Archive for category Housekeeping

The Total Politics Curtain Call

Well, the Total Politics votes are in, the ballots have been counted and verified and, save for one suspiciously unopened bag in Glenrothes, it’s been deemed a fair count.

And Scottish blogs have done rather well all in all, in the Scottish result (obviously) and the UK one. Labour are back in the charts (though Tom Harris has been writing his new book too much to reclaim top spot), the Tories are nowhere (hoorah!), the Lib Dems are doing cartels cartwheels at their echo chamber results which is nice for them after such a rotten year and the Greens have a hand in the published top two slots in Scotland.

As for us… Better Nation is top Scottish blog! And a very respectable 21st in the UK, spooning John Redwood at 20th. Lovely. We are delighted so a big thanks to all who voted for us after our pleading begging asking and also those who’ve been reading and commenting who didn’t vote. It’s been very enjoyable to see the site grow and to get top Scottish blog is a sweet way to finish the political year.

And for the coming year? More of the same hopefully, starting with plenty of budget chat tomorrow.

Thanks, +exiting stage left+, thanks, *bow*, thanks again, points to the balcony, does a slightly Republican ‘Woo!’, pats left breastbone even though the heart is actually quite central, thanks once again +exits+

Happy Birthday Better Nation!

Yup – you’ve guessed it.  Oor wee blog has turned one.  And in the absence of any parliamentary news (this recess is a looooooooooong one) we figured we’d give our own wee birthday message.  Of sorts.  So, here’s what’s happened on Better Nation thus far – 374 posts in 365 days – and some thoughts on what is to come in our second year.

Jeff says:

A lot can happen in a year, just ask Iain Gray. When we started this Better Nation blog, the SNP were 10 points behind in the polls and Scotland was preparing itself for Labour to slide its feet back under the Governmental desks that they had relinquished only four years ago. The Lib Dems, riding as high as 12% this time last year, were expected to join them.

We’ll never know if Scotland would have improved as a nation under such red/orange leadership. Arguably, there would have been more time for devolved policy with the unanswered questions on independence pushed to one side but, equally, the SNP has the ‘team, record and vision’ to take giant strides over the years to come and a cracking, if challenging, manifesto to implement.

There is lots to be done. Our education system is wobbling, our health and diet remains utterly lamentable and our environmental aspirations continue to be so extraordinary as to be world leading but, on the flip side, the economy is remaining relatively strong with exports and tourism proving robust, if not booming. Edinburgh’s cultural scene (unlike its tram network) remains the envy of most cities across the globe and Glasgow is, hopefully cockily, looking forward to being the focus of the Commonwealth in 2014.

Where do blogs fit into all of this? Filling in the cracks left open between politicians and the mainstream media? Sounds about right but with that media’s attention span shrinking as quickly as it loses readers and with a majority Government that the opposition will struggle to hold to account, blogs have a potentially starring role open to them if they are willing to put the time and effort in.

Will Better Nation fill that void? We’ll certainly try and hopefully the year ahead will see more guest posts from MSPs, more guest posts from an ever wider array of Scots and even more robust discussion in the comments section which we’ll redouble efforts to facilitate.

We might even have a secret weapon up our collective sleeves for the looming council elections but the dream scenario involves a lot of work. Either way, I’m very much enjoying what Better Nation is growing into so thanks to my fellow editors, thanks to all the commenters and thanks to the silent readers. We know you’re there, we can sense you. Do feel free to join the debate.

The Burd adds:

A tumultuous year to birth a blog.  The Tories rolled their sleeves up and set to work, Ed Miliband spent his first few months as Labour leader pondering, the SNP looked like they were down and out but surprised us all – including themselves – by breaking the electoral bank in May.

