Albain (Scotland)

Scottish Referendum Poll Shows Yes Vote Gaining Ground

Alba Gu Brath - Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinbugh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

Alba Gu Brath – Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinbugh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

The latest TNS BMRB poll in Scotland is showing a small if significant rise in support for the pro-sovereignty Yes side in the run-up to the September referendum on Scottish independence. When “undecideds” are stripped out the anti-sovereignty No vote has dropped to 56% while the Yes vote has increased to 44%, a 3% jump since the last poll in June. In part the rise in support for the SNP-led proposition is the growing popularity of independence amongst British Labour Party supporters in Scotland despite the party’s fierce opposition to constitutional progress. The latest poll is being interpreted as a sign that voters are now firming up in their preferred choices on the referendum question.

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Gaelic Medium Education Growing In Scotland

Dún Éideann, Albain

Dún Éideann, Albain

Some positive signs pointing towards growing stability in the numbers of Scottish (Gaelic) speakers in Scotland. Despite the decline caused by centuries of political, social and cultural exclusion – in particular since the 1800s -  communities are remerging in urban regions like Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“THE growth of Gaelic education throughout Scotland in the last year has been hailed a success by the language’s national body – despite a continuing decline in its historic heartland of the Western Isles.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s annual report for 2013/14 highlights a rise in numbers seeking to be educated in the language.

Gaelic-medium education has risen by 6.1 per cent at primary school level, with the number of children entering into primary one rising by 13 per cent to 486 entrants.

The number of pupils also doing Gaelic-medium education at secondary level rose by 7 per cent, totalling 1181.

Further growth was seen the early years sector with the number of parent and toddler groups and playgroups increasing from 80 to 93, thus furthering the potential of increasing the number of entrants to GME in the coming years.

But the Western Isles is still proving to be a sore point for the body, which supported by public funds.

Through the course of the year the Bòrd dealt with 349 applications for funding from different organisations throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. 72 per cent however of the funding received by the Bòrd from the Scottish Government was distributed to others.

Minister for Scotland’s Languages Dr Alasdair Allan said: “Parents across the country have been clear that they recognise the benefits of a bilingual education for their children and the rolls for GME schools and units continue to grow.

“This support is one of the key reasons that the 2011 census showed that the number of Gaelic speakers under 20 had grown in the last decade and the historic decline in the number of speakers has slowed dramatically.”

Language And Politics In Scotland

Fáilte Gu McDonald's, Albain

Fáilte Gu McDonald’s, Albain

The University of Edinburgh has carried out an interesting study on attitudes in Scotland towards the indigenous Scottish (Gaelic) language amongst supporters and opponents of independence. Unsurprisingly “Public Attitudes to Gaelic and the Debate about Scottish

Autonomy” (PDF document) finds that in broad terms pro-sovereignty voters are more likely to have favourable views about Scottish than pro-union ones. So far there has been no examination of the link between Scots (English) and political attitudes which would be similarly interesting.

Electronic Irish

A lot of people seem unaware of the two best online resources for historical texts relating to Ireland, both of which are entirely free to use. The first is “CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts”, a collection of hundreds of manuscripts and books in digitised form mainly written in Irish and English (of various periods) but also featuring works in Latin, Norman-French, German and several other languages. The 1300+ entries cover nearly one-and-a-half thousand years of literary and scholarly output on this island nation and are incredibly important, representing some 15 million words in total. The project is maintained and regularly updated with new materials by University College Cork (UCC) so you can be confident of its academic credentials. If you prefer the printed word to the electronic kind some of the texts are available through the Irish Texts Society and the School of Celtic Studies which is part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Fair warning, many of the published texts are quite expensive (though DIAS has a sale on at the moment with a few good discounts on offer).

CELT is continuously in need of funding so if you have a few euros, pounds or dollars to spare you can donate them here.

