Newspaper columns

Since 2010 I have contributed opinion pieces on a wide range of topics to The Herald, Sunday Herald, The National and STV.


20170403_185738-1Fear of terrorism should not drive us to arm every police officer
The National, March 31, 2017
“The voices of officers must be heard in any debate about policing policy, but a respect for their bravery must not get in the way of critically assessing their arguments”


pram cropPrevention of loneliness will always be better than cure
The National, March 24, 2017
“Shouldn’t we encourage those in co-dependent relationships to maintain other friendships, hobbies and interests? The notion of “you and me against the world” might have romantic appeal, but the grim reality is that one day it will become a solo mission.”



Criticising SNP policy should not be viewed as treason by Yes supporters
The National, March 17, 2017
“Suggesting a piece of legislation is a bit of a dog’s dinner is not the same as saying the people who drafted it are too wee, too poor and too stupid to tie their own shoelaces.”


Broadchurch julieIt’ll take more than a TV show to stamp out rape myths
The National, March 10, 2017
“The perpetuation of rape myths is most damaging to the types of cases that don’t suit Monday-night whodunnits. Rapes of wives by their own husbands, in their own beds. Rapes of women or men on dates. Rapes of children by trusted relatives.”


money-rollPoor pay and terrible PR: who’d be a local councillor?
The National, March 3, 2017
“We cannot on one hand complain that anyone who goes into politics is motivated by greed and an unsavoury quest for power and influence, but on the other hand rule out salaries that represent fair pay for the hours and effort involved.”


young-carer-crop2Celebrating ‘young carers’ risks robbing children of their childhoods
The National, February 24, 2017
“It’s little wonder children themselves question the legitimacy of these arrangements. What’s surprising is that more adults don’t ask whether it’s right that young people are required to help their parents wash, get dressed or take medication before heading off to school in the morning.”


20170103_162952-1The Tory government’s hunt for ‘undeclared partners’ is not about money
The National, February 17, 2017
“It simply cannot be cost-effective to treat all claimants as guilty until proven innocent – which is why any large-scale “crackdown” by the Tories and their private-sector partners feels less like a prudent claw-back of cash and more like an attempt to degrade and humiliate anyone and everyone who relies on state support”


sad-boyWhen it comes to child mental health, sometimes a label helps
The National, February 10, 2017
“After waiting many months for an appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, thousands every year are told their children do not meet the criteria for treatment, sending them back to square one”


scrooge-mcduckIs inheritance really a toxic topic in Scottish politics?
The National, February 3, 2017
“Tinkering with tax on honest graft will do nothing to address the inequality that arises when a significant proportion of the population receive a house in return for doing precisely nothing”


media-studiesAnyone who believes there are no alternative facts needs a lesson in media studies
The National, January 27, 2017
“I don’t wish to suggest that Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway is a philosophy scholar rather than a bullshit merchant, but while we can see with our own eyes that turnout was low in Washington DC last Friday, strictly speaking Spicer’s claims about global audiences are unverifiable as opposed to untrue.”



Cold callers are more than just a nuisance … could we use people power to silence them?
The National, January 20 2017
“In the time it has taken me to write these first 500 words I have received a nuisance call at home. The woman was very polite, and readily took no for an answer, but often cold-callers simply hang up, interrupt or become rude and even aggressive.”


runningme-cropWhy I’ll try to high-five every runner I pass in 2017
The National, January 13 2017
” If the great majority retreat into gyms, a pleasingly solitary pursuit might become downright lonely. I always feel spurred on by the sight of a fellow runner, and a bit disappointed that the camaraderie of Parkrun isn’t replicated elsewhere.”


cmsIt can’t be right that abuse victims pay a child support tax … but what’s a fair solution?
The National,  January 6 2017
“The scrapping of collection fees for abuse victims might therefore come with strings attached, such as a requirement to make a formal complaint to the police – thus leading us right back into dubious ‘rape clause’ territory.”


eden glennChannel 4’s Eden has gone quiet – is there trouble in paradise?
The National, December 30 2016
“It didn’t take long for trouble to start brewing. What was fascinating – and depressing – about the first few months was how quickly eco-living idealism was replaced by scroungers vs skivers rhetoric that would make the staunchest of Tories blush.”



