Scottish Government gives go ahead for bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT has said that it is ready to begin talks with Belfast and Dublin about the feasibility of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government told BBC Northern Ireland’s The View programme that it will “initiate discussions to explore improving connectivity between our two islands”.

The construction of a bridge or a tunnel has often been discussed and a proposal was also contained in the 2015 DUP manifesto.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson told the BBC: “We have got the most expensive stretch of water for ships and ferries to cross and sometimes it is disrupted by bad weather, etc.

“One of the suggestions we made was if you are going to go for blue sky thinking, huge infrastructure projects, why not look at the 22 miles between Northern Ireland and Scotland and build a bridge which would make travel less expensive and probably more certain.”

A bridge stretching from Larne in County Antrim to Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway has been suggested.

Scotland’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell has backed the idea of a bridge and said that a fixed link could only be a good thing.

The one major stumbling block in negotiations could be the large cost of such a project.

Many in the business community in Northern Ireland have serious reservations.

Seamus Leheny from the Northern Ireland Freight Transport Association believes road projects in the country should be prioritised over a bridge.

“We have flagship projects where we are struggling to get the capital money to build those and also our roads and maintenance budget.

“We simply don’t have the money to retain what we already have. So to build a bridge at this cost would be seen as a vanity project by some.”

The original idea of connecting Scotland and Ireland has been around for over a hundred and thirty years.

Plans from the 1890s show tunnels stretching from counties Down and Antrim to the west of Scotland to carry trains.

Ultimately, despite much consideration, the tunnels were never built.

This content was originally published here.


Birmingham school stops LGBT lessons after parent protests | Education | The Guardian

A primary school that taught pupils about homosexuality as part of a programme to challenge homophobia has stopped the lessons after a parent backlash in which hundreds of children were withdrawn in protest.

Parkfield community school in Saltley, Birmingham, has been the scene of weekly protests over the lessons, which parents claim are promoting gay and transgender lifestyles.

On Friday about 600 Muslim children, aged between four and 11, were withdrawn from the school, parents said. The school would not confirm the number.

Last month, the Guardian reported how the assistant headteacher of the school was forced to defend its teachings after 400 predominantly Muslim parents signed a petition for the lessons to be dropped from the curriculum.

Andrew Moffat, who was awarded an MBE for his work in equality education, says he was threatened and targeted via a leaflet campaign after the school piloted No Outsiders – a programme run as part of sex and relationship education (SRE) lessons. Its ethos is to promote LGBT equality and challenge homophobia in primary schools.

Now the school has confirmed the lessons have been shelved until after Easter and will resume only after a full consultation with every parent.

In a letter to parents it said: “Up to the end of this term, we will not be delivering any No Outsiders lessons. In our Long Term Year Curriculum Plan, as this half term has already been blocked for Religious Education (RE). Equality assemblies will continue as normal and our welcoming No Outsiders ethos will be there for all.”

Moffat, the author of Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools who is currently shortlisted for a world’s best teacher award, resigned from another primary school – Chilwell Croft academy, also in Birmingham – after a similar dispute with Muslim parents.

Parents have been picketing outside the Saltley school, which is rated as outstanding by Ofsted, each week over the lessons. At one protest they held up signs that read “say no to promoting of homosexuality and LGBT ways of life to our children”, “stop exploiting children’s innocence”, and “education not indoctrination”.

Children from reception age through to year six were being taught five No Outsiders lessons a year, each one covering topics to meet requirements in the Equality Act. Books being read by the pupils include Mommy, Mama and Me and King & King – stories about same-sex relationships and marriages.

However, after the inclusion of the programme in the curriculum, Moffat, who is in a civil partnership, faced angry protests by parents, who gathered outside the school gates, while others removed their children from the school.

The school appealed to parents to halt the protests saying they are “upsetting and disruptive” for the children.