So what lies ahead?  Well, certainly nothing like the excitement as politics gets back to the everyday stuff here in Scotland.  Bills, strategies, budgets, inquiries.  The odd event to spice things up at Holyrood no doubt.  I think my predictions for 2011 were so wide of the mark, I hesitate to bring my bad luck to Better Nation.  But the first MSP to resign?  An SNP one.  This year?  I think so.

And then of course, there’s the real world, where cuts will bite hard on the heels of job losses, pay cuts (can’t keep freezing, it ain’t working) and price rises.  Will we see strikes in the next year?  Definitely.  Riots in Scotland?  Probably not, but there will be direct action and protests.

Finally what of the council elections?  I think anti-establishment independents, hitting back at the antics of party reps over the trams, might do well in Edinburgh, if they can find enough sensible candidates to stand.  Otherwise, Lib Dems will become a rump in previously held strongholds, the Tories will do surprisingly well, Labour will lose control in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, and Scotland will resemble a rainbow nation, with all manner of weird and wonderful coalitions and minority led administrations in place.

And if I could blow out BN’s birthday candle and make a wish for the coming year, what would it be?  For more women to blog on weighty matters of state.  Here and elsewhere.

Malc mentions:

A year is, as Jeff & Kate have mentioned, a long time.  And a lot of work, if we’re honest.  I mean, we do this for fun, and (most of the time) we enjoy it, but honestly – it is a lot of work.  From the pre-election region-watch series (which was an abysmal attempt at predicting the results!) through the election liveblog itself (and the endless job that was putting together the results in our Holyrood 2011 pages - a job which we still intend to add to, help graciously received) we’ve had plenty of work to do.

We’ve also had some terrific guests – friends, friends of friends, representatives at different levels, candidates, other bloggers – provide articles for the site, two of whom we managed to convince to join our editorial team.  We said at the outset that our combined efforts would make Better Nation better than the sum of its parts – and I hope that we have achieved that.

I’ve got my favourite debates – the constitutional stuff is always entertaining – and I hope you’ve all enjoyed them as well.  So I guess here’s to another year, another 300+ posts, endless debates and banter with people we’ve never met in person.

James says:

For my tuppenny worth, in addition to the lovely and generous guests, who have given both of their time and their ideas, I’d like to thank you, the readers and the commenters. We’ve had a staggering 10,290 comments (as of last night), which a quick bit of calculator action tells me is more than 28 contributions in an average day. In fact, that’s most of the content here, and it’s certainly a tonne of largely constructive and intelligent debate.

So thanks for stopping by and reading this (like the ads on the bus that say “your ad here”, that’s a very targetted message), and doubly so for any contributions you’ve made. If you ever think “why is no-one making this particular progressive argument on Better Nation”, do drop us a line and suggest a piece for us. We’ll tend to say yes, especially to new and interesting material. Who knows, one day we might rope you into a regular slot too.

Aidan <verb>:

I’m definitely riding on the coattails of the others round here, so I’ll keep it short. Like James, I enjoy this place because of (largely) reasonable and considered argument to be found here. It’s not quite Usenet back in the day but it’s close. Next year should be an interesting one for Scottish politics, with the SNP no longer having the dastardly unionist conspiracy to blame for not getting legislation through and the council elections and I look forward to analysing it here with all y’all.

Sláinte!

Bigger and better – welcoming Aidan Skinner to the team

Aidan SkinnerWhen Malc and Jeff and I set Better Nation up we knew we’d want to find other good people to join in – that is, after all, the essence of a good group blog – and we knew we wanted people who could write well, both provocatively and constructively, wherever they were on the progressive spectrum. We were therefore properly delighted when Kate said yes to coming on board in May. And now the four of us are pleased to welcome Aidan Skinner to join our increasingly inaccurately named trio.

The reasoning was simple – we’ve really enjoyed his guest posts for us (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and although he was already our most regular guest, we wanted more. For me personally, one key moment was his contribution to a somewhat contested post I wrote on timing for the independence, which included a comment that even some of those opposed to independence would like to take part in the discussion about what form of independence we get offered. That’s what constructive looks like.

