Newspaper columns

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


nesFor many leaving care, independence comes at a high price
The National, February 16, 2018
“For most young people, flying the nest is a thrilling experience. Crucially, for most human beings, it includes the freedom to return to the nest as a welcome visitor any time. But imagine, if you can, that there is no nest.”


Dom AbuseIf short jail terms don’t work, why make an exception for domestic abusers?
The National, February 9, 2018
“It is clear the direction of travel in Scotland is away from locking people up … but how does this stance fit with last week’s progressive move – the landmark vote in favour of criminalising coercive control and psychologically abusive behaviour in intimate relationships?”


letter writersScotland in Union’s cabal of letter writers isn’t our real problem … women’s voices are missing
The National, February 2, 2018
“The National has many loyal and highly articulate male letter-writers, whose informative, persuasive and witty words appear in our pages on a weekly basis if not more frequently. But when it comes to gender balance in The National Conversation, we have a long way to go. Why might this be?”



Time to think big when it comes to exporting Scottish skills
The National, January 26, 2018
“What’s made clear in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is that societies of any size will always need innovators and entrepreneurs as well as doctors, cleaners and carers. And they will continue to need the kind of services that Scotland is exporting worldwide.”


rainbow flagWomen must not be silenced in the debate on gender identity
The National, January 19, 2018
“When it comes to the current consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, it is women who MSPs are finding easy to ignore. Specifically, women who believe that if the state decides the word “woman” has no objective meaning, then statistics will be skewed, protections will be lost and children – particularly young lesbian girls – risk being seriously harmed.”


computers.jpgIs it really the job of schools to pump out work-ready youngsters?
The National, January 12, 2018
“Maybe schools should be aiming to produce well-rounded, thoughtful and adaptable young people, rather than steering them down narrow paths of vocational learning at the first indication they won’t be heading to university.”


Camera pic.jpgLet’s ring in a happy new year of kindness to strangers
The National, January 5, 2018
“Tech-savvy friends are aghast at my failure to lock my mobile phone, but if it weren’t for kind-hearted amateur detectives calling ‘Mum’ or popping up in a WhatsApp chat with my friends, I’d have gone through two additional handsets in the last three months alone.”



uni library.jpgNobody is trying to ban free speech at universities
The National, December 29, 2017
“Students, it seems, are to be protected from their own wrong opinions by a watchdog that will have the power to fine universities for pandering to them – or rather, for not interfering any time a minor stooshie involving a student-led group erupts.”


hug.jpgIncest law remains, but are we storing up problems for the future?
The National, December 22, 2017
“Depending on the number of eggs harvested and embryos created during IVF treatment, a clutch of full siblings could be born and raised in separate families, with no knowledge that their siblings exist.”


cat photo.jpgCat Person shows it’s not just elderly folk who are desperate to connect
The National, December 15, 2017
“In real life, as in quality fiction, we’re all flawed. Algorithm-based dating technology may give the impression The One is out there, just waiting to be discovered by a diligent box-ticker, but what if a much better match is just a couple of years older, or lives five miles further away, or can’t be faffed with internet dating?”


kids football.jpg

Sports coaches are well placed to spot child protection concerns
The National, December 8, 2017
“It’s obvious to us as adults that there’s a world of difference between a high-five after a goal and a hand on a knee in an empty changing room, but the distinction may be less clear to a child, especially if they are being showered with positive attention for their sporting achievements.”


HughPM.PNGWe need a Prime Minister who will stand up to bullies, actually
The Herald, December 4, 2017
“May’s Brexit bush tucker trial is being made an awful lot more difficult by her supposed subordinates, who are gleefully throwing cockroaches in her face and mockingly shouting “strong and stable” as she walks a wobbly plank towards agreement with Brussels.”


fireworks.jpgFirms using volunteers should put people before profit
The National, November 30, 2017
“May’s Brexit bush tucker trial is being made an awful lot more difficult by her supposed subordinates, who are gleefully throwing cockroaches in her face and mockingly shouting “strong and stable” as she walks a wobbly plank towards agreement with Brussels.”


microphone.jpgPaying women for their time is the best response to ‘manels’
The Herald, November 27, 2017
“When considering why so many women decline these invitations, variables such as schedules, caring responsibilities and a lack of confidence are only part of the picture. What if many capable and knowledgeable women simply ask themselves ‘what’s in it for me?’ and find the answer is ‘not a lot’?.”