Sometimes special school is the perfect place to nurture talent
The National, December 23 2016
“While special schooling may have held back children with physical impairments in the 1970s , mainstream schooling may have the same effect today on those with conditions such as autism and ADHD.”


binI refuse to use my food waste recycling bin, and I’m not sorry
The National, December 16 2016
“The Scottish Government would not be happy with me. I am not doing my bit. If everyone did their bit, and half of the country’s food waste was recycled, we could apparently power a city the size of Dundee for six months with the green energy produced”


busesStop the bus – it’s time for a new era of public transport
The National, December 9 2016
“Complaining about public transport is regarded as a quaint British hobby – an inoffensive form of social glue that bonds shivering strangers. But for many people, particularly those on low incomes and without the option of taking the car, it’s a much more serious matter”


loan-sharks-squareKicking the debt habit requires a culture shift
The National, December 2 2016
“Personal debt has become normalised at the very same time that the UK’s level of public debt has been portrayed as an unprecedented, spiralling crisis that can only be solved by savage cuts to public services. The very idea of living within one’s means has become quaint.”


brendan crop.jpgIt’s all too easy to make a murderer … even in Scotland
The National, November 25 2016
“Not every miscarriage of justice is the result of a conspiracy. In some cases the police simply focus on one suspect to the exclusion of all others, or the accused’s lawyers do a bad job with limited resources, or juries are led to believe that “special knowledge” of a crime can only mean one thing..”


handsIf adoption is a selfless act, what does that say about the kids?
The National, November 18 2016
“There’s a difficult balance to be struck between praising and celebrating adoptive and foster parents and portraying them as so exceptional, so uniquely big of heart and endowed with patience, that your average Joe and Joanne feel inadequate by comparison.”


oistinsDon’t be so sure Trump voters were all idiots and racists
The National, November 11 2016
“I understand the temptation to dismiss all those Americans who voted for Trump as “other” – as dumb hicks, racist rednecks, ignorant white trash. As tinfoil-hat-wearing simpletons who don’t trust the media but happily parrot every meme their aunt Doris posts online.”


feminismDear teenage girls: Please don’t hold out for a hero
The National, November 4 2016
“I’m not trying to stamp on your dreams, or ruin your favourite films. Romance is great, but it’s a bonus. It’s the cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae of life. It’s never guaranteed, and if you pin all your hopes on finding it – and then achieving the even harder bit, keeping it alive – you risk missing out on everything else life has to offer.”


citz-impactThe success of Citizens Advice points to failure everywhere else
The National, October 28 2016
“In an ideal world, people who have never used a computer in their lives wouldn’t be told they have to apply for benefits online, unscrupulous boiler companies wouldn’t cold-call pensioners pretending to be from the government, and landlords wouldn’t ignore urgent requests for repairs from their tenants.”


20161020_094807_resizedGiving purse strings to the people will require a leap of faith
The National, October 21 2016
“It may be that the Scottish Government needs to go hard or go home when it comes to participatory budgeting. The only way to truly test how committed ordinary Scots are to direct democracy is to give them charge of significant budgets, widely publicise the corresponding decision-making exercises and, crucially, accept the outcomes without qualification.”


thomas-tankDon’t judge youngsters in care – they’re our children too
STV.TV, October 17 2016
“For those who are abused or chronically neglected, foster or residential care can be transformative. It can relieve children of the burden of looking after themselves, their siblings, even their parents. It can replace fear and uncertainty with reassurance and routine. It can gradually restore eroded self-esteem.”


knife1Clyping isn’t easy, even when the stakes are high
The National, October 14 2016
“We teach our children from any early age that “telling tales” on their peers will make them unpopular, while simultaneously fretting about their vulnerability to child bullies and adult predators who can only operate with impunity as long as their victims stay silent.”


money-rollDon’t expect polite debate when it comes to prostitution policy
The National, October 7 2016
“It will take a brave MSP to pick up the baton that is the proposed Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill. To say there are some who disagree with the contents of this Bill, which was drafted following an extensive consultation, is an understatement.”


img_6936What gives the SPFL the right to hijack Glasgow’s Hogamanay?
The National, September 30 2016
“That this minority interest should be allowed to blight a city that has worked so hard in recent years to shed its violent, drunken image is not just hugely frustrating, it’s also fundamentally undemocratic.”