In a letter sent to the parents, the trustee board of Excelsior Multi Academy Trust, which runs the school, confirmed that after a meeting between Andrew Warren, the regional schools commissioner for the West Midlands, parents, the Excelsior Trust, and Liam Byrne MP, the decision was taken to stop the lessons until the end of the current term.

The letter said: “The discussions were a helpful first step and identified the key issues that are concerning parents, including the ethos, the books, the age appropriateness, the lessons and the assemblies. The agreed outcome of the meeting was the need to have a discussion with the school community about the No Outsiders curriculum and how it should be delivered.”

The issue was first raised by parent Fatima Shah, who pulled her 10-year-old daughter out of the school, saying children were too young to be learning about same-sex marriages and LGBT rights in the classroom.

“We are not a bunch of homophobic mothers,” she said. “We just feel that some of these lessons are inappropriate. Some of the themes being discussed are very adult and complex and the children are getting confused.

“They need to be allowed to be children rather than having to constantly think about equalities and rights.”

Meanwhile Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, spoke out after parents in her constituency complained that primary schools were teaching their children about same-sex relationships.

The MP said parents did not oppose sex and relationship education, but felt their children were too young for some of the things being taught.

Speaking in a Commons debate, she said: “None of my constituents is seeking particular or differential opt-outs at secondary school level. It is all about the age appropriateness of conversations with young children in the context of religious backgrounds.”

Mahmood who has backed gay rights legislation in the Commons including voting for same-sex marriage said the government should ensure that the rights of minorities were protected, but that included the rights of people with orthodox religious views, including some Jews and Christians as well as some Muslims.

But Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, backed the school, and said it is vital children know about “families that have two mummies or two daddies”.

MP Liam Byrne, whose constituency includes the school, has suggested parents, faith leaders in the Muslim community and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual rights group Stonewall could work together on a curriculum.

The schools minister Nick Gibb said it was important for schools to take the religious beliefs of their pupils into account when they decide to deliver certain content to ensure that topics are “appropriately handled”.

This content was originally published here.


Labour will scrap Sats and let teachers teach, vows Jeremy Corbyn | Education | The Guardian