Kez jungleContrary to what Dugdale’s defenders would have us believe, list MSPs do important work
The National, November 23, 2017
“No-one who’s been criticising the former Labour leader is trying to suggest she’s Batman, and that Lothian is in danger of being seized by garish super-villains as a direct consequence of her absence. They’re surely just suggesting she might have, you know, a real job?”


maggo.PNGKezia Dugdale’s not a celebrity … so why on earth is she going in there?
The Herald, November 20, 2017
“So is money the key motivator for Dudgale heading down under, or attention? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between our elected representatives and the fame-hungry empty vessels who populate ‘simulated reality’ shows on TV.”


empty homeEvery empty home should be a source of shame
The National, November 16, 2017
“Some 90 per cent of the homes brought back into use since 2010 are in local authorities with empty homes officers, so their work is clearly making a big difference. Yet more than a dozen councils still don’t have them.”


dandelion.PNGIt only takes one puff to bring down Gordon Brown’s straw man
The National, November 9, 2017
“There’s no such thing as total independence in our globalised world – it’s not just undesirable, it’s completely unachievable. Nations of all sizes must not only trade with others, but also co-operate to tackle everything from climate change and disaster relief to terrorism and the threat of nuclear war.”


fork road.jpgNicola has a tough decision to make – but is she about to be eaten alive?
The Herald, November 3, 2017
“Nicola Sturgeon’s in a forest, and there’s a fork in the path. She’s wearing sturdy boots and all the right weatherproof gear, kindly gifted to her by the UK Government, and now has to decide which route will lead to a strong, sustainable Scotland.”


Jigsaw still.PNGAusterity and Brexit leave the SNP no choice but to walk into a tax trap
The National, November 2, 2017
“It would be unfair to compare the UK Government to the serial killer in the Saw movies – whose ideologically driven killing sprees take the form of elaborate games involving knives, syringes, iron maidens and rusty tools – but handing income-tax powers to the Scottish Parliament was a stroke of evil genius.”


Soames.PNGWe’ve all seen how men behave in the Commons – is anyone really surprised by how they act in private?
The Herald, November 1, 2017
“It’s absolutely none of our business if a gay MP wishes to keep his sexuality private, whereas it should be of huge concern that a male MP can “woof woof” while a female MP is speaking then issue a non-apology and carry on regardless.”


domestic abuse.PNGThe best way to tackle domestic abuse is to fight sexism – starting in schools
The National, October 27, 2017
“School discipline may have moved on from the dunce’s cap and the tawse, but that doesn’t mean punishments are always fair and never have an element of shaming. The arbitrary enforcement of rules is one of the hallmarks of coercive control.”


20170711_130005-1If you’re a private renter (or landlord) you need to know about these big changes coming soon
The National, October 20, 2017
“The difficulty of legislating to improve tenants’ rights is that creating more restrictive conditions for landlords may inspire them to sell up and get out of the game altogether, Fine, you might think: good riddance to them. But these might not be the landlords we’d like to see the back of.”


Arran2There’s no point attracting tourists if local infrastructure isn’t up to it
The National, October 13, 2017
“Long gone are the days when a hotel guest or intrepid traveller scribbled a note in a visitor’s book and went quietly on their way. Now, if they have a complaint or even just a niggle about their stay, they can air it publicly in an instant, or bash out a TripAdvisor rant on the way home.”


Jury PlayThe chance to do my duty as a jury has lost its appeal
The National, October 6, 2017
“By the time the interval of Jury Play arrived, I was not only questioning whether I would emerge from any real-life jury duty confident that I’d made the right decision, but also whether I would want to be judged by a jury of my peers, should I have the misfortune to be charged with a crime.”


Pregnancy Test - PositiveKnowledge is power, so it’s time to talk honestly about abortion
The National, September 29, 2017
“If services are to be improved for women, this notion of a hierarchy of abortion narratives must be rejected outright. Access to safe abortion must be recognised as a human right with no ifs or buts and no requirement for exceptional circumstances.”


HMRC logo.pngThose who boast about tax-dodging should be shunned
The National, September 22, 2017
“The question many are now asking is whether the majority of Scottish workers are willing to pay a little more income tax. But this is not, in fact, the key question. We need to ask how effective a rate rise would be.”