SP Petitions Committee

Giving evidence to Holyrood committees need not be a taxing matter
The National, September 23 2016
“You have the right to an opinion on the decisions that affect you, and while there’s no guarantee you’ll influence the work of any given committee, there’s no use grousing afterwards if you didn’t put your points across when you had the chance.”


img_6965Don’t the banks have a role to play in enforcing landlord registration rules?
The National, September 16 2016
“Why should council and charity workers be forced to scrabble around for information on landlords when every buy-to-let mortgage is signed off by a lender, and every mortgaged homeowner should – in theory at least – also be informing the bank about any change of occupancy?”


smartphoneWhy are we letting these “courageous” tech overlords dictate how we live our lives?
The National, September 9 2016
“Of course, no-one is forced to buy an iPhone, or to stick with the brand once they’ve got one. The beauty of the free market is that consumers can put their money where their moaning mouths are, and desert any manufacturer who neglects their needs. But theses days it’s not quite that simple, is it?”


img_7321Headphones debate was a distraction from bigger problems of male privilege
The National, September 2 2016
“A woman can walk away from a sleazy guy in the street, but she can’t very easily avoid a classmate who stares at her during lessons, or a colleague who badgers her for a date via her work email account.”



The burkini is not a burka for the beach, and French bans had nothing to do with security
The National, August 26 2016
“You know a line’s been crossed when the Daily Mail takes time out from assessing the ‘pert posteriors’ of minor television celebrities to suggest a Muslim woman has been treated unjustly.”



If Scotland’s drugs death are a “legacy issue”, why do we have more problem users than ever?
The National, August 19 2016
“Cracking down on dealers doesn’t address the question of why they found so many customers to begin with; why so many people feel hopeless, alienated and disenfranchised. If we’re serious about reducing deaths, the first step must be to make sure the most vulnerable have something to live for.”


ID theft crop

Think you’re too clever to be scammed? Don’t be so sure
The National, August 12 2016
“Ordinary people are not detectives, and cannot be expected to guard against financial scams with minimal support from the authorities. Job-seekers should not be expected to carry out risk assessments every time they answer the phone.”


t-in-the-parkLocking young people out of festivals won’t solve drug problems
The Herald, August 10 2016
“Based on the media coverage, one would be forgiven for thinking T in the Park was first and foremost an excuse for three days of pill-popping hedonism and random violence. The rather more mundane reality – that the vast majority of festival-goers are peaceful, well-behaved and have a ball – doesn’t make for lurid headlines.”


keep calm cropIf you didn’t get the exam results you hoped for, it’s not the end of the world
The National, August 5 2016
“The results may, of course, dictate your immediate next step, but don’t be too quick to assume a college or university place has slipped through your fingers forever. This wasn’t your one and only chance – you’ve likely got at least five decades more of life in which to prove yourself ”


named personNamed Person debate highlights widespread ignorance about child protection
The National, July 29 2016
“The basic principle behind named persons – that information-sharing is key to early and effective information – is backed up by every major child protection inquiry of the past 20 years”


FredWestIs Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith normal? And if so, is that a good thing?
The National, July 22 2016
“When he told a journalist he was an Average Joe he probably wasn’t consciously trying to contrast himself with his then rivals – child-free lesbian Angela Eagle and twice-divorced Jeremy Corbyn – but that’s not really the point”


Celeb magsWhen the subjects consent, is celebrity gossip really such a bad thing?
Sunday Herald, July 17 2016
“Jennifer Aniston has found herself in the crosshairs of increasingly intrusive paparazzi not because she is a particularly remarkable famous person, but because she’s unwittingly found herself starring in a fan-fiction drama about her own life”


Diet crispsThe diet police need to learn to bite their tongues
The National, July 15 2016
“Diet policing takes many forms, from the casual comment to something bordering on obsession. Is there some unwritten agreement that the ordinary rules of good manners may be set aside when there’s faux-concern to be expressed about someone’s Doritos habit?”


ChoirBigoted US church groups should not be made welcome in Scotland
The Herald, July 11 2016
“Prestonwood Baptist Church ticks every box on the Ugly Religious Fundamentalism checklist: homophobia and transphobia, an obsession with sexual purity, and a firm anti-choice agenda”


PinocchioDo we really want honest politicians, as opposed to a bit of razzle dazzle?
The National, July 8 2016
“The problem with the false dichotomy of scrupulously honest, noble public servant vs slimy, untrustworthy careerist is that no real-life politician perfectly fits either mould”


Salem 2When it comes to protecting our heritage, we won’t know what we’ve got til it’s gone
The Herald, July 2 2016
“It should be of concern to all Scots that one in four National Trust for Scotland workers is facing redundancy due to falling visitor numbers … there’s an awful lot more to preserving the past than maintaining bricks and mortar and giving guided tours”