Labour has announced plans to scrap compulsory national tests for primary school children in England, with a promise to relieve pressure on overstretched schools and free up teachers to deliver a “rich and varied curriculum”.
Jeremy Corbyn chose to set out his proposals to abolish the regime of “extreme pressure testing” in an address to teachers gathered in Liverpool for the annual National Education Union conference.
In a speech warmly received by NEU members, who voted on Monday in favour of a ballot to boycott Sats tests next year, the Labour leader said: “We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams.”
Parents plan legal action over new tests for four-year-olds
Read more
He denounced the high-stakes testing culture, complaining that children in England’s schools are among the most tested in the world, and pledged a Labour government would abolish Sats for seven- and 11-year-olds, as well as controversial plans for baseline assessments for reception classes.
Corbyn told the 1,500-strong audience that Labour understood teachers were overworked and overstressed. “Teachers get into the profession because they want to inspire children, not pass them along an assembly line,” he said.
“We will raise standards by freeing up teachers to teach. Labour trusts teachers. You are professionals. You know your job. You know your students.”
Speaking weeks before the latest cohort of 10- and 11-year-olds take Sats, Corbyn highlighted the pressure the tests put on young children . “Sats and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears,” he said.
The government tests have not only been unpopular with teachers; parents have also been concerned about the damaging impact of high-stakes testing on young children and many have staged their own Sats boycott by keeping their children off school.
Welcoming Labour’s announcement, More Than a Score – a coalition of parents and teachers opposed to overtesting – said: “It doesn’t have to be this way. There are more supportive ways to assess children and fairer ways to measure schools, without the need to turn children into data points.”
Labour would consult parents and teachers and come up with a more flexible and practical system of assessment, which is tailored to individual pupils, Corbyn said.
“Our assessment will be based on clear principles. First, to understand the learning needs of each child, because every child is unique. And second, to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education,” he said.
“When children have a rich and varied curriculum, when they’re encouraged to be creative, to develop their imagination, then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.”
The announcement was welcomed by the NEU. Its joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “The NEU has long advocated an assessment system that has the trust of teachers and school communities – one that will support children’s learning and raise standards of attainment in our schools.
“We look forward to the return of a broad and balanced primary curriculum and to the rekindling of the spirit of creativity in our schools. We welcome Labour’s commitment to work with the profession in order to develop these groundbreaking policies further.”
Sats were introduced in 1990 to hold schools to account and help drive up standards. Six- and seven-year-olds sit the standardised national tests in English and maths at the end of key stage 1 and again at the end of key stage 2, in their final year of primary school.
In 2018, the government announced KS1 Sats would be replaced with a new baseline assessment in reception (ages four to five), beginning in 2020, with KS1 Sats becoming optional from 2023.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, also welcomed Labour’s approach. “In reality, Sats do not tell teachers or parents anything they didn’t already know about their child or school, but have the negative unintended consequences of distracting from teaching and learning and narrowing the focus of the curriculum,” he said.
Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Sats are a flawed way of measuring the performance of primary schools and a new approach is long overdue.
“These tests cannot possibly reflect the breadth and richness of the curriculum and learning which takes place in primary schools, and can lead to an overemphasis on English and maths to the detriment of other subjects.
“And while they are intended as a measure of school performance, rather than pupil performance, the reality is that it is very difficult to hold a week of tests without a proportion of children experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety.”
Schools Minister Nick Gibb condemned Labour’s plan to abolish school testing. He said: “These tests have been part of school life since the 90s. They have been pivotal in raising standards in our primary schools. That’s why Labour governments led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown supported them.
“Abolishing these tests would be a terrible, retrograde step. It would enormously damage our education system, and undo decades of improvement in children’s reading and maths. Under Labour, the government would simply give up on ensuring all our children can read and write by the age of 11.”

This content was originally published here.


‘Arts teaching could become more important than maths in tech-based future’ – education expert

The arts could become more important for young people than maths in the future, according to a leading education expert.

Researcher Andreas Schleicher, who leads the Programme for International Student Assessment at the intergovernmental economic organisation OECD, told a House of Commons inquiry that he believed young people could benefit more from the skills gained through creativity than test-based learning.

He was giving evidence to the Education Select Committee as part of an ongoing inquiry into the fourth industrial revolution – the influence of technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence on society.

Schleicher, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading educational thinkers, said: “I would say, in the fourth industrial revolution, arts may become more important than maths.”

“We talk about ‘soft skills’ often as social and emotional skills, and hard skills as about science and maths, but it might be the opposite,” he said, suggesting that science and maths may become ‘softer’ in future when the need for them decreases due to technology, and the ‘hard skills’ will be “your curiosity, your leadership, your persistence and your resilience”.

His comments come amid ongoing concerns about the narrowing of the education system in the UK to exclude creativity and prioritise academic subjects.

Campaigners argue that this is prohibiting many young people from pursuing creative careers. However, Schleicher said that too narrow a curriculum could also make young people less prepared for the demands of the future.

He said British schools largely regard skills as inferior to knowledge, and can be very focused on traditional tasks such as memorisation.

“When you look at the types of tasks that British students are doing better [than other countries], they are more those that are associated with the past than the future – the kind of things that are easy to teach and easy to test. It is precisely those things that are easy to digitise.

“The modern world doesn’t reward you for what you know, but for what you can do with what you know,” he said.

This content was originally published here.


Scotland confronts homophobes and transphobes in amazing new billboard campaign · PinkNews

A new ad campaign is being rolled out in Scotland confronting homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

The provocative ads were produced by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland as part of the One Scotland campaign, a bold new project which seeks to reduce the risk of hate crime.

The ads, which have begun to appear across Scotland ahead of the campaign’s official launch on Wednesday, directly challenge people with hateful beliefs in the form of a letter, signed on behalf of Scotland.