A second and a closely related site is Irish Script On Screen, a collection of digital images of Irish and Scottish manuscripts in various languages found in the collections of several universities and institutions in Ireland, Scotland and Australia. It is stored and maintained under the auspices of the School of Celtic Studies at DIAS and is growing every year with scanned images that span the centuries from the early Medieval period to the Industrial Age. I have to admit that I love this site and I’ve spent literally hours searching through it. It will make you ache that traditional Irish lettering is no longer in popular use, either in printed or written form. Like some Arabic texts there are manuscripts here, even relatively late ones, that are almost works of art so beautiful are they to the human eye (trying to link to specific images or pages is almost impossible due to the way the site is set up, so apologies if I can’t provide any ready examples. Take my word for it and explore for yourself).

I should also mention a useful addendum to both of the above which is eDIL: the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, maintained by the Royal Irish Academy and Queen’s University Belfast. It is a digitised and much expanded version of the early 20th century “Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials” originally published by the RIA in several parts. The latest revised online edition, again free to use, is fully searchable and is genuinely groundbreaking in terms of research into the earliest literary forms of the Irish language. In a similar vein is In Dúil Bélrai, a less comprehensive but again searchable English-Old Irish glossary from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Scotland. There is also a very useful list of other dictionaries and resources in general kept up-to-date by the excellent SMO. For comparisons or follow-ups on particular words you can use the Foclóir, the modern Irish-English/English-Irish digital dictionary maintained on behalf of the Government of Ireland along with Focal – Bunachar Náisiúnta Téarmaíochta don Ghaeilge, a more technical database of Irish terms (the former should eventually supersede the latter). Finally there is the now antiquated but still highly useful Foclóir Uí Dhuinnín from the University of Limerick which contains lots of old words and phrases no longer encountered in vernacular Irish (unfortunately).

Hope you might find one or two of those sites interesting over the weekend.

A Message To Scotland

Saorsa 2014

Saorsa 2014

When the children’s author JK Rowling announced her financial support for the anti-sovereignty side in Scotland’s forthcoming referendum on independence she lamented the alleged online campaign of abuse against British Unionist supporters by their Scottish Nationalist rivals. While using her own troll-like language to mischaracterise some of those who believe in a free and self-governing Scotland the English-born writer called upon more tolerance in the referendum debate and an end to the cyberwars between the competing nationalisms of Scotland and a Greater England (on one side a populist expression of dissent, on the other the muscle-flexing of the establishment group-think).

If that was truly her intention then it has failed and failed miserably as the worse elements of the Unionist news media and political elites over yonder have used her dramatic intervention to launch an unprecedented smear campaign against anyone who dares challenge the suzerainty of London over the island of Britain. The grotesque and one-sided nature of the struggle and the new depths that Rowling’s largesse have allowed Unionist propagandists to descend to is quite extraordinary. Several well-known figures on the sovereigntist side, politicians and citizen-journalists, have been subject to sustained attacks in the newspapers, on radio, television and above all on social media networks. Distortions and untruths have become the norm. Muck-raking hacks from the British nationalist press have trawled through people’s lives searching for dirt to dish. Where none has been found they have simply invented it. The utter hypocrisy of those involved has been nothing short of astounding.

As a nation which long ago freed the greater part of itself from the cold hand of English rule we know all too well the tactics being pursued by the “British” ruling classes and their acolytes. They are the same ones we faced during our own revolution: the same lies, the same grotesque distortions of the truth. We heard the now familiar objections to the reclaiming of our nationhood: we were too small, too poor, too stupid to govern ourselves. Yes, the free Irish state that we established was not what we had hoped for. Yet how could it be otherwise when the British refused to accept our repeated votes for independence at the start of the 20th century but instead waged a war upon our democracy? When our island nation was disfigured by a “border” imposed by London overlords thwarted by a defiant populace? When our industrial north-east and a fifth of our population were lost to us while punitive reparations and tariffs stunted our development? Our country was deliberately crippled from the get-go.

However would anyone in the modern nation-state of Ireland chose to be under British dominion again? Of course not. That is the lesson for the Scots. For no matter how great the challenges – or the faults – they are our own. We are the master and mistress of our own house, however lowly some may claim it to be, and we have no desire to be the serfs in the house of another, however great some may claim that to be. We ourselves are the risen people.