Mundell beardNo voters now thinking again weren’t all fooled during the independence referendum
The National, July 1 2016
“Perhaps, just perhaps, No voters weren’t all cowards and fools who were hoodwinked by blatant Unionist lies. Did they all believe The Vow? No. Did Gordon Brown’s bellowing make a difference? I doubt it”


romance cardsNo wonder it’s so hard to leave an abusive ‘other half’
The National, June 24 2016
“What do we teach young people about relationships through the subtle and not-so-subtle cues in our language? We tell them these require compromise (but not how much); that a marriage is “hard work” (so divorce means you didn’t work hard enough); that maintaining a partnership is a mark of maturity, of social sophistication”


IVF reportFocus on happy endings obscures the emotional toll of IVF
The National, June 17 2016
“State provision of IVF has helped distort how our society views infertility. It is no longer a fact of life with which couples must come to terms in their own way. Instead, it is an obstacle to be overcome against the odds”


disclosureRaising Scotland’s minimum age of criminal responsibility – why stop at 12?
The National, June 10 2016
“Only the most dedicated of the ‘tough on crime’ brigade would try to argue that children should be labelled as offenders well into adulthood because of something they did aged eight, nine, 10 or 11”


Lindy2‘Strident’ is not a compliment – we have a problem with women’s voices
The National, June 3 2016
“Strident is an adjective that pops up regularly in print and discussion, often paired with the word ‘feminist’, so it’s perhaps little wonder many people assume it conveys something positive, like ‘kick-ass’ or ‘patriarchy-busting’ or ‘striding towards a better future for all’.”


cosby makeupThe case against Cliff Huxtable (and other fathers who take a prurient interest in their daughters’ lives)
The National, May 27 2016
“Fans would argue that a couple of creepy scenes do nothing to detract from Cliff Huxtable’s status as the dad everyone wishes they had: loving, fiercely protective and funny to boot. But any man who obsesses over the vulnerability of his daughters to sexual exploitation, even when they reach adulthood, denies their agency.”


busesAre bus fare fair? Not when zero-hours workers pay a huge poverty premium
The Herald, May 25 2016
“When the National Minimum Wage for twentysomethings starts at just £5.30, how can it be right that a standard return bus journey of just a few miles costs £3.20 in Edinburgh, £4 in Aberdeen and £4.30 in Glasgow?”


IMG_5457[1]The Bank of Mum and Dad is not the solution to Generation Rent’s problem – lower house prices are
The National, May 20 2016
“What’s happening is that families with assets are maintaining their privileged position while families with none are seeing their chances of acquiring any decrease ”


polls crop

A problem with polling … do you know who your candidates are?
The National, April 30 2016
“We have a two-pronged problem: people lack information about their regional candidates, but become aware of nationwide poll results and adjust their perspectives accordingly”


housingHow to solve the housing crisis? Focus on quality, not just quantity
The Herald, April 1 2016
“Many Scots are living in expensive privately rented properties which landlords operating in a favourable market have little incentive to properly maintain”



Do headteachers really know best when it comes to school budgeting?
The National, March 30 2016
“The implicit suggestion of the SNP’s plan to divert more funding directly to school heads is that they would try a bit harder if they were handed the purse strings and told: ‘Improve’.”


DISABILITYDon’t fall into a Tory trap by using disabling language
The National, March 23 2016
“If there’s one thing the UK’s disability rights movement has been battling consistently over the past 40 years, it’s the perception that disabled people are needy, dependent and weak.”


johnsonCalling men like Adam Johnson paedophiles doesn’t help teenage girls
The National, March 4 2016
“Crucially, teenage girls have a sexual identity. If we refuse to acknowledge this because it makes us uncomfortable, how can we hope to protect them from the men who seek to exploit it?”


Unicorn blue bankIf everyone hates the tax man so much, maybe we need a tax unicorn
The National, February 19 2016
“Ask the man in the street if he thinks someone else should pay more tax and he’ll likely agree. Tell him he’ll have to play his part too and there’s a good chance he’ll change his tune.”


hospitalSeen but not heard: Glasgow’s anti-abortion protesters are impossible to ignore
Sunday Herald, February 14 2016
“There are no shock tactics here, just silent judgment from two men and two women standing in the cold. One wears a hi-vis vest, as if anyone was likely to miss her.”


