badly in a country which already disliked him very much indeed.

In his speech at today’s Conservative Party conference he used the pandemic as his latest excuse for refusing to agree a Section 30 order which would replicate the mechanism through which the 2014 referendum was held. He believes this 'softer' approach has a better chance of winning over Scottish voters.

It’s nonsense of course. Scotland dislikes the prime minister for many other reasons as well as his refusal to listen to the majority support for the country’s right to choose its own future.

The dangerous fiasco that is Brexit, for instance, which we learned just days ago has laid waste to Scotland’s trade with the EU, at a huge cost.

And the party’s brutal arrogance that makes it think it can impose its will on a country which has rejected it at the ballot box again and again.

The Prime Minister’s ultimate goal remains to stop the referendum by hook or by crook. He will not agree to a Section 30 order at any time. The pandemic excuse is a ruse. He knows very well that no one is suggesting holding a referendum until Covid recedes.

However, he hopes that by pretending to be 'reasonable' he will stop a pro-independence majority in the May Scottish election and therefore not have to face the issue at all.  Then he will begin a task that he has already started ... the destruction of the Scottish Parliament and devolution itself.

Boris Johnson is fooling no one. He does not have the power to block a second independence referendum.

The return of a Yes-voting majority of MSPs is an overwhelming mandate for a referendum that simply cannot be ignored by Westminster if the UK can in any way claim to be a democratic country

The Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens will enter the election with clear commitments to hold a second referendum in their manifestos. Virtually every opinion poll suggests the SNP will win that election with a clear majority and every opinion poll states that there will be a significant pro-Yes majority.

Therefore it cannot be denied that the Scottish people will have voted in favour of that referendum going ahead. The return of a Yes-voting majority of MSPs is an overwhelming mandate for a referendum that simply cannot be ignored by Westminster if the UK can in any way claim to be a democratic country.

Remember … the voting system for the Scottish parliament was designed to make a majority government almost impossible. If the SNP manage to win an that outright majority then we have carbon copy of the mandate that led to the 2014 referendum and those facts cannot be denied. Brexit has already been a major challenge to that democracy. It has torn Scotland out of Europe expressly against its wishes.

Despite that, the Scottish government has bent over backwards to find a solution to the Brexit problem that reflects Scotland’s vote while still respecting the overall referendum result. Every attempt has been ruled out by a Westminster government which has ignored and insulted Scotland’s elected representatives at every turn. The results have been catastrophic.

The SNP’s preferred route to independence is through a referendum supported by a Section 30 order passed by Westminster. That was the arrangement in 2014, agreed by a Conservative Prime Minister who recognised his democratic duty to pay attention to voters’ wishes, expressed through an SNP majority at Holyrood.

But that is not the only route to a referendum. Our right to decide our country’s future cannot be vetoed by a UK government we did not vote for.

If it refuses to grant a Section 30 we will hold a referendum anyway. That referendum will be entirely legal and backed by the democratically expressed will of the Scottish people. It recognises that our membership of the Union does not – indeed, must not - take away our democratic rights.  Boris Johnson can challenge it in the courts if he likes. He will not win.

This is another attack on the powers of the Scottish parliament. Holyrood is Scotland’s parliament, this is Scotland’s election and it is Scotland’s choice whether  to have a referendum or not

Believe in Scotland campaign director Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp responded: ‘According to a poll last year 87% of Scottish voters were more likely to vote for independence because of Boris Johnson. It’s possible that he is aiming for 90% plus. This is another attack on the powers of the Scottish parliament. Holyrood is Scotland’s parliament, this is Scotland’s election and it is Scotland’s choice whether  to have a referendum or not.

‘By dictating to Scotland and attacking our democratic right to chose our own future he is helping to make the case for independence unanswerable, whilst also ensuring that an alternative route to independence will become acceptable to the Scottish voters and also to the international community.  He thinks his statement is a master stroke but he is in reality just blundering into a trap set by Scottish government.'

The Scottish government has exhausted every avenue to hold a referendum under the same procedure as 2014 and Westminster is now turning its back on the democratic process. No country in the world which adheres to the principles of democracy could do anything other than recognise the authority of the election mandate for the vote. We will have our referendum. We will win it. And we will create the country we dream of living in. And there is nothing Boris Johnson or any of his cabinet  can do to deny us that opportunity.