Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Would You Adam & Steve It?

The Church of Scotland would.

On Saturday evening, the commissioners of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ratified the appointment of Scott Rennie as minister of Queens Cross Kirk in Aberdeen. Scott Rennie is openly gay and despite winning the support and approval of his prospective congregation and presbytery, there was opposition to his appointment from within, and markedly without the Church of Scotland.

The Kirk has a commendable history of liberalism. It has long championed universal and free education, the National Health Service and the Welfare State. It has officially supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Scottish Consitutional Convention. And of course, it was way ahead of the game when it came to ordinating women as ministers.

Despite that record, i feared the threat of splits, literal readings of scripture and institutional conservatism might stymie the Church of Scotland's chance to be a leader again among churches of the world. I shouldnae have worried. The vote was close - 326 to 267 - but the arguments seemed to focus not on what the bible says but on what Jesus Christ would have done. As an atheist who was brought up believing that Jesus was the first socialist, i'm delighted that JC's still considered the good guy by people who know much more about him than i do.

A wonderful day for the Church of Scotland and fitting testament to the bravery of Scott Rennie. Now if they could only get over that guff about believing in God.....

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Elph v. Rabbie Burns

Just over a year ago, Dunk o Cupar took me on a slightly deranged tour of Amsterdam. We went nowhere near coffee shops, galleries, falaffel bars or boozers but traipsed up narrow closes, into clothes shops and store rooms in search of graffiti. Dunk loves the stuff and i'm learning to.

Hip hop art hit the back streets of Embra's Georgian New Town yesterday when Elph was let loose on Bonham's auctioneer warehouse in Thistle Street Lane NW. Elph is one of Scotland's best known graffiti artists and currently exhibiting "Lest Bogles Catch Him Unawares" - pieces inspired by Tam O'Shanter, a favourite poem since it first spooked me in primary 6. (He also designs flyers for Headspin, which happens to be my favourite club in the city.)

Lest Bogles celebrates Rabbie Burns' 250th birthday and is showing now at the Henderson Gallery. Rabbie's birthday has also inspired Homecoming Scotland - a slightly twee attempt to lure more tourists to Scotland during 2009. I hope this attempt succeeds though cos Scotland's a groovy place to visist.

Anyway, there's nowt twee about Elph's work and a visit to the Henderson Gallery is a great shout for anyone into Burns, graffiti or both. And i must tip my big Kilmarnock bunnett to Bonham's for handing over the exterior of a drab looking warehouse to Elph's spraypaint action. Get yirsel along and check it oot.

Rumour is that Elph and chums will be doing bits and pieces in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Embra while it's closed for renovations (repopens Nov 2011). I'll keep my peepers peeled. Definite word is that Elph's work is among that in 4th Element - an exhibition of urban art at the Watermill Gallery, Aberfeldy from 23rd May til 6th July. This one features names to get Dunk super excited - Dolk, Eelus, Blek Le Rat and some gadge called Banksy. What a barry reason to hit glorious Highland Perthshire.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Fair Play il Papa

I've never been shy to slag off the Pope (this one or the previous) for what i perceive as his promotion of homophobia, misogyny and the systematic abuse of power. His failure to save millions from HIV by prohibiting the use of condoms also gets me right up on the high horse. As unimpeachable (infallible?) head of the richest and most influential church in the Western world, he's a pretty soft target for the likes o me. So fair play to the man for his recent behaviour in the Middle East.

First up he went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem where he made clear his revulsion at what was done to the Jewish people by the Nazis. He also laid right into those who would deny or belittle what happened during the Holocaust. Let's hear no more pish about him having served in the Hitler Youth, membership of which was compulsory when he was a lad.

Then he hosted a high profile meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Israel, local Christian bigwigs and the head of the Palestinian Islamic Sharia court. No mean feat to get them together and a clear indication that he's in favour of closer links between what i (as an admittedly scripturally challenged atheist) consider to be 3 branches of the same religious tree. Jews, Christians and Muslims have been battering lumps out of each other and the rest of us for far too long. It's high time they cut the crap and accepted that they all believe in 90% of the same stuff (they just dig different headgear).

And yesterday while visiting Bethlehem, the Pope called for a sovereign Palestinian state and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. That's very big cheese indeed. I wish the UK and US governments would be so unequivocal on the matter. So for the moment, Holy See, The Holy Father, Pope Benedict xv1 or Holy Joe to yer muckers back home in Germany, i salute ye, sur.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Diggin The Tramworks

A year past March me and Mand arrived back in Embra for the first time in 6 months. Keen to catch up on the local spraff, i chucked the rucsack in a cab, shouted up an address in Leith and pinned back my lugs. I expected some chat about fitba, or maybe an enquiry as to where we'd been and what we'd been up to - usual kinda taxi chat. What i got was a 20 minute diatribe about "fuckin trams". Our driver was clearly most unimpressed by the festival city's latest moves to improve public transport. Well shy of Leith i had to ask (nicely natch) the driver gadge to wheesht - i was tired and didnae really need the rant.

Turned out this rant would be no isolated incident. Tram ranting's a civic obsession in Embra - everybody hates them cos they've dug up all the roads, cost a fortune and will only amount to a glorified 22 bus route. Actually, that's no true. Leith and the city centre are indeed full of holes and dust and ever changing bus diversions and the amount of cash being handed over to private companies from the public purse is a feckin disgrace. Plus it'll be well into 2011 before we see an actual tram on the streets. But too many cars clog up the city and i reckon the trams'll be a fast, clean and viable alternative for many looking to nip tween Leith, the airport and all points between. Big shame the link to Granton's been bumped and i hope that's not lost forever.