Building new homes is not enough … we need to build communities
The National, September 15, 2017
“During this week’s Scottish Parliament debate about the current crisis, MSPs squabbled over which party’s housing, planning and infrastructure policies were best … but not one of them mentioned shops.”


money.jpgMhairi Black is right … a basic minimum income is a non-starter
The National, September 8, 2017
“What price happiness? What counts as work? What’s a fair wage? What’s the value of security, or care, or art? The answers are unlikely to be provided by tiny-scale basic-income pilot schemes in Scottish local authorities.”


£5.jpgFive ways to target child poverty that won’t cost the earth
The National, September 1, 2017
“The Give Me Five campaign, which was officially launched this week, is calling for the Scottish Government to use its new powers to top up child benefit by £5 per week. Every week. For every child. This would not be cheap.”


divorce birds.PNGPartnership of Kez and Jez was always bound to end in divorce
The Herald, August 31, 2017
“Kezia Dugdale wasn’t expected to jump, so it follows that she must have been pushed. The prime suspect? Comrade Crimson, in the Glasgow University student union, with the microphone.”


bridgy.PNGCrossing into a new era of infrastructural excitement
The Herald, August 26, 2017
“Summer might have been a bit of a let-down so far, but who needs T in the Park when you can B on the Bridge? It’s clear North-to-South Queensferry is the place to be seen this September if you’re a mover, shaker or even just a shuffler.”


standup.PNGJoking aside, critics should examine their sexist prejudices
The National, August 25, 2017
“If a male comedian talks about his personal experiences as a man, he is not performing “man’s comedy” – he is simply performing comedy. If he talks about masculinity, or fatherhood, or being rubbish at talking to women, he is not expected to convey to the audience that he understands his perspective is different to that of a gay man, or an infertile man, or a married man. ”



The value of childcare should not be reduced to a matter of cold hard cash
The Herald, August 24, 2017
“The notion of childcare fees swallowing up wages is premised on the assumption that just about every form of work should pay better than the work of looking after young children. It’s rooted in sexism”


pop concert.jpgLooking for a role model? Try a nun instead of  a pop star
The National, August 18, 2017
“There’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing the qualities and actions we admire in others – indeed, surely this is healthier than swearing allegiance to a single individual, and then defending them as a ‘problematic fave’ if their words and actions fail to live up to expectations.”


pupils tests.PNGGetting in a flap about standardised testing won’t help P1s
The National, August 11, 2017
“Some people who know a lot about education are concerned about the introduction of standardised testing, particularly at P1 level, describing it as damaging and even dangerous. But these verdicts seem to be based in large part on how parents and teachers respond to testing regimes, rather than the children themselves.”


social work.jpgDon’t point the finger at social workers if you don’t understand the job
The National, August 4, 2017
“What’s easy to forget, when we hear grim details about awful cases in which a child has died, is that social workers are not simply professional clypes, tasked with totting up black marks against families before spiriting the children away to better lives in foster care.”


rainbow flag.jpgConflating sex and gender does not help to promote gay rights
The National, July 28, 2017
“Gender roles matter to people like Vicky Hartzler, who has voted down legislation to address violence against women and whose efforts to restrict gay rights are thwarted by the idea that a woman can become a man and a man can become a woman. But they also matter to many trans activists, whose motives – when scrutinised – are every bit as homophobic.”


ACID READWho will protect delivery riders from acid attacks?
The National, July 21, 2017
“The delivery companies have responded with warm words, arranging meetings about safety and setting up phone lines for riders to report concerns. They have emphasised that no-one is obliged to make deliveries in areas where they feel unsafe. Which sounds good until you remember that the firms are not obliged to pay them, either.”


Me SPS cropIf you want to see more women on TV, you might have to step up yourself
The National, July 14, 2017
“Perhaps the increasing clamour for more women on screen might actually be as intimidating as it is encouraging. After all, what would be worse than securing a prized slot on Newsnight or Question Time only to make a right hash of it? That wouldn’t just be personally embarrassing – it would be letting the side down, too.”


20170710_142828-1Will advert restrictions kill the child video star? Let’s hope so
The Herald, July 10, 2017
“These days, toy manufacturers need not create glossy adverts and pay for them to be broadcast in between Wacky Races and Looney Tunes. Instead, they can simply send their products to young ‘influencers’ with a flair for the dramatic.”