Come join us.

Cardiff, Edinburgh, Sydney

Welsh activists stage an “Occupy” camp outside the offices of the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff, 2014 (Íomhá: Daily Post)

Activists fighting for Welsh language rights have set up a symbolic Occupy camp outside the Senedd, the offices of the national assembly or Cynulliad in Cardiff. Wales Online reports that the young people are:

“…insisting that the Government change six language policies including Welsh-medium education for all.

The action by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg is part of a series of protests the language campaigners have organised over the spring, in order to press the Welsh Government to address the drop in the number of Welsh speakers.

In May, three Welsh language campaigners were arrested in Aberystwyth after vandalising the town’s Welsh government offices.

Robin Farrar, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, said: “I’m delighted to be here today – we want to live in Welsh and to see action to deliver that vision.

“For eighteen months, we have been letter writing and holding meetings with all political parties.

“By protesting here, we continue to hope we see positive changes: with political will the language can thrive over the years to come.”

In October 2013, the conclusions of the Cynhadledd Fawr – the Welsh Government’s consultation on the state of the language following the Census results – were published.

Among the main recommendations were the need to increase financial investment in the language; radical changes to the teaching of Welsh as a second language; and changes to planning law.

The following month, the First Minister announced he would be launching a campaign to encourage people to use Welsh five times a day.”

Meanwhile in Edinburgh the governing SNP has launched its draft constitution for an independent Scotland. From the Guardian newspaper:

“The constitution commits the country to enshrine the European convention on human rights in law, tackle climate change and ensure the safe, “expeditious” removal of Trident nuclear weapons.

It would be the first written constitution for any part of the UK. Its opening line is: “In Scotland, the people are sovereign.”

The constitution, released on Monday for consultation in a draft independence bill, is designed to be a temporary “skeleton” version that would come into force if Scotland becomes independent in March 2016.

It confirms that the saltire will continue to serve as the national flag of Scotland and that the choice of national anthem will be made by the Scottish parliament.

The consultation will close a month after the independence referendum on 18 September, only being brought forward to the Scottish parliament if there is a yes vote.

Sturgeon said the document was an essential part of the Scottish government’s blueprint for independence and would be the first written constitution for any part of the UK. Britain, unlike other comparable countries, has no codified political system.

She said the outline constitution would be a short-term measure, and would be replaced by a full, permanent constitution written by an independent constitutional convention in the years following the first elections in 2016 of the independent Scottish parliament.

…with opinion polls suggesting the race is now tightening, the yes campaign is now driving hard to win centre-left votes and believes a promised constitution could influence wavering voters.”

The full text is available here as the Scottish Independence Bill (PDF document).

Far away from the Celtic Isles a group of Native Australians are standing up for their rights in Sydney by erecting a “tent embassy” in the heart of Australia’s largest city to press their demands for equality and justice. Beir bua, a chairde!

Harry Potter To The Rescue!

Alex Salmond, the liberal centre-left politician elected by the people of Scotland is re-imagined as a fictional evil wizard in contrast to an author elected by nobody, nowhere. This is not an abusive image by Britnats; apparently it is just a bit of “fun” (Íomhá: the British Mirror newspaper)

It says much for the fantasy politics of British nationalism that a decision by the English-born children’s author JK Rowling to boost the already hefty warchest of the Unionist “No” campaign with a donation of one million pounds is being heralded by the right-wing press in Britain as “the most significant” celebrity intervention in the referendum campaign so far. Rowling is famous for her “Harry Potter” series of juvenile books in which a youth destined to greatness because of his superior parentage overcomes a nefarious opponent of lesser ancestry in a familiar Fantasy trope. The writer herself offered few substantive reasons for her opposition to Scotland’s right to be a sovereign nation beyond some egregious insults directed towards pro-independence Scots by referencing evil characters from her own books:

“…a little Death Eaterish for my taste.”