WP_20151230_11_21_28_ProGiving food might make us feel virtuous, but giving cash is better
The Herald, December 29 2015
“Ever since September 2014, when George Square was symbolically but misguidedly filled with a sea of grocery bags, the trend for conspicuous in-kind donation has continued”


coinsA taxing matter for the SNP to address
The Herald, July 16 2015
“It’s perhaps easy to see why the SNP weren’t too keen to mention SRIT before. If voters thought the Scottish Government was going to secure meaningful powers over income tax in the near future, might that have changed how their viewed the options on September 18?”


Never mind carrots, it’s time to wield the stick on empty properties
The Herald, June 1 2015
“Perhaps, if Scotland wants to improve its social justice credentials, those wealthy enough to have entire spare homes should be given a shove, rather than a series of small nudges”


Testing time for checks on pupil progress
The Herald, May 25 2015
“It’s unhelpful to create a false dichotomy between old and new teaching techniques and imply that Curriculum for Excellence, with its problem-solving focus, is somehow test-proof”


handcuffsLanguage matters when it comes to criminal justice
The Herald, March 9 2015
“The phrase ‘automatic early release’ conjures up the image of a cell door automatically swinging open early – too early – allowing the offender within to go on his or her merry way without so much as a backward glance.”


prayingIt’s not right to make children pray at school
The Herald, January 2 2015
“Apparently the key to promoting religious tolerance is to impose religion on children while they learn. The right religion, presumably. One that doesn’t involve nasty extremist business”



fireHow many pensioners really need a Winter Fuel Allowance?
The Herald, December 24 2014
“What kind of heartless Scrooge would leave granny warming her hands on just one bar of the fire as she tunes in to the Queen’s speech tomorrow afternoon? But the reality isn’t quite as simple as that”


CosbyBill Cosby’s betrayal of black Americans is unforgivable
The Herald, December 8 2014
“Cosby didn’t content himself with blaming black men – as opposed to racism – for their persecution by the police. He also took aim at the parents of those youngsters who offended his middle-class sensibilities by wearing their jeans slung low”


heroinAvoiding drug addiction isn’t a simple matter of ‘good sense’
The Herald, December 2 2014
“Russell Brand has made clear on many occasions that he does not see himself as superior to those still living the life he was fortunate enough to escape, and this makes his critics uncomfortable”




Who’ll do the cleaning after the glass ceiling’s smashed?
The Herald, January 3, 2013
“While initiatives aiming at encouraging girls to pursue non-traditional careers are always to be welcomed, given the sexism that has held us back for centuries, we must be careful we don’t stigmatise those who pursue more stereotypically ‘female’ work like caring and cleaning”




Can we solve a pig of a problem without zoos?
Sunday Herald, October 24 2010
“Edinburgh Zoo keeper last year gushed that they were ‘thrilled’ with the piglets they later killed … zoos need to assess whether they can continue to have it both ways – reaping the publicity and revenue rewards of animal reproduction while attracting extra scrutiny”


Call that entertainment? It’s ritual humiliation
Sunday Herald, August 29 2010
“Should all of those taking medication for a mental condition now consider themselves ineligible for shows such as The X Factor – or would non-novelty contenders still make it through the screening process and receive appropriate support?”


Gove’s Swede dream will prove a nightmare
Sunday Herald, August 1 2010
“There’s simply no evidence that private schools offer a superior education to state comprehensives (they certainly may teach children to feel superior to the riff-raff in the comprehensive down the road, but let’s give the Tories the benefit of the doubt and assume that’s not what they mean)”


This is a job for Super-nanny state
Sunday Herald, July 25 2010
“Would moderate drinkers really begrudge spending an estimated 11p extra a week if it meant having fewer drunk teenagers to navigate past on their way home from the wine bar?”


Buy now, blame the bankers when the bills turn red
Sunday Herald, July 18 2010
“Let’s not confuse poverty with fecklessness, or try to seriously suggest that all overdrafts are used to pay for day-to-day essentials rather than luxuries”


Girls just want to have fun, so what’s the problem?
Sunday Herald, July 11 2010
“The current spate of hand-wringing seems more concerned with condemning girls as delusional sluts in the guise of expressing concern about their wellbeing”


Argument of the Week: Is chivalry just another name for blatant sexism?
Sunday Herald, June 20 2010
“One frequently hears about the strident feminist who takes offence at having a door held open for her, or a jacket offered when she is cold. But has anyone actually met this woman?”


Argument of the Week: Should lads’ mags be relegated to the top shelf?
Sunday Herald, February 28 2010
“The strain of pornography promoted by these magazines has little to do with sex, and much more to do with male power and objectification”