27 February 2008

Professor Harvie has obviously never set foot in Chorley

Well, I'm mortified by Professor Harvie's comments, as are ministers. As, it seems, is Christopher Harvie.

He has learned something of a harsh lesson: politics and academia are not the same, and you can't just go mouthing off as he did, condemning Lockerbie, and suggesting that it capitalise on the disaster that bears the town's name. Having said that - and I've never been to Lockerbie so have only his experiences to go on - if the town has indeed become too anonymous, too much like every other, then it's a massive loss to contemporary society and certainly the town's name should have something else to go on, though making it a 'terror tourism' destination perhaps isn't the way forward. As Professor Harvie is an academic, surely he'd fancy the idea of a 'Lockerbie Scholarship' either in Middle Eastern Studies or to bring students from the Arab world over to Scotland. After all, the bombing of Pan Am 103 was a harsh lesson in what happens when the Middle East and the Western World clash. That makes it all the more pressing for the town's name to mark something that brings the two closer together.

Though a couple of other thoughts spring to mind:

1. We often bemoan the lack of "characters", the lack of "free-thinkers", the lack of people who can be relied upon to inject some sort of oddness into proceedings in Scottish politics. Here we have the archetypal gob-on-a-stick and all of a sudden we scream, "The man's a disgrace!" If this were Boris Johnson, people would just roll their eyes and say "That's Boris for you!", unles they were one of the people on the receiving end of the outburst. Do we want 'characters'? Do we want a Scottish BoJo? Here he is: we either put up with him or put up with our politics being bland. We can't have it both ways.

2. Have you noticed how whenever someone gets into trouble, people use their full title? the SNP's Regional MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife is now being universally referred to as "Professor Harvie".The then MSP for Glasgow Cathcart who proposed a ban on fox hunting was "Mike Watson". The man who set fire to a pair of curtains at the Prestonfield Hotel while drunk was "Lord Watson of Invergowrie". Why this zeal to associate full titles with wrongdoing?

3. Seriously. However bad Lockerbie is, or Carlisle, it can't be as bad as Chorley. Chorley is a mingpit. How would the Professor react if he saw a ten-year-old leaning on a bike smoking a cigarette? If I were to take him on a tour of "Lancashire's Market Town" (Ha!), we'd find out.


ASwaS said...

I'm pretty sure there is a scholarship between the high school in Lockerbie and a university in the USA.

Ah yes.

Google tells me: http://www.lockerbie-academy.co.uk/guide/syracuse.htm

Anonymous said...

"What happens when the Middle East and the Western World clash."

God help us from you Nats, facile analysis we have come to expect from your external affairs minister Fabiani but don't reveal the extent to which your whole party is guilty or you'll give the rest of us nightmares.

Richard Havers said...

I agree that we lack 'characters', it's just that Harvie seems so confused about what points he's trying to make. If he has a problem it's arrogance (of the intellectual kind). On his Guardian blog in recent months he's made some appalling gaffs.

Will said...

ASwaS, fair point, though I was aiming at something a little wider than that.

And I am sorry Anon, perhaps you'd like to summarise the last twenty years of international relations and see what pattern emerges?

Richard, I would agree that Harvie undoubtedly is an intellectual snob, but that's academia for you: some of the best academics I've known have said and done some of the most ridiculous things.

Anonymous said...

Credit to the SNP government again..

"Access to university should be based on ability to learn, not ability to pay"

Fiona Hyslop
Education Secretary

Labour and the Conservatives MSP's voted against abolition, arguing that the £17m cost could be better spent.

Well I hope the students remember Labour and the Tories come polling day !

Also, I wonder how this will go down in the land of Apathy ? More moaning on English newspaper forums I presume..

Scott said...

As one of those with a personal interest in Lockerbie, and a regular visitor, I'd just like to note that I was very offended by the comments. The suggestion - in a discussion about tourism - that Lockerbie should become some sort of tourist destination for the atrocity is unacceptable. There are memorials in the town. The people of Lockerbie have to live daily with the aftermath of the disaster. many still receive medical care in relation to it. It would not be good for the town or its residents to trade on its history and create some form of atrocity exhibition.

As for the state of the town - it is like many others across Scotland - indeed Harvie should note even places in Fife. What is problematic about Lockerbie is a general issue in the south west and south east. While money has been filtered to the north west to assuage some residual clearance guilt - the south of Scotland has suffered as its industrial base was destroyed and its reliance on agriculture and agricultural industry was hugely affected by the foot and mouth disaster, from which agriculture in the area is yet to recover. Chronic underinvestment in a relatively poor part of the country - played about with in boundary reviews (at Westminster and Holyrood) ill-serving the effective representation of the local communities, and sufficient distance from the political centres of the UK and Scotland to be disregarded by those with power. If Harvie's comments serve to address that in part - then at least some good will come of it.

Ted Harvey said...

Scott, sorry but I was going along with you to an extent until you got to;

"While money has been filtered to the north west to assuage some residual clearance guilt - the south of Scotland has suffered as its..."

Then I realised Awe naw, another parochial plea of victimhood to provide some displacement thinking. Keep that one up and I sure we would end up with wee hamlets in 'the south' (?) decrying how they have had less help than the wee hamlet up the hill.

And anyway, what the heck is 'residual clearance guilt'? Sounds like a piece of victimhood jargon to me:)

scott said...


The point is partly that the north west has received subsidisation in some issues (where equally deserving parts of scotland have not) for reasons I cannot explain. This is partly due to special treatment where the area is treated differently for various funding purposes while D & G and the Borders are lumped in with the central belt for various funding purposes and suffer as a result). The only explanation I can give for this is a residual central belt guilt about the Clearances - which was a flippant comment undeserving of the thread, and which I hope didn't detract from the general point: that lots of small towns around Scotland are in the same condition.

Best wishes


Ted Harvey said...

I see what you're on about Scott and, so, I take my equally flippant response back (isn't it nice to talk:))

Your point about equity in distribution of public spend is weel argued throughout Scotland and is tied up with just how do you measure 'need' and 'fairness' and when does 'investment' become pork barrel politics.

I chaired a regeneration seminar a few months ago dealing with Aberdeen City and Shire. Their beef is that the otherwise admirable Scottish Index of Dperivation penalises their communites.

The geographical-based Index measures the extent and location of deprivation across Scotland. This means that public investment tends to be directed to the geographical (urban) areas with the undoubted biggest concentrations of deprivation... this in turn means that the people in dire poverty but who are also dispersed all across a wide rural region and do not register strongly on a geoghraphically-based Index will get 'left out'.

As a lowland urban Scot I argue that if you want to make really big hits against the biggest concentrations of deprivation, that has got to be in the areas of greatest concentration. But that does leave the consequent 'inequity' problem.

Of course if we had an adequate tax base 'take' in the UK comperable to similar EU economies we would have enough public jam to spread around. Unfortunately, with the Blair/Brown UK Government, the last hopes for politicians i9n Office with the courage and conviction to argue the case for a higher tax base vanished.

Scott, I'm sure I've made all that crystal clear for you:)