dumbledore-quote

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So much depth in a children’s book. Words to teach our children and ourselves…..

About

Andrew is a Managing Partner of Charlotte Street Partners – a strategic communications consultancy based in London and Edinburgh. Andrew also writes a weekly current affairs “Scrutiny” column in Scotland on Sunday and occasionally for other outlets including The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail, Evening News, Reuters and The Daily Record. You can find out more about Andrew on the About page

SEVCO v Rangers: time for all to move on

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The gulf between Rangers and their lifelong rivals Celtic on the pitch was clear for all to see today. Their footballing recovery has some distance to travel. But travel they will. Off the pitch too their strategy to recover has struggled. This is true of many institutions in crisis. We may see more convulsions of course, but recover they will. Too many souls love them and want them to succeed. But brains must be engaged at all times.

Fans will always have their fun of course, and we should all be big enough to let any barbs in football wash off our backs like water and ducks. We should all meet triumph and disaster with the same merry shake of our laughing heads, because there but for the grace of God go we all.

One canard that needs put to rest though is the silly obsession of some of insisting that Rangers isn’t Rangers because the legal entity changed. For me this is not an adult response or position. It is a laugh of course to wind our Rangers pals up – “who is Rangers all time top goalscorer – Lee McCulloch” ho ho etc. But in reality this is not on.

A club is not its Board or its legal registration. A club is the combination of the passions and hopes of all of the kids and their grampas who care about it. The club is the story, the badge, the way of life. So any suggestion that Rangers is not Rangers but is SEVCO is worthy of a gag but not serious.

Mandela once told us that ‘resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies”. Time for everyone to let go of resentment. Rangers have done their time and paid a heavy price. They are still paying. We are all citizens of one corner of a big world. Much else in life to worry about. Too much pain occurring naturally we should avoid adding our own by choice. Sporting rivalry good, seething resentment bad. Time for everyone to move on, together.

 

 

 

Reflections on Motherwell

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I felt surprisingly more emotional than I had anticipated. On an audio call this week the Board of Motherwell FC convened to agree  a deal that secured our financial position. I and some others had to resign to make way for the representatives of Les Hutchinson who had made the lifesaving loan in return for equity. The deal gives the Well Society time to reach its financial goal of securing enough funds to ensure the Club’s financial strategy is sustainable and in fans hands. Let us see where it takes us, but it was a critical lifesaving moment. Thank you Mr Hutchinson you will get all the support we can muster to make this good.

We ran through the agenda under the watchful eye of a man I have known since we were 4, Graham Keys the club’s company secretary and solicitor is one of my best friends. Last item was the resignations. “How do we do this Graham” I asked? “Do i need to write to you”? …. “err no, just say, ‘I resign’ we’ll minute it and get the forms off to Companies House”. Easy. “OK, I resign”.

Didn’t think I would care so much, but I did. It felt very emotional in an era of emotion for me.

Over the years since I joined the board in October 2010 I learned many, many things. Some are really important for Motherwell supporters to learn and understand.

Our job was complicated. John Boyle placed myself Jim McMahon, Derek Weir and Leeann Dempster as Trustees in control of his equity. We then went about setting up the Well Society as the vehicle to raise funds to reach a target reserve of £1.5m that would mean the club’s financial strategy could continue with a safety net and John Boyle could retire. As the funds were gathered so too could fans come on the Board and eventually the society would run the club.

The model has been successful in that it works. What hasn’t yet is the number of people joining. Fewer than 1 in 4 of our season ticket holders joined. We know why. Lanarkshire is a county where people work hard but few are wealthy. Times are tough and money is not plenty. At the same time fans felt the club was well run as it is and on the field success betrayed a really difficult financial underpin. A string of seasons without cup success or player sales put the financial strategy at great risk.

Last summer we had to draft a financial report warning fans that if the Society targets weren’t reached by November then outside investment would be sought and the model could have to be abandoned. In the end the injection of Les Hutchinson’s loan has bought the model time. But we cannot and must not relax just because a billionaire is part of the club. He is here to give us the time to show self reliance and independence as a club, not to bankroll us indefinitely. It’s a loan and it must be paid back. the hard work starts now.

Fans should know the remarkable devotion, commitment and work that Derek Weir put in and continues to. He is a really experienced business leader who knows his own mind and is strong. He stood firm when he needed to, shouted when he needed to. He fought long and hard to keep the cashflow working at moments when the club could have fallen over. He guaranteed loans and put his own money in. I saw a man who is what banking should be about again. He is my firm friend and will remain so. We all of us, all of us, should shake his hand and say ‘thank you’ if we see him at any game. I can’t begin to describe how important his service has been to our club’s success and survival day in, day out for years.