One states: “Dear transphobes, do you think it’s right to harass people in the street? Right to push transgender people around in clubs? Right to humiliate, intimidate and threaten them online? Well we don’t.

“That’s why if we see you doing harm, we’re reporting you. We believe people should be allowed to be themselves. Except if they’re spreading hate.

“Yours, Scotland.”

Another says: “Dear homophobes, we have a phobia of your behaviour.

“If you torment people because of who they love, shout word that we are not going to write, or use violence because you don’t like who someone is holding hands with, you should be worried.

“If we see or hear your abuse, we’re calling the police. That’s because love lives in this country, not hate.

“Yours, Scotland.”

Further ads take aim at racists and people who discriminate against disabled people.

The One Scotland campaign explained: “Police Scotland takes hate crime very seriously.

“In the last year there were over 5,300 charges of hate crime reported to the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland. However, there are many more incidents that go unreported.

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“We all have a responsibility to report hate crime if we witness it – it’s the only way we can challenge it, and put an end to it for good.

“There’s no place for hate in Scotland. Report it to stop it.”

The ads earned praise from Stonewall Scotland, who hailed the “great leadership” of the Scottish government on the issue.

The Scottish National Party’s Angela Constance said previously: “We all need to play our part to eradicate hate crime, which has no place in Scotland.

“Ensuring we all take a stand and report hate crime is an important part of creating a fairer country for all. I look forward to seeing the country come together to support the campaign and take a stand against such hate.”

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie of Police Scotland said: “People of all races, religions, ethnicities, of any sexual orientation or with any disability should be able to live their lives free from hate or harassment. There is no place for hate in Scotland and it is our communities, who will lead the way in tackling hate crime with the support of police, the government and other partners.

“Hate crime is under reported, we want to change that and we are asking people not to be bystanders. Speak out, help us tackle hate crime. By working together we can drive prejudice out of our communities and out of Scotland.”

Read This: The Celebrities That You Didn’t Realise Are Gay

This content was originally published here.


Scotland to offer free sanitary products to all students in world first

Students at schools, colleges and universities across Scotland will have access to free sanitary products as part of a £5.2m scheme to fight period poverty.

The Scottish government is the first in the world to make sanitary products available free to all of its 395,000 pupils and students to help “banish the scourge of period poverty” – when girls and women struggle to pay for basic sanitary products on a monthly basis, significantly affecting their hygiene, health and wellbeing.

A recent survey of more than 2,000 people by Young Scot found that one in four respondents at school, college or university in Scotland struggled to access sanitary products. Moreover, research by the grassroots group Women for Independence revealed nearly one in five women had experienced period poverty.

The Scottish government said it worked closely with partners including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council on the scheme.

The communities secretary, Aileen Campbell, said: “In a country as rich as Scotland it’s unacceptable that anyone should struggle to buy basic sanitary products.

“I am proud that Scotland is taking this world-leading action to fight period poverty and I welcome the support of local authorities, colleges and universities in implementing this initiative.

“Our £5.2m investment will mean these essential products will be available to those who need them in a sensitive and dignified way, which will make it easier for students to full focus on their studies.”

Councillor Alison Evison, the president of Cosla, said while the primary aim of the scheme was to ensure no young person missed out on their education through a lack of access to sanitary products, “it will also contribute to a more open conversation and reducing the unnecessary stigma associated with periods”.

Hey Girls, an East Lothian-based social enterprise company set up to tackle period poverty, will be a major provider in the initiative. The company, which launched in January this year, is supplying sanitary products directly to a number of local authorities including the City of Edinburgh council, Glasgow city council, South Lanarkshire council, West Lothian counci and Stirling council, as well as Glasgow Caledonian University.

It is also the main provider of menstrual products to Fareshare, which will distribute them to communities across Scotland.

Celia Hodson, the founder of Hey Girls, said the move marked “a real milestone in the fight against period poverty”.

The Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who is bringing forward a member’s bill to create a statutory duty for free provision of period products, added: “This is another great step forward in the campaign against period poverty. Access to period products should be a right, regardless of your income, which is why I am moving ahead with plans for legislation to introduce a universal system of free access to period products for everyone in Scotland.

“No one should face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period.”

Last week, it was announced that North Ayrshire council would provide free sanitary products in all public buildings.


This content was originally published here.


Primary school pupils to be told ‘boys can have periods too’ in new sex education guidance

PRIMARY school pupils will now be told that boys can have periods too in new sex education guidance.

The advice to teachers was approved by Brighton Council in a bid to tackle stigma surrounding menstruation.

Getty – Contributor

The report states: “Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods”, adding “menstruation must be inclusive of ‘all genders’.”

It also orders that “bins for used period products are provided in all toilets” for children and that trans pupils and students should be provided with additional support from a school nurse if needed.

The council said it was also “important for all genders  to be able to learn and talk about menstruation together”.

Getty – Contributor

The guidelines on tackling period poverty come just a few months after Brighton & Hove City Council issued a Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit to encourage sensitivity around student gender identity.

In the toolkit, teachers are told to be responsive to the needs of all non-binary and trans children and are reminded that intentionally not using a person’s preferred name or pronoun can constitute harassment.

It also recommends a non-gendered uniform so that children are supportive of all students, regardless of gender.

In 2016, the £12,000 a year public school Brighton College was thought to to be the firs to change its uniform policy so that transgender pupils could wear what they like.

But Tory MP David Davies told the Mail On Sunday it was “insanity” for teachers to be explaining the concept of transgender boys having periods to eight-year-olds.

He said: “Learning about periods is already a difficult subject for children that age, so to throw in the idea girls who believe they are boys also have periods will leave them completely confused.”








A council spokesman told the Sun Online: “We believe that it’s important for all genders to be able to learn and talk about menstruation together. We recommend including boys in our lessons on periods and opportunities for girls to discuss issues in more detail if needed.

They added: “We are working to reduce period poverty. By encouraging effective education on menstruation and puberty we hope to reduce stigma and ensure no child or young person feels shame in asking for period products inside or outside of school if they need them.

“Our approach recognises the fact that some people who have periods are trans or non-binary.”

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This content was originally published here.

361 Golden Retrievers Met Up In Scotland And Had The Best Time Ever

361 Golden Retrievers Met Up In Scotland And Had The Best Time Ever Golden Agolden_chewbacca/Instagram

There are few creatures on earth as pure and comforting than a golden retriever.

From their silky ears to their kind smiles, these dogs take their role as ‘good boys’ extremely seriously.

And so I genuinely cannot imagine the joy I would feel if surrounded by 361 of these gorgeous, golden angels.

Would I pass out with happiness? Would I stroke their fur until my palms wore away? Perhaps it’s best not to find out…

😂😂😂 waiting for their grandma to drop some food – one of my fave pics from yesterday 😂 #foodorientated #goldensofinstagram #mooch #beggingfortreats #feedmegrandma

A post shared by CHEWY (@golden_chewbacca) on

Worlds record broken by myself and my best friend @golden_chewbacca ! 361 goldens celebrating 150 years since the very first litter!!

A post shared by BUDDY (@buddy.scotland.golden) on

However, this is the dreamy scenario experienced by a big bunch of dog lovers, who assembled at Guisachan House, Tomich, Inverness-shire, to celebrate all things golden.

A total of 361 golden retrievers frolicked and played in the grounds of the stately home, looking delighted to be be among so many of their distinguished friends.

The marvellous-in-every-way event was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of golden retrievers receiving recognition as a breed, with Members of the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland (GRCS) in attendance.

According to the Friends of Guisachan website:

In 1868, Nous, a Wavy-coated Retriever, and Belle, a Tweed Water Spaniel were bred together by Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, later known as Lord Tweedmouth.

