P&J Column for 2.12.13

600 pages of white paper; and about as informative as the stuff you buy for your printer

‘Scotland’s Future’ The Scottish Government’s white paper on independence was published last week; probably the single most important document in our nation’s constitutional history since the Declaration of Arbroath. So it’s a pity no one could be bothered to read it all the way through. We did try, but then ‘I’m a Celebrity’ came on and…well you ken fit like. Luckily, some of our regular contributors are on hand to give us their impressions.

Struan Metcalfe, MSP for Aberdeenshire North-by-North west

What? There was a White Paper on independence issued? News to me! I was off on a corporate bender for the Rugby World Cup at old Trafford (the electorate need not worry, it wasn’t on expenses, it was all provided by my corporate paymasters!) Afraid five days on the Stella Artois overtook me like a boy racer on the beach boulevard, so it rather passed me by. I know I haven’t read it but am sure the Nats haven’t been so dim as to try to keep the pound. Ha ha !

Archie  Fraser – gentleman of the road

I was very impressed with ‘Scotland’s Future’, it was solid, well put together, and at 600 pages, when torn up and stuffed under the shirt, excellent insulation for a December night under Union Bridge.

Tim Bee – the very conscientious objector

I strongly object to what I saw in the independence white paper. For one, the grammar was appalling. Secondly, it must have cost me, the taxpayer, a huge amount of money to produce. Are we meant to believe it a co-incidence that it was published on the very day the bin collection went monthly? I object!

Jimmy Hollywood – Sandilands’ most eligible bachelor

I seen the white paper. Magic. Fitiver the naysayers and gloom merchants think, a vote for Scottish independence hiz got tae be a positive thing, hiz it? Picture it, a win for the ‘Yes’ campaign, ab’dy spilling oot onto the streets, birds everywhere intoxicated by the concept o’ self determination. And long vodkas. It’ll be like VE Day a ower again, and Jimmy will be there, right in the thick of it, tae patriotically snog the faces aff them. Good times!

J Fergus Lamont – arts critic

My regular reading material of the moment being the Dickensian ‘Take A Break’ magazine, it was with some trepidation that I opened my copy of ‘Scotland’s Future’.  Alex Salmond is not an author with whom I had previously been familiar, but I needn’t have been concerned. The deathless prose, the epic imagination. Truly this work is a fairy-tale the equal of anything by Tolkien or CS Lewis. I wept.

Doddie Esslemont – radical independence campaigner

The white paper is totally lacking in the vision and optimism contained in my own purple paper (with green crayon).  Where is the offer for each household to receive the right to secede from Scotland and form its own state, complete with presidential limo, a seat at the UN and a personal Isla st Clair?  Until we see true visionary leadership like that, we will never tempt people away from the Status Quo, despite the fact that they haven’t done anything decent since “Rocking All Over the World”


Professor Hector Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, I’m always being asked questions such as ‘Was there ever life on Mars?’ ‘How long until we build the quantum computer?’ and ‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink, sir?’  But recently, people have been asking me all about comets.   “Well”, I advise “it’s almost a year since they went belly-up.  Have you tried Currys?”  And then we laugh.  Until we consider the long-term implications of the collapse of Britain’s retail sector.

This week, astronomers have been eager to learn the fate of comet Ison as it blazes a trail round the far side of the Sun. Many people I have spoken to have been excited at the prospect of the greatest sight in the night sky since the Thainstone Mart fireworks display, but have furrowed their brows and nodded slowly when I attempt to explain the physics, so I shall try to put it in laymen’s terms.

Comets are huge lumps of ice and rock, essentially vast space borne versions of the kind of snowball that can break a window or, to my eternal regret, blind a school friend. They whizz around the sun in an extreme elliptical orbit, like a giant game of celestial swingball.  To help you comprehend the scale, try to imagine a Motability scooter cruising slowly down Causewayend, accelerating to Mach 1 as it negotiates the Mounthooly Roundabout and then gently coasting back up to Split the Winds. But with all sparks and fire coming out the back of it.

The scientific community expected that the comet – a ball of ice, remember – would be vapourised in its close encounter with the boiling, 1 million degree inferno that is the sun. But what would science be without a little unpredictable data?  Reports suggest that the plucky little ice-cube had, in fact, survived to yet wow the 12 people around the globe with access to a super-magnifying telescope.

Excitingly, this suggests we need to rethink our existing hypothesis about the interaction between frozen solid objects and intense heat. Accordingly, as soon as the wintery weather is here I suggest you build yourself a snowman, take it in the house, and leave it right beside a radiator.