Martin Hannan: Find out what makes ’em tick

Supporters of Catalan independence on the march. Picture: AP
Supporters of Catalan independence on the march. Picture: AP
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As we prepare to welcome the world and his auntie to our crowded city over the next month of jollity, it seems as good a time as any to warn of the dangers of navel contemplation.

The Festivals should always make those of us who live or work here more outgoing in our thoughts. For what’s the use of having all these international visitors here if we don’t try and find out about them and what makes their homelands tick?

One of the few criticisms of last year’s referendum that this SNP member is prepared to accept is that it caused far too many Scots on both sides to become temporarily obsessed with this nation’s place in or out of the Union while neglecting the big issues that face so many of our fellow human beings every day – grinding poverty, lack of basic resources such as clean water, the struggle against cruel regimes, war.

We had to set aside our normal concern for oppressed and starving people around the world and concentrate on the constitutional issue that was and is so important to Scotland’s future as a fairer, more progressive country. Though I disliked the outcome, the decision was made, so by now we should have returned to “normal” and be working, for instance, towards the eradication of poverty at home and abroad. On these islands that is going to be extremely difficult with Cameron, Osborne and their clique’s slavish adherence to austerity but I won’t say I told you so... just let’s make sure their dastardly deeds are mitigated as best we can.

At the very least, we should be aware of the political developments which are happening around the world and which you will not read about in your average London-based unionist propaganda sheet.

Take Catalonia. Directly as a consequence of our Indyref, the Catalan people want a similar “yes-no” one soon, and last week the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence was raised. The Spanish Government is resisting fiercely, but the Catalan cause is just and the clamour for a referendum will grow until it cannot be ignored.

Did you know that the United Arab Emirates has just passed a strong law banning all forms of hate crime and discrimination? It may not exactly be a democracy as we know it, but the UAE has had the courage to bring in a law that directly challenges extreme Islamist views. Sure, by our lights, women will still be second-class citizens under their Islamic laws, but it’s a start and one that I suggest contradicts the usual view of Arab countries.

There are other countries which have problems. Australia is always seen as an open, tolerant and liberal society, but under the current Government of Tony Abbot, a nasty mob called Reclaim Australia has begun to preach a dangerous message of hate about immigrants, warning of terrorism being stirred up among those immigrants. The irony of a nation that, apart from its cruelly used aboriginal people, is entirely based on immigration is lost on these dunderheads.

These are just a few examples of what is going on around the globe, and I hope to find out many more from our visitors. So thank you, world, for coming to our festivals. You are very welcome.

For you, Martin, the sun lounger war is over..

On a short holiday in Greece last week, I discovered that in one sense, the English are the new Germans.

Staying in small hotel on Rhodes, there was no problem in getting a sun lounger beside the pool at first. Then one morning a brace of towels appeared before 8am to “bag” favoured spots.

The following day, the practice had mushroomed – towels irritatingly on almost every sun lounger.

“Apart from you two Scots, our guests are all English’ said the manager. So next time you see this happen on your hols, don’t be so quick to blame the Germans.

Sue will be hard act to follow

SO farewell then, Dame Sue Bruce. Apart from a couple of problems towards the end of your time – top-level departures for one – your years as chief executive of Edinburgh Council reflect great credit on you. You will be missed.

Welcome, too, Andrew Kerr. You have a hard act to follow, but we all wish you well in the tasks ahead.

Time and tide wait for no man

I HAVE often thought that those dozens of people who get themselves trapped on Cramond island each year must be stupid.

But on a recent visit to the foreshore, our wee family – Hamish our Jack Russell terrier to the fore – took part in an experiment devised by yours truly.

Basically it

consisted of marking out a bit of sand as the tide started to come in, and then marking out another hole in the sand ten paces in.

Then we watched as the tide rushed in and swamped both markers in a matter of seconds. The sheer speed of it was stunning, and that’s why I plead to all visitors to Cramond to be very careful with the power of nature.

Spies are no surprise

So the UK Government is allowing the security services to spy on MSPs. Sorry, but anyone who didn’t already presume that was happening

was naïve to say the least.