Newsweek Scotland: Reviewing the big ideas
I spent Thursday evening chairing an election hustings meeting at the invitation of the Scottish Association for Mental Health in Edinburgh and learned a lesson. It is that I don't know nearly as much as I like to think.
For an hour and a half there were questions and answers about NHS policy, treatments and budgets that went clean over my head. I had virtually no idea what the candidates and questioners were talking about, immersed as they all are in the minutiae of mental health.
I was impressed by the depth of knowledge and commitment of the candidates, Mary Scanlon, Shona Robison, Jackie Baillie, Ross Finnie and the Greens' Alison Johnstone. Some of them have been involved in this area for years. So I was dismayed at my own ignorance. It shows how a journalist is merely a jack of all trades, a skim merchant with a cursory knowledge of everything and command of nothing...which probably confirms your worst fears. But, for what it's worth, it contradicted the common view of politicians as charlatans pursuing personal agendas. I doubt if anyone left that meeting still believing that.
This week we take on the election with our panel, bolstered for one show only by the redoubtable Bill Jamieson of the Scotsman who joins us from his baronial home on the shores of Loch Earn. (I exaggerated that last bit). There is much to cover including the SNP manifesto but despite the plethora of proposals from all parties, we still seem to be lacking the shining star in the sky, the movement on the far horizon that signals a truly big idea.
Are you a committed nuclear nut? Are you signed up to a nuclear future and unmoved by Japanese meltdowns? We hear from Paul Dorfman from Warwick University who gives a chilling assessment of conditions at Fukushima and follows up with a description of Germany's withdrawal from nuclear power and its rapid and prolific development of renewable energy. It could be the Germans are showing that the often derided rush to renewables really can work. Here we are told of the generating power and reliability of reactors...but that doesn't impress the good doctor. We have some humanitarian logistics. I know, I know...it scared me too but it turns out to be a sensible plan for preparing for natural disasters which are occurring more frequently as time goes on...we don't know why but I'm sure Hollywood will tell us soon.
Still the best and most detailed account is John Prebble's Culloden and the victors' triumphant viciousness burns through it. If Cumberland thought the Highlanders savages, he went on to make a case that he and his forces were the true barbarians. I speak to historian Maggie Craig.