Of course when two ordinary Scottish citizens, Chris and Colin Weir, donated a substantial amount of money towards the “Yes” campaign from their recent lottery win both were vilified throughout the conservative and liberal British news media in an epic smear campaign. Rowling on the other hand is being hailed as the saviour of London’s hegemony on the island of Britain. To use a formula she might well appreciate it seems that for the British press:

Pro-British millionaires = good wizards

Pro-Scottish millionaires = bad wizards

Of course the Unionist newspapers are now spinning the story like crazy with hyped-up claims that the author has already been subject to a series of online attacks by “Yes” supporters in her adopted country (“attacks” being a code word for criticism or queries about her anti-sovereignty views).

Oh well, at least it adds a bit more more colour to an already garish debate. Though of course the one debate you are unlikely to see is the one between the head of government with an actual democratic mandate in Scotland and the head of government who has no mandate at all. Now that is a little bit Lord Voldemort, isn’t it?

The Threat Of The Gaelic Ail-Caoíde

Three highly dangerous Ail-Caoíde militants about to stage an insurrection in Dublin to impose their Gaelic Sharara Law! Note the way their mouths are sealed with red tape as part of their evil customs. What next? Veils? Oh, the horror. Oh, the humanity. Won’t someone think of the children?

Talking of petty bigots whose anachronistic opinions are derived from centuries of colonial supremacism here comes another tirade against one of the indigenous languages of these Celtic Isles. Drew Cochrane, editor of the Largs & Millport Weekly News, spouting some ripe Daily Mail-style rhetoric for his Anglophone (and -centric) readership. Funny how people who complain about “political correctness” are the very ones the term is most applicable to?

“IT’S great to see democracy at work, or is it just plain daftness in the corridors of North Ayrshire Council?

So, more than 99 per cent of us don’t understand Gaelic, and have no desire to learn the language but, heh, that doesn’t matter. We’re getting it anyway.

The SNP-led council are so beholden to that well-known piece of legislation, the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act that they, apparently, feel compelled to change their NAC brand logo to include the Gaelic for North Ayrshire Council.

Why would you go to such lengths to satisfy less than one per cent of the population?

They say they have a statutory duty to promote Gaelic alongside English as the language of Scotland. No they don’t. They chose to do it.

It’s a farce and I was going to say a waste of money. However, the Scottish government has set up a pot of gold for positive discrimination of Gaelic and they pay councils to go Gaelic.

However, today is another plank in the political correctness gone mad syndrome.

As this newspaper knows well, you are not allowed to say anything which is not favourable to Gaelic.

The most abuse the paper ever faced was when young journalist David Walker offered his personal opinion, in this column, that a disproportionate amount of money was spent on Gaelic broadcasting.

Gaelic fanatics issued a ‘fatwah’ and Gaelic messages were posted, swearing at him and accusing him of being a racist. They can be an intolerant lot.”

And that, a chairde, is what we call irony-free thinking.

I’m off now to hold a meeting with the other members of the Gaelic Ail-Caoíde as we strive to impose our Gaelic Sharara Law upon Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

[With thanks to our brother in Gaeldom, @MisneachNYC. May the Tuatha Dé Danann, the fíor-déithe, guide him and all of us in our great journey to martyrdom, and may we meet on the far golden shores of Eamhain Abhlach. Beir Bua!]

Demand For Scottish Medium Education Outstrips Supply

Archie Agnew's parents claim he has been denied a place at the Scottish medium (Gaelic) school in Glasgow

Archie Agnew’s parents claim he has been denied a place at the Scottish medium (Gaelic) school in Glasgow (Íomhá: Evening Times)

From Glasgow’s Evening Times newspaper:

“Christine and Iain Agnew are keen to support Scotland’s language and so sent son Archie to a Gaelic nursery school in Anniesland.

But the four-year-old has now been denied a place at Glasgow Gaelic School.

Christine, 39, said: “My son has been going to a Gaelic nursery for the past two years.

“To get into the Gaelic school they say you have to show commitment to the language.

“Well, I’m not sure how else I could have shown that commitment.

“We haven’t been given a straight answer as to why Archie has been refused a place and I would really like the council to reconsider.”