From that breeding he kept two yellow females, Primrose and Cowslip and gave one male, Crocus, to his son, Edward Marjoribanks.

For many decades it was thought that there was a fourth puppy, Ada, but that was subsequently determined to be erroneous.

Ada was from a second mating of Nous and Belle and was given to Lord Tweedmouth’s nephew, the 5th Lord Ilchester, beginning the famous Ilchester line of retrievers. Thus it was the offspring of Nous and Belle that became the foundation of the breed subsequently known as, and now universally loved as, the Golden Retriever.

The goldens getting counted doing “the duke of York” a new world record of 361 goldens counted! Can you spot chewy and @buddy.scotland.golden 🐶🐶 #goldenretriever #guisachanhouse #guisachangathering2018

A post shared by CHEWY (@golden_chewbacca) on

UNILAD spoke with Ashleigh Craigmile, proud owner of the beautiful Chewbacca.

Ashleigh explained:

The meet up was for the 150th anniversary of the first litter born of goldens!

They were first bred in Scotland by crossing a wavy haired retriever with a golden spaniel by Lord Tweedmouth from Guisachan estate!

She added:

It was such a wonderful day with people travelling from all over the world! New Zealand, America etc!

Ashleigh and Chewy were joined by their best pupper pal, Buddy, who made sure to Instagram some truly paw-fect clips of the day.

Each dog looked like the regal Lord or Lady of the kennel they truly are, appearing quite content as they returned to their ancestral seat.

Those who attended the event appeared to have enjoyed a truly magical experience, with the green Scottish fields gleaming gold with an ocean of the iconic dogs.

One excited person tweeted:

New world record of number of golden retrievers in the same place at once!! 361!!! We were there!!!! Woohoo.

And The One Show have been filming all day at The Guisachan Golden Gathering …. an exciting day with Richard Cleaver — feeling excited.

Another described the scene as being ‘what heaven looks like’.

We have friends attending the Guisachan Gathering!!!!! Wish we were there too! ❤️🥳🎉❤️

— Chuck Billy & Asa (@MaineGolden) July 18, 2018

New world record of number of golden retrievers in the same place at once!! 361!!! We were there!!!! Woohoo.
And The One Show have been filming all day at The Guisachan Golden Gathering …. an exciting day with Richard Cleaver — feeling excited

— Lesley Cleaver (@lesleycleaver) July 19, 2018

Is it just me or would anyone else enjoy this sort of weekend way more than a festival?

You can follow the adventures of Chewbacca the golden retriever on his woof-ly Instagram.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

This content was originally published here.

Update on Scotland’s Future

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By Jason Michael

YESTERDAY, ADDRESSING HOLYROOD, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out her thoughts on the way forward for Scotland. It fell considerably short of the expectations of many in the independence movement. This was not “the announcement” we were led to believe she would make when she said a number of months ago that she would shortly make an announcement on another independence referendum. Social media has doled out a few slaps in recent weeks to pro-independence writers, myself included, for daring to question “Nicola,” but, having come to expect little from the current leadership of the Scottish National Party, what we have discovered is that we have been given more than we expected. Sturgeon’s update to the Scottish parliament was not quite the “nothing burger with a side of fries” per David Hooks’ assessment. Yesterday, Sturgeon gave us something rather than nothing. Albeit not what we wanted; it was something.

Not everyone is cock-a-hoop with independence being hitched to the fortunes of England qua the politics of Brexit. Linking these, as the Scottish government does, has two effects; once more it makes independence a reaction to events abroad rather than being an end in itself and it subjects our democracy again a reliance on a set a conditionalities over which England and not Scotland has the final say. Many of us want independence to be about Scotland and only about Scotland. We want this decision to be made as a result of our own initiative and at a time of our choosing. In essence, this want for a truly Scottish independence without reference to England and the politics of Westminster is a type of romanticism, but, and while I consider myself a romantic, in reality, it simply will not work. The difference here is that between idealism and Realpolitik; whether we like it or not Scotland is constitutionally bound to Westminster – and therefore to England and England’s Brexit, and so independence cannot be about Scotland alone.

