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Russell in the wind
It's difficult to take the SNP's new culture minister, Mike Russell, seriously. I'm told when he travels he has to book an extra seat for his pomposity. A few years ago he wrote a book on Scottish culture which trashed the residents of most of our towns and cities. Scotland’s former European City of Culture, Glasgow, was described by Mr. Russell as 'closes smelling of urine and rubbish, cluttered with dirt'.
Scotland's cultural attaché cautioned visitors to Glasgow to be careful they don't trip over comatose bodies 'with or without a needle by its side'. Not even Dame Edna's alter ego, Sir Les Paterson with drunken drool coated expletives could have painted a more damaging and inaccurate picture.
My first encounter with Mr. Russell in the early days of the Scottish Parliament witnessed a similarly ill-judged and ill-mannered attack. At the stage 1 debate on the free school meals bill he gave a closing speech for his party grudgingly supporting the bill but lambasting it for being ‘seriously flawed’. I remember sitting in the gallery as the draftsperson and thinking eh?
His evidence was we hadn't defined the word 'pupil'. But the bill only sought to amend section 53 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Act itself defined pupil. It quickly dawned on me I was listening to the rantings of someone who had prepared his speech while his lips were moving. This guy had more wind than Windy Miller from Camberwick Green.
I subsequently pointed out Mr. Russell's unfair errors in the letter pages of The Herald, and in his reply both he and his pomposity could not bring it upon themselves to admit they had got anything wrong. Nor could they say sorry. With that in my mind, I wondered if they would now apologise for slagging off half of Scotland particularly as Mr. Russell was now Scotland’s Minister for Culture?
Of course not. There was no apology from the Minister, no humility, no contrition. Instead his spokeswomen insisted this was a story which 'scrapped the bottom of the barrel' when 'the rest of the world were focused on combating the economic downturn'.
Really? Perhaps the Scottish Government’s spokeswomen could explain why Mr. Russell's attention is now focused on demands for a free parliamentary vote on an independence referendum? Precisely how will this help the people of Scotland combat the economic downturn?
What would have happened to Scotland’s financial sector if both HBOS and RBS had went under in an independent Scotland? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Quite frankly, the only folk interested in an independence referendum during these tough times is a few politicians, pollsters and journalists. Everyone else is worried about their homes and jobs.