Christine, from Clydebank, said she has lodged an appeal, as have two other mums who are in a similar position.

But she believes there should be enough primary provision in the city to accommodate all children who are in the city’s Gaelic nurseries.

Currently, a second Gaelic primary school is planned for the South Side of Glasgow but Christine said that will open too late for Archie to attend.

She added: “I want Archie to learn Gaelic because he’s Scottish and that’s his language.

But a Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said people who live outside Glasgow must make a placing request and not all can be accommodated.

Glasgow Gaelic School -Sgoil Ghaidhlig Ghlaschu – was the first Scottish Gaelic school and caters for pupils from the ages of three to 18.

The 2011 census showed there was a slight fall in the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, from 59,000 in 2001 to 58,000 in 2011.

But more younger users of the language are expected as schooling options are expanded.

Last year only 6% of the six-year target for pupils entering Gaelic medium education had been achieved.

The Scottish Government spends £25 million every year on promoting Gaelic.”

And a follow-up opinion piece by Caroline Wilson in the same publication:

“I’M sorry for the family who are desperate for their son to go to Glasgow Gaelic School but have been turned down for a place.

Of course, it was a placing request, they live outwith the city limits and there are no guarantees but I sympathise. It’s obviously important for them to preserve a part of their heritage.

What’s even more disappointing though, is that cases such as this, highlighted in Tuesday’s Evening Times, invariably become less about the family’s plight and more a tirade on the relevance of Gaelic in today’s society.

I have to declare a personal interest now. I’m a Gaelic speaker (well, tha beagan Gaelic agam) it was my grandparents first language, passed on to my mother. I am by no means fluent but it’s important to me. It makes me who I am, it makes me different. That is something to be celebrated.

It’s hard for me not to wade in when I read comments online that question the relevance of Gaelic to Scotland’s history.

Until around the 12th century Gaelic was the majority language in Scotland. For a variety of reasons, it was pushed into the fringes of the highlands and islands, where it was the dominant language until the start of the 20th century. Just take a look at place names around the country for proof.

I UNDERSTAND that many people, particularly in lowland areas feel it has nothing to do with their own heritage but facts are facts.

If you don’t want to learn Gaelic that’s fine, that’s your right. I won’t question your right to learn another language that has little or no relevance to your own heritage but let’s be a bit more generous with those who would like to.

The school exists in Glasgow because of the demand for Gaelic medium education. It has an excellent reputation, the children learn other languages too, and all studies point towards the benefits of children learning another language.

When I travel elsewhere in Europe, Spain particularly, they are always positive about Gaelic, never questioning its relevance.”

Ireland And Scotland, Our Democracies, Our Voices

The recent polls in Ireland and Scotland make for interesting reading in the run-up to the European and local elections (though only the former contest is being held in our fellow Gaelic neighbour). While the percentages for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are within a whisper of each other both parties are expected to do less well than in previous years (though in fairness FF has nowhere to go but up following its 2011 general election drubbing). The Labour Party ship is possibly fatally holed below the waterline with the remaining rats turning on each other while Sinn Féin and the smaller parties of the Left or non-aligned seem likely to secure substantial electoral gains, the former both nationally and locally. No surprise then that the Irish news media have gone into overdrive in an attempt to thwart SF’s challenge at the ballot box to the country’s cosy, decades-old consensus of government by the two big establishment parties with or without the support of minor players (the rearranging of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic as we saw in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger). During the Irish Revolution the majority of newspapers on this island nation took up a position broadly hostile to the independence movement, most famously in the form of the two big dailies, the Irish Times and Irish Independent, and arguably very little has changed since then in terms of the political ideology that controls our media. The majority of Irish journalists are anti-Republican in their politics since that is the culture of those who would employ them. The Neo-Unionist tendency hire those who echo their own world view while ignoring or denigrating those who would think otherwise (however tentatively).