So, anyway, I’m sure you’ll all find some critically pro-Labour posts here something you can get your teeth into. And for my part, I’ll keep trying to persuade him Labour can’t be fixed and that he belongs elsewhere. I’m sure one of us will be proved right, sooner or later.

And one last thought – if you want to take part in Better Nation, drop us a line with something you would like us to post here. Give us a few good posts and you may find us twisting your arm to get more involved. Watch out.

Total Politics Blog Awards 2011

The main beauty of the beauty contest blog rankings is that most bloggers that are involved in them say on the outside that ‘they’re just a bit of fun’ but on the inside they’re boring their eyes into you thinking ‘Vote for me! Vote for me!!’. So, as much as my co-editors will tut, sigh and think a whole lot less of me for this, and now that the Total Politics Blog ranking 2011 voting lines are open, let me just beg of you this, it’s only a bit of fun vote for us!

As electoral tactics go, pleading to lend us your votes simply because we put in a good bit of blood, sweat and tears to keep this blog going, kept the energy up during a lacklustre election campaign and provided a new resource for #sp11 election results (oooh, shiny!), is probably not enough so let me try this instead….. Tom Harris cannot win Scotland’s top blog award for the umpteenth year in a row. End of.

Seriously, this is the West Lothian question turned on its head that we’re dealing with here. Tom’s multi-award winning, platinum ‘And Another Thing’ blog scooped the prize in recent years on the back of predominantly English readers (as Tom, being an MP working in London, understandably tends to stay away from devolved issues). This may be less of an issue now that it is Labour Hame that is in the running, a distinctly Scottish beast, but how would you feel if Mr H was top of the charts once again?

Now, don’t get me wrong, this poll is deeply flawed, it’s even worse than the d’hondt system. What is to stop anyone from creating numerous email addresses and sending in their votes collecting 10points per email? Nothing but the belief in the common decency of our fellow man (and the last few days alone has put paid to that). However, this is the only show in town. Wikio is flawed due to its unfair reward of the group of blogs known affectionately as ‘circle jerk’ (or Lib Dem blogs if you really want to be specific about it) and there is nothing that is going to stop Total Politics from hosting this exercise every year (as I would prefer, at least until they have a decent system in place). So, if there are to be rankings, all blogs might as well get involved, all bloggers might as well aim to be as high as they fairly can and all Scots should be crossing their fingers that MacBloggers are well represented, not to mention that Scotland has a new champion in a few weeks’ time.

There are several Scottish blogs that could topple the lovable rogue from Glasgow South and I like to think that this here is one of them. So, if you don’t do it for you, for us, for your nation or for democratic duty itself, at least do it for whatever satisfaction the sight of Mr Harris slipping down the rankings will provide.

NB – The rules have changed in that you must complete this survey in order to vote.

(Tom, if you’re reading this, don’t be put off; please also vote for us!)

“Scottish solutions for Scottish problems”

I wonder what you thought when you saw the title above… suspected my of being incredibly inward-looking, perhaps stretching to a comparison with Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers”?  It could be the title of a rather controversial post, I will grant you… and, I guess, is something to ponder.

But – for the moment – its nothing like that.  I’m after a favour.  Or rather, someone else is.

Dr Paul Cairney of the University of Aberdeen is in the midst of drafting a book which is likely to be of interest to readers of this blog.  It is titled “The Scottish Political System Since Devolution: From New Politics to the New Scottish Government”.  So really, all the stuff we talk about here – but probably (definitely!) written in a more comprehensible manner, and certainly better researched than our stuff.

Anyway, the phrase in the title of this post:  ”Scottish solutions for Scottish problems”.  Dr Cairney is looking for the origin of it.  Who said it first, and in what context?  Does anyone know?

I couldn’t help, but figured someone here might be able to.  If so, let us know in the comments.  Thanks!