So yesterday whilst quaffing a coupla pints in the Compass Bar, Queen Charlotte Street (great beers, tasty scran, friendly staff) my man Cope mentioned he'd seen bones in a tram hole outside the polis station on Constitution Street. Wisnae really sure i'd heard right but went outside for a wee swatch anyway. And i had heard right. The pic above shows said bones plus some weirdo in a blue tracky top. Not really sure what these bones are - looks like a thigh and 2 horns but i'd love to ken precisely what they are, how old they are and how they got there.

The pic's no the clearest cos Cope's phone is mainly a phone, not a camera. But any ideas about the bones?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Freaky Deeky

Fitba: why do i do it to masel? Just spent an evening as the only Jambo among a throng of Hibbies in the Phoenix, sipping pricey Grolsch lager and watchin my team lose to what i still maintain was a right dodgy penalty awarded when Freaky Deeky (above) went sprawling in the box.

Mibbies i was spoiled by glimpsin the best 4 teams in Europe over the last coupla nights but even at that, tonight's game could only be described as utter keech. Both teams struggled to stick more than a coupla passes together and the whole point seemed to be to howf it up the park as hard and fast as poss.

Complete jobbies, but it might have been acceptable had the ref not been a total womble. (To be fair to said womble, i appear to be the only person in Embra who reckons it wis nivir a pen.)

In future i really should stick to the shinty. But it was actually almost worth it for the following post-match words of wisdon from the great Csaba Laszlo, "We were not really focussed. We had too many issues in the head and we forgot to score goals.

Now there's a man who speaks sense.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Holyrood - The Next Step

There's nowt quite like an anniversary to make me feel my age (though i've felt twice my age since Giz and Ali's wedding and the ensuing all-weekender.) So it's fair frazzed ma heid to read that today's precisely 10 years since the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. Holy crap - a whole decade.

Devolution was something i'd marched and postered and leafleted and argued in favour of since the late 70's. Before i could legally vote, the Labour Government of the day in Westminster rigged a referendum on devolution in 1979. That was followed by those dreadful years of Thatcher's Tories - so utterly out of step with Scotland that by 1997, the Tories ended up with zero out of 77 Scottish MPs.

After all that, it was hugely exciting then a major relief and then a bit of an anti-climax to finally get our Parliament in 1999. Voting in a purely Scottish election was a genuine thrill for me since we had an effective form of Proportional Representation in place. This gave us MSPs from the Green and Scottish Socialist Parties as well as independents and erm...all those other usual suspects.

Diversity at last, but the first Lab/Lib coalition soon disappointed with their lack of imagination and fear of offending the bosses in London. Things improved though and the Parliament has delivered some excellent legislation and managed its budget in a generally even handed and redistributive way. Its social policies have been progressive and in its own limited way it's brought government in Scotland much closer to the people of Scotland and their wishes.

However, the Parliament did not stop us going to war with Iraq. It hasn't removed nuclear weapons or the threat of more nuclear power plants on our soil. It has failed to protect us from all the so called anti-terror legislation which increasingly slashes our civil liberties. It hasn't taken us any closer to Europe and it hasn't raised our profile in the world. What I've seen of the Scottish Parliament in practise has lead me to conclude that Scotland can govern itself well and would do even better with more executive powers.

It's only in the last few years that i've been genuinely convinced of the need for independence. But now it's time to get on board with the Scottish Independence Convention and i'm marking 10 years of the Parliament by signing up today. Geez it.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Happy May Day

Ay oop. Wen ah wir a lad, May Day yooztu reelay mean soomat. Twir wen wurkerz wud tek day off wirk and yoonite in solidarity with broothiz and sistiz across twirld. Ok enough o that faux Yorkshire pish. But aye, there used to be a shooge march in Embra and the city centre would be left in no doubt that those pesky workers were united. This year's march and rally takes place on Saturday the 2nd and also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. I'd be there masel if i wisnae going to the wedding of the year in Pathead.

Unlike May Day marches 40 years ago or others elsewhere in Europe, only be a few hundred people will be there and most shoppers and tourists in the city won't even notice. That's not to belittle the event or its admirable organisers. But it bares shameful testament to what the last Tory government did to the Trades Unions and the nationalised industries in Britain and particularly in Scotland.

There now seems to be a general acceptance that Labour will lose the next election to the Conservative and Unionist Party. Some people in Scotland even look forward to that happening because they so dislike the current mob in Westminster and/or they reckon it'll boost the cause of Scottish independence. I'm not one of those people.

It's hard to defend a nominally left wing party which has presided over a widening of the gap between rich and poor and prosecution of the least justifiable war in my lifetime. But the Tories would have done even less to eradicate poverty and they'd have been even more supine towards the USA. If the Eton Rifles had been in power these last 11 years, there would be no Scottish Parliament, no minimum wage and no legally acknowledged civil partnerships. These are hardly revolutionary concepts but they've benefitted millions of ordinary people.

And if anyone thinks the Tories will make it easier for Scotland to gain independence, they're kidding themself on. Tories are arch unionists and far closer to the media, big business and the advertising industry than Labour ever will be. They'll stop at nothing to keep the Union intact and life for leties in Scotland will be even worse than it is under Labour. Westminster elections will hopefully be of little consequence in just a few years but in the meantime, i'll do what i can to keep the Tories out. And yes, it is because i have class envy. Fuck the rich and powerful.