In Scotland, with the polls predicting a strong showing by the governing SNP and other pro-independence parties like the Greens, a similar Unionist consensus exists within the print and electronic media, and the looming referendum on Scottish sovereignty is sending them into a feeding frenzy. One of the nastier tactics to have emerged in recent months is the campaign to shut down pro-sovereignty voices that exist outside the control of the journalistic establishment. The British media have consistently targeted independent Scottish opinion-makers, particularly those with an online presence (the so-called “cybernats”). A long litany of allegations, the vast majority proven to be unfounded, exaggerated or simply invented for propaganda purposes, have been made damaging personal reputations or worse endangering people’s careers and livelihoods.

The most egregious harassment of recent weeks has come from the “Scottish” Daily Mail (sister to our “Irish” Daily Mail and just as subservient to its London paymasters). Headlined “Cybernats unmasked: Meet the footsoldiers of pro-Scottish independence ‘army’ whose online poison shames the Nationalists” the article vilifies several people associated, in some cases very loosely indeed, with public support for a free and sovereign Scotland. The basis of the allegations are tenuous to say the least. It is simply a good, old-fashioned smear piece designed to punish individual citizens for publicly expressing their political opinions. It is the antithesis of support for a participatory democracy, an attack on individual rights and freedoms which all right-minded Europeans should reject. With some Irish media elders now engaging in similar tactics we should be wary of those who believe that the provision of information in a democracy is the preserve of a corrupt and ideologically-fixated elite who believe that they – and only they – have the right to dictate the future course of events for the plebeian masses.

As our Gaelic cousins o’er the sea contemplate taking the monumental first step in the journey to true nationhood we should give what support we can while being mindful of those at home who would have us retrace our steps back to the days of our servility to others.

Féile na Bealtaine

An Caorthann or the rowan tree (mountain-ash), one of several plants associated with Bealtaine traditions

An Caorthann or the rowan tree (mountain-ash), one of several plants associated with Bealtaine traditions

Some appropiate links for Lá Bealtaine, traditionally the first day of summer by the indigenous calendars of the Irish, Scots and Manx (and probably for the Celtic peoples as a whole). The Dos Bhealtaine or May Bush is up already, the branches and flowers cut from the caorthann or rowan tree in my garden. The ribbons are red and white, the colours of the Ó Sionnaigh heraldic crest and the mythical Aos Sí. And perhaps of revolutionary Gaels too? ;-)

Tuatha Dé Danann
Na Fomhóraigh
An Sí
Na Fathaigh
Na Bocánaigh, Na Bánánaigh
Na Púcaí
Na Péisteanna
Na Murúcha
Seanchas Agus Litríocht na nGael
Na Fianna

Big Boost In Funding For Scottish Language Broadcasting

BBC Alba

BBC Alba, the Scottish language public service broadcaster jointly funded by the Scottish and British governments

Some more good news for the Scottish language (Scottish Gaelic) with the announcement by Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, that a further £2.1 million pounds (2.5 million euros) will be made available to MG Alba, the state-funded media organisation. The group funds Scottish language television and radio programmes in cooperation with the BBC and various independent production companies and the news came at the opening ceremony of MG Alba’s new headquarters in Stornoway on the western Isle of Lewis. The building will serve as a Gaelic media hub housing studios for BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal. There is more on the Stornoway Gazette and in an article carried by the Scotsman newspaper (where you get the fun of reading the puerile Comments by the usual crowd of Anglophone supremacists and bigots).

The Forge In The Forest, Ian Miller

Wraparound cover illustration for Michael Scott Rohan’s Ice Age-set Fantasy novel “The Forge in the Forest””, drawn by Ian Miller

Wraparound cover illustration for Michael Scott Rohan’s Ice Age-set Fantasy novel “The Forge in the Forest””, drawn by Ian Miller (Íomhá: © 1987 Ian Miller)

