When finance secretary John Swinney went head to head with his shadow counterpart Labour’s Iain Gray on Wednesday evening, one thing was clear from the off: this would not be another barney of the sort Monday’s leaders debate descended into.
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Another referendum day, another referendum opinion poll. At least the recent YouGov survey of more than 3,600 people in England, which was commissioned by Cardiff University and the ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change as part of the Future of England study, had an element of novelty to commend it. This was the first significant temperature-taking of opinion down south and how it was being influenced by the referendum mood music. Poll results, as we have surely come to learn, are like freshly cooked pasta in a colander; there to be tossed about before sauce and seasoning is added to the consumer’s liking.
The Scottish Social Attitudes survey has delivered the latest batch of polling data for psephologists and political pugilists to digest. Particularly useful for monitoring the long-term development of public opinion, this week’s publication contained a number of headline-worthy results as the referendum campaign prepares to draw to an exhausted conclusion.
The World Cup started in a normal fashion for me this year, even though I’d moved from Scotland to the Netherlands, i.e. the team I was supporting didn’t have high expectations. But then they went and beat the reigning champions 5-1 in the opening game, and my world was turned upside down. I was living in a country that actually believed it could win the competition.
I’m not sure how my family would have coped without the support of the NHS. From diagnosing my Granda with Alzheimer’s and providing our family with the support we needed, to providing treatment to my newborn baby sister back in 2000 when she had bronchiolitis, the National Health Service has always been there for us.
There is no subject in the British political discourse that evokes as much passion and loyalty as the National Health Service (NHS). Brits, regardless of where they live, are committed to their public healthcare service so it comes as no surprise that the topic has taken centre-stage in the debate over Scotland’s future. The Nationalists argue that a no vote in September threatens the future of free at the point of use healthcare in Scotland, they argue that the budget-balancing efforts at Westminster threaten the funding for Scottish healthcare and that the only way to prevent this is a yes vote. However, upon closer scrutiny this does not appear to hold up as an argument.
Like many across the world who have ever experienced and been touched by the work and talent of Robin Williams, we are in mourning this week. His acting brought joy and laughter to everyone across the globe. He was a part of at least my generation’s childhood, I remember fondly his roles as Mrs Doubtfire and the Genie from Aladdin. Away from acting he was a generous man and just as funny. It is therefore heart-breaking to have heard that he has taken his own life due to the demons that haunted him.
In the wake of the Commonwealth Games and with the IndyRef within touching distance, Scotland is glowing like the confident, assertive and mobilised nation it is. But two recent incidents involving flags hint at underlying sentiments and preoccupations that can be blown into anxious disarray by even the faintest historical or political breeze.