In Jim McMahon we have one of the cleverest fans in the world who happily for us has devoted himself to the board for more than a decade. Like Derek he has taught me an immense amount over that time and without him we just wouldn’t be here as a club. Again I count him as a close friend and he will remain one. I learn from him every time i see him.

Alan Burrows is a very clever, capable and utterly devoted young man. As Head of Communications he ran a team that did some of the best marketing and communications work I have seen anywhere. On a shoe string they ran a website, social media, press, publication and fan communications strategy that was beyond peer given the resources at hand. Oh and they launched their own TV channel. He stepped up to be General Manager and will be a success in that role and whatever else he does. He just got engaged to his beautiful partner and the best days of his life are all ahead. Again he is a firm friend of mine.

I keep saying firm friend because that is what our club is. A band of brothers  (and sisters) who stand shoulder to shoulder through the storms of life. Of course it is just a game and a sport. But it is also about who we are and where we are from. It is about pride in our story and in each other. It is about moments that punctuate our lives and that we will never forget.

The day Davie Cooper bossed us to a survival win against Falkirk. The day he died. The day Phil O’Donnell scored at Hampden, brave as a lion. The great days when he returned and our team was flying. The day he died. The joys of Faddy’s brave youngsters. The joy of his return. The goals, the wins, the disappointments. Each of us arm in arm through it all.

We will always owe John Boyle a great debt for his devotion imagination and care. He is also a friend of mine who has shown me great kindness. He donated to my campaign for Holyrood even though he violently disagrees with the SNP. “democracy needs to be paid for son and I know my responsibilities”.

And dont forget Leeann Dempster who remains a pal despite being at Hibs. She brought her vision to bear and fought through sterotyping and prejudice to do a magnificent job. She will succeed at Hibs.

I dont want to keep going because I will miss people out. I love that club with all my heart. For family reasons it has been hard for me to be there as much as I would like this past 18 months. So I was happy to volunteer to step aside to create the space that was needed.

But I stand ready to serve at any moment and in any way. And because I know the reality of the pressures the Board are under I will try my best to explain things to my fellow fans through good times and hard.

Meantime it is back to the East Stand for me. I hope the language has improved :-). On with the show steelmen and women. Ours is another dream that will never die SIWY. x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Scottish Daily Mail 26 Jan 2015 : on being burgled

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When I arrived for work last week  a colleague had left the Daily Mail’s story on burglary hotspots open on my desk. An apologetic post-it attached saying “sorry but I thought you’d want to see”.

My home village of Balerno topped the list of break-ins in the country. On the Sunday before Christmas I became another statistic to bear that reality out.

I had got home the night before around eight o’clock feeling pretty unwell with a seasonal lurgy. I got my three kids readied and into bed, slugged some Night Nurse and went straight to sleep.

I only awoke when 7 year old Hamish pounced into my bedroom asking “daddy where are the cars?”.

I got up and looked out the window in slow motion. Sure enough a big empty driveway. Urgh.

Your emotions swirl at times like that and having 3 children under nine years old the last thing you want is them to feel anything other than safe and content in their own home. So I played it cool and inspected the house.

No apparent signs of entry but the keys were gone from the table by the door. So was an iPhone I had left on a speaker dock. And, urgh again, a chunk of cash I had foolishly left out to give nieces and nephews for Christmas, and my wallet and cards.

It could have been much worse I guess. None of the other valuables were gone and the presents under the tree untouched. And, what a thought, they could have come upstairs but clearly didn’t. They had got what they wanted quickly and scarpered.

When the shock subsided the realisation of the cost in time, money and hassle started to dawn. I phoned the police.

Two young officers arrived pretty quickly and inspected the scene. They reckoned the thieves got the keys from the table by sticking a magnet on an extendable stick through the letter box. They took the statement helped me book a locksmith and went door to door round the street for evidence. One of my neighbours had the same thing happen a few months before.

Balerno is a great village. A real community spirit with lots of hard working families doing their best to raise kids and keep house and home together. Life for most is a busy juggle but the place pulls together and has each other’s back.

That we are invaded by this sort of scumbag behaviour is something we will have to remedy. The village police station closed and we understand why but that can’t have helped. The local MSP is on the case and police are stepping up patrols.

It seems the culprits move their focus to keep ahead of the police so nowhere is as safe as we would all like. Lessons to be learned for me.

In the moment I determined not to let it spoil Christmas for my kids and it didn’t. The next day a bin lorry careered out of control in Glasgow killing six souls. That brought perspective to my worry.