So a nothing burger with a side of fries then.
“we’ll have a bill”
“we’ll talk to opposition parties to find points……

David Hooks (@PoliticsScot) April 24, 2019

Our independence concerns Westminster because it is about more than Scotland. It is about the break-up of the United Kingdom, the realm of Westminster. The British government will always oppose Scottish independence because it challenges its power and control over our valuable resources. So, any politics of independence in Scotland must, therefore, be engaged with these political realities, and that means engaging with Westminster, England, and the politics of Brexit. England’s decision to leave the European Union has fundamentally altered the status quo. As the First Minister rightly said, it has exposed “a deep democratic deficit.” Our interests – save when they are in agreement with the majority south of the border – are not represented at Westminster, devolution, as it is, has been shown to be unfit for purpose, and Westminster can, as it has done, grab powers back from us – and all of this has been fully demonstrated by Brexit.

Independence, as a historical event, is not a Platonic ideal. It is not a supertemporal anamnesis – a unique and unchanging eventum, always and everywhere the same thing. Our independence, when it comes, will happen amid real and concrete social, economic, and political circumstances, and it will be won as a result of correctly navigating those realities. Right now, those realities are dominated by the politics of Brexit in the context of our national domination by England at Westminster. Thus, if we are to win independence in the next few years, we must win it by engaging with the real obstacles; Westminster, England, and the politics of Brexit.

There is a certain genius, then, in connecting the cause of Scottish independence to Brexit – as it is determining the present conditions of the political field of play and changing the status quo in such a way that people who voted to preserve the union in 2014 can find their needs better served now by voting for independence. This is something the First Minister gave us yesterday; she gave us more clarity on at least how her party is thinking. Strategically, this is not at all bad. At the very least it is realistic and sets out the terrain on which the rules of engagement – her proposed legislation on future referenda in Scotland – will be put to use.

Sturgeon tells Holyrood chamber that public should be offered a choice on independence within lifetime of this parl……

Libby Brooks (@libby_brooks) April 24, 2019

Where she is in danger of making a serious tactical blunder, in my own opinion, is when she says: “the immediate opportunity we now have is to help stop Brexit for the whole UK.” Firstly, this appears to contradict the initial premise of her argument for independence; that Scotland suffers a serious democratic deficit at Westminster, resulting in us being ignored and having policy imposed on us against our will. Regardless of Theresa May’s ability to hold on to her job, Westminster – with the Conservatives and Labour in support – is overwhelmingly pro-Brexit. How can Scotland, which cannot protect its own interests in the Commons, protect the whole of the United Kingdom? How can Scotland save England from itself? At best, the Scottish government’s efforts to stop a Brexit England so clearly wants is a waste of time and resources. At worst, it will damage our cause.

Second to this, working to stop Brexit by having the question of EU membership returned to the electorate or by having Article 50 revoked, when Brexit is the very thing that is working most in favour of Scottish independence, looks to me to be counterproductive in the extreme. The art of diplomacy is allowing your adversaries to have your own way. If England wants this Brexit and Brexit is the very thing doing the heavy lifting for independence here in Scotland, then let England have its Brexit!

We were given two more things which are worthy of mention; a deadline to which we can hold the SNP and a possible alternative route to independence through cross-party coöperation. At long last – at long last – our First Minister has mentioned “the mandate.” It’s not only a mandate. It’s a triple-lock mandate, a cast iron mandate – and one with an expiring shelf life. Sturgeon did affirm this mandate, and although I will quibble on the meaning of its wording, she has acknowledged that her government was elected on that mandate and so the choice between an unwanted Brexit and independence will be put to the people – without a Section 30 order if necessary – before the end of the lifetime of this parliament. This wasn’t the firm date we had hoped for, but it does set a deadline to which we can hold her. This was an important statement. It was a gift. We can run with this.