20170711_130005-1There’s not much point raising wages if rents keep rising too
The National, July 7, 2017
“If moves such as empowering councils to borrow for building cause a few buy-to-let empires to crumble, so be it. The landlords who have been lining their pockets with other people’s hard-earned wages will just have to go and get jobs themselves.”


swinneyIf John Swinney won’t listen to teachers on education governance, how will he learn?
The National, June 30, 2017
“It’s all there in black and white: the current system of education governance is not broken, and therefore does not need fixing, consultation respondents said. The barriers to progress are budget cuts and staffing issues.”



Public heroism is no substitute for a co-ordinate response when disaster strikes
The National, June 23, 2017
“It would have felt mean-spirited and unhelpful to say so at the time, but #RoomForManchester was a risky response to a crisis in which large numbers of young women and girls were terrified, disorientated and stuck”


Tim FarronTim Farron was wrong to believe the personal was not political
The National, June 16, 2017
“Farron is free to believe what he likes, but anyone who truly aspires to live in an equal society — not just in the letter of the law but in how human beings relate to each other in real life — should have no need to evade questions about the detail.”


WestminsterWhat if some of the SNP’s 56 MPs were just a bit rubbish?
The Herald, June 14, 2017
“For every Mhairi Black, taking a lead with the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign, there was a Kirsten Oswald, wanting medals for all those serving in the armed forces.”


Little Mix cropSkimpy outfits don’t harm girls – but slut-shaming does
The National, June 9, 2017
“I understand the urge to protect girls – who doesn’t? But I do not want to protect them from Little Mix. I’m much more concerned with protecting them from the adults who seek to shun or shame young women for what they wear.”


loveCan we make room for love while keeping those in children’s home safe?
The National, June 2, 2017
“On one hand we know they need love if they are to grow into healthy, happy adults, but on the other we’ve become more and more suspicious about the motives of the unrelated adults around them.”


facebookPayslips or Facebook posts alone cannot tell you if someone is poor
The National, May 26, 2017
“Why might someone end up at a food bank despite bringing in what many would regard as a perfectly adequate wage? There are two main explanations: children, and rent.”


girl-with-smart-phone-1616794The digital kids are alright – they just need more sleep
The National, May 19, 2017
“When it comes to mental health, a media-fuelled moral panic has many concluding that digital connectedness is in itself harmful”


robotA learning reboot can keep us ahead of the robots
The National, May 12, 2017
“There will surely always be roles that demand human imagination, judgement and compassion – indeed, perhaps these qualities will come to be more valued than number-crunching and coding”


polling placeWhen it comes to local government, creativity will be key to proving Scotland can go it alone
The National, May 5, 2017
“If our new local councillors want to find out why a back court’s full of rats or a pavement is piled high with bags of dirty nappies, they should try knocking on some doors. They should find out who is living in the area and what their needs are.”


elderly handsRadical thinking is needed to solve the elderly care crisis
The National, April 28, 2017
“Our atomised modern society may appear to promote independence by supporting old people to live at home, but in fact it often leaves them entirely dependent on a spouse, son or daughter who may be unwilling to care or unable to cope”


corbyn bbcJeremy Corbyn: A poor imitation of an opposition leader?
The Herald, April 26, 2017
“Scottish voters are fatigued, but they aren’t daft. They know that when Mr Corbyn’s evil twin says the Scottish Government has ‘overseen’ an increase in child poverty, the truth is that Holyrood has no power to halt so-called welfare reform or set the UK minimum wage”


TIE campaignCan schools be truly inclusive without sex education?
The National, April 21, 2017
“While there have been plenty of warm words about tackling the kind of sustained harassment that can leave young people contemplating suicide, there’s been a conspicuous silence about the obvious place to start”


Mat electionsConfused about the local elections? Let me explain
The National, April 14, 2017
“We live in a digital age, but our democratic system is miles behind when it comes to smartphone-optimised browsing. While a few local authorities are ensuring their residents are just one or two clicks away from the details they need, most require a fair bit of searching”


pregnant 2No baby should be declared undeserving of support
The National, April 7, 2017
“Is the family cap unjust because of how it will affect the tiny proportion of women who a) become pregnant as a result of rape, b) opt to continue with those pregnancies, and c) already have two children, or is it unjust full stop?”


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.”


The 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”


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