Ian Miller is a British artist whose distinctive, sometimes surreal style will be familiar to many readers of Fantasy and fantasy-tinged Science-fiction even if his name is not so much. Since the late 1970s his exquisite illustrations, executed most frequently in pen and ink, have graced the covers of countless publications, notably the Fighting Fantasy and Warhammer range of books and magazines from the Games Workshop. Perhaps my favourite examples of his work come from “The Winter of the World”, a trilogy of quasi-historical Fantasy books by the Scottish author Michael Scott Rohan set – unexpectedly - on the North American continent during the last Ice Age. In general I disdain the endless catalogue of High Fantasy tales published over the last four decades, a conveyor belt of faux Mediaevalism inspired by the commercial successes of the “Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” in the United States. Most are pale imitations of J.R.R. Tolkien or outright rip-offs (did anyone mention the “Sword of Shannara”?). All those Eddings and Jordans are as near to literary dross as it is possible to imagine, though thankfully there has been some light at the end of the tunnel in recent years with the emergence of writers like China Miéville and the popularity of urban-tinged fantasies (I haven’t read George R.R. Martin so I’ll reserve my judgement on his works. I will venture to say that they sound – the much heralded sex and gore to one side - distinctly traditional in both tone and setting).

However I was always impressed by Scott Rohan’s little series, despite its limitations and adherence to overly familiar formulae (the young hero unknowingly destined to greatness). Somehow his deft writing and commitment to an appealingly innovative pseudo-historic setting gave his publications a power that many other would-be fantasists would do well to take note of. I still have the books I first purchased in the late 1980s and In terms of literary merit I would place them well above many of their contemporaries, even those now regarded as “classics” of the genre. Unfortunately Michael Scott Rohan seems to have abandoned writing which is a great shame. By all accounts he was growing as a writer and one of his last works, the personally meaningful “Lord of Middle Air”, is particularly well-regarded.

However to return to Ian Miller, featured above is his 1987 cover for Scott Rohan’s “The Forge in the Forest”. It is perhaps not the best of his creative output but it is certainly one of my personal favourites. Appropriately a new collection of his artworks is now available, The Art of Ian Miller, and there is a glowing review by the Verge, as well as a typically idiotic LOL-speak overview from io9 (look at us! We’re cool! Really! Honestly we are! We’re happening! We’z bitchin’. We have lots of click-bait photos so please, please don’t stop visiting our website… Please…). Enjoy.

Europe’s Democratic Tide

Quick post to highlight a couple of interesting articles touching upon Scotland’s independence campaign, the first from Conn Hallinan at Foreign Policy In Focus examining the rise of national self-determination across Europe, while Paul J. Carnegie looks specifically at the Scottish case for CounterPunch. Both are well worth reading.

The Forces Of Darkness Gather

George, sorry, Lord Robertson

George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC, voices his, eh, unbiased opinions on his home nation

There is truly nothing more astonishing in this world than a British nationalist politician who is completely oblivious of his own nation’s history of imperial misdeeds and crimes around the globe. Or worse, actually believes that such things are worthy of veneration because they were committed by the nation of Britain and are therefore above approach (oh lucky slaves and occupied peoples who in lived in that part of the atlas coloured pink!). It’s like waking up in some bizarre parallel universe where the Third Reich won WWII and sixty years later its leaders look back with pride on those halcyon days or where Joseph Stalin had gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Peace (a not entirely inconceivable idea, admittedly, given the list of those who actually did win the honour). So we have the less than edifying spectacle of a former, nominally left-wing British government minister and NATO make-an’-shaker, nouveau aristo George Robertson, beating the war drums like a thing possessed in relation to Scotland’s upcoming referendum on independence. From the Guardian newspaper:

“Lord Robertson, the former defence secretary and Nato chief, has claimed that Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” effect on European and global stability by undermining the UK on the world stage.

A former secretary general of Nato, Robertson said the “loudest cheers” after a yes vote would come from the west’s enemies and other “forces of darkness”.

“What could possibly justify giving the dictators, the persecutors, the oppressors, the annexers, the aggressors and the adventurers across the planet the biggest pre-Christmas present of their lives by tearing the United Kingdom apart?” Robertson told the Brookings Institute on onday.”

The forces of darkness?! This is politics and democracy reduced to the level of Star Wars. British Unionism as an ideology has finally sunk to the level of  Tea Party-style insanity. And it’s showing.