Ice floes viewed from plane window

General Election 2015: a view from the window seat

After some involvement with General Election 2015 it’s strange to find myself 36,000 feet up on a plane headed for a long planned holiday on the other side of the world just as the campaign enters its most intense phase.

Thoroughly immersed in politics as I now seem to be, it’s not entirely unpleasant to have the opportunity to escape the febrile atmosphere for a couple of weeks, particularly that in post-referendum Scotland, now a different, politically charged country.

And my view from the window seat, with the blue haze shimmering over the tip of Greenland, affords an opportunity to breathe out, to try to attain a certain perspective, to discern what is and is not of lasting importance amidst the clamour of day-to-day political debate.

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City lights from space

Labour and the Greens: some philosophical differences

This post first appeared on the Labour Hame website.

The headline story of the 2015 General Election, both here in Scotland and across the UK, continues to be the seemingly inexorable rise of the SNP. Much has been written about what, if anything, Scottish Labour can do to turn back, or more plausibly, simply contain, the nationalist tide.

There has been somewhat less commentary on another challenge to Labour’s precarious core vote: that presented by the Scottish Greens. I know I am not the only Labour canvasser to have spoken to many former supporters intending to switch to the Greens, especially in those liberal, bohemian urban areas that used to be Labour strongholds. Or to have noticed a significant spike in social media likes or retweets for the latest Green initiative.

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Introducing Sceptical Scot

Over the past few weeks I’ve been glad to help with the development of a new current affairs website, Sceptical Scot, which launched this week.

The site hopes to bring more light than heat to the ongoing, intense discussion over the future of Scotland in the wake of last year’s referendum. It will range widely, covering political, economic and cultural issues.

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10 books for 2015

There will be many others I don’t yet know about. And I’m sure I will not read everything listed below. But here are 10 books to be published in 2015 I’m looking forward to, summarised in alphabetical order.

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Battle Beyond the Sun movie poster

Engineering utopia

Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty is not just any old history of post-war Soviet cybernetic mathematical modelling. This is an account of centrally administered resource allocation quite unlike any other.

Part fiction, part historical narrative, Red Plenty is a brilliant imaginative reconstruction of a moment in time when it seemed an alternative to capitalism as a method of economic organisation might be possible. The book’s subject matter is undoubtedly esoteric, but it does have a contemporary resonance.

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