Inviting the opposition parties at Holyrood to come forward with ideas to mitigate the problems of being part of th……

Dick Winchester (@DickWinchester) April 24, 2019

Given that Westminster is not in Scotland’s bests interests and that devolution, as it is, is not fit for purpose – things even Murdo Fraser has conceded, Nicola Sturgeon has proposed an open process of dialogue with the British unionist parties seeking to gain something short of independence but better than what we have. In a world running short on statesmen, this was a splendid – even Bismarckian – act of statesmanship, and kudos to her for it. Some may see this as a sell-out, but I will argue the case that it is not. This is a smart move. A Yes vote in another independence referendum will never be guaranteed. There are no sure bets in real politics. Recognising this, and after setting out her intention to hold another referendum – albeit under the right conditions, the First Minister has written into this game plan a Plan B. If it happens that we fail to win independence, she has opened the door to the possibility of gaining Home Rule with unionist support, a gradualist approach that worked for Ireland in 1922 with the formation of An Saorstát Éireann (the Irish Free State).

Over the past number of months patience in the wider independence movement has been wearing thin with the SNP and with Nicola Sturgeon in particular. What was offered yesterday was definitely not what we were sorta-kinda led to believe was coming. This was not “the announcement.” Neither was it the unveiling of “the plan” or the firing of the “starting pistol.” It was none of that, and no doubt in some quarters the failure to deliver on these will lead to further frustration and anger, but – and this is important – what she did deliver was not entirely useless. Admittedly, we may be cynical and imagine this something-but-nothing was a ploy to free up space for clapping at conference, but it wasn’t a nothing burger. This was something, and this something rather than nothing bristles with possibility. We have to give her that much. We can make something of this.

Nicola Sturgeon on Brexit and another Scottish independence referendum

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Lack of music education ‘is now really hitting poorer children’ in Scotland – The Scotsman

A lack of music education in schools is widening the knowledge gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, an expert has said.
The warning from Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director at the Royal Albert Hall, comes amid a growing anger in Scotland over soaring charges for music tuition and cuts to music teachers.
Youngsters from poorer backgrounds do not have the same opportunities to get involved in music as their better-off peers, she said.
“What is happening is this divide being created between people with the knowledge, and who can afford it, being able to give their children access to music,” she said.
“But for people who don’t have the know-how or can’t afford to pay for private lessons, and the schools aren’t delivering that really important music education, then what hope have they actually got? The opportunities just aren’t there for them at all.”
Asked whether this was widening the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged, she said “absolutely” and that diversity is a difficult topic.
Ms Noble added: “People who come from a more challenged background are not going to have the opportunities that the people who are more wealthy and have the opportunities do.”
In Scotland, increases in costs of music tuition have been contentious. In 2018, several councils either introduced or increased fees for instrumental lessons – now topping £500 in some cases. Some have even started charging for the hire of local authority instruments.
The number of music teachers in schools across Scotland has also fallen steadily from 108 at the start of the decade to 62 last year.
Ms Noble said schools need to “step up” to make sure everyone has access to music, but that organisations like the Royal Albert Hall also had a role to play. She said the issues surrounding arts education need to be addressed if gender parity in the industry is to be achieved.
New data released by the Royal Albert Hall indicates the top ten classical composers most recognised by British people are male.
Mozart and Beethoven (both recognised by 70 per cent) and Bach (60 per cent), topped the list in a survey of 1,000 adults.
In comparison, women composers had significantly lower recognition, with Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann and Hildegard von Bingen known to just 30, 17 and 7 per cent respectively.
Ms Noble said: “History has left us a legacy of great classical composers – Mozart, Bach and Schubert to name a few.
“But we must make sure that young people are exposed to not just these white, male titans, but women, and that those from minority backgrounds are recognised too.”

This content was originally published here.