The only thing missing that I couldn’t replace was Hamish’s album of football cards that he had left in the backseat of one of the cars.

But over the subsequent month my life became a series of phone calls, statements, arguments and logistical headaches as I tried to make good the losses and wrestle with insurance companies.

The main car the nanny uses to transport the kids was recovered the next morning in Galashiels. Once police forensics had finished a colleague was good enough to drive me down on Christmas Eve. Covered in finger print dust at least it was unharmed. And there in the back was Hamish’s football album, ‘Happy Christmas son’.

They’d stolen sunglasses, chucked the record book away (why?) and taken a few pounds of cash I keep for parking. But other than that at least I had something to drive the children in over the holidays.

The police officer in charge of the case called me regularly. Their conduct I have to say was impeccable. Whether they’d catch the culprits I didn’t know.

A week later she phoned to say my other car was found crashed only a mile from the village. It wasn’t an overly expensive car but it was a rare Alfa Romeo Spyder that I loved. The youngster in his twenties (I wont know his identity until it gets to court) had driven it drunk. Gallus and stupid. Witnesses called the police and they apprehended him running along the road.

What pinned him to the car was his possession of another pair of my sunglasses and, no doubt, his DNA on the airbags. Whether the police can pin him to the housebreak and catch his accomplice remains to be seen. Failure to reveal the identity of your accomplice should be punished harshly.

The banks are quite good at getting your cards replaced quickly. The locksmith replaced the keys in minutes. What kills you though is the unbelievably frustrating treatment you go through with insurers.

They nickel and dime you out of every penny they can. They send investigators to try and catch you out. They place ludicrous values on your possessions that you have to work hard to fight back on. They delay. And delay. And delay.

It took mine weeks to decide a smashed car was a write off. The police officer concluded it was in minutes. Meantime you can forget the courtesy car your policy promises, you only get that if a stolen car is recovered and fixable. Go figure.

After speaking to 6 different companies handling the one car claim I reckon I made around 80 phone calls and wasted days of time.

When all is said and done I will be out of pocket to the tune of around £3000 and that’s before I pay for new security measures around the house.

I don’t know if it even makes economic sense pursuing insurance claims for much of it. I have had my eyes opened on that industry but that’s another story for another day.

I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy but I do keep perspective close and remember there are much worse things happening out there.

I thank my lucky stars I didn’t catch them at it because God alone knows what they would be capable of if startled.

I learned harsh simple lessons about hiding your keys in a safe place at night, though maybe having them quickly gettable saved me from a worse fate.

I will think very hard about who I insure with in future. I am buying trackers to fit on my cars. I have a court case to think about at some point, but now I am ready to move on.

I know the police are doing their best with the resources they have and that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I would like to see more of them about around my village and places like it. We all need to do more to protect our own possessions and the sanctity of our homes.

But I would very much like to see hard, hard justice being done to the culprits and people like them.

 

Happy New Year to all my friends.

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OK gang that is me about to call a night on 2014. H3 out for the count in my bed (she will be moved). H1 and H2 behaving impeccably (the bed threat is the most potent parental tool) in front of the fire watching a film. I am readier for sleep than them. I normally like to pen some reflections at this time but I am pretty much spent for creative energy at the moment. All that will change come morning.

Years with a zero or five at the end mean the Open Championship comes to St Andrews. This is a good thing. It is where it belongs. I love that town so very much. Fully intend to see out my 7th decade there hopefully in some form of Professorial role when my cardigan collection will come into its own.

“The Johnstons of Elgin Seat in Economics”…. hang on there is something in that….

Anyway. Farewell 2014. A year like no other. Well in many respects I hope so but in most others no; Whatever goes on in our affairs it is our solemn duty to show respect to the privilege that is our life. So many friends gone. So many others uncertain of their future. If the rest of us allow the odd flat tyre to bring us down? We are unworthy.

As Yeats put it on his own grave stone: ‘Cast a cold eye on life on death, horsemen pass by’.

I am convinced that 2015 will step us all along the road to a much better world. The flux in our planet wont stop anytime soon but I look at the next generation and I see a cleverer, healthier and more balanced bunch than my own generation. And we are bloody marvellous.

Something in my waters tells me that 2015 is going to be an utterly remarkable and good year for the people I care for. And in our public life I suspect really remarkable times to come.

Whatever, now is the moment to count our lucky stars for the fact that we are alive and have tomorrow to look forward to, whatever it brings.

For my part I have one of the finest Scotch Broths in history on heat 1 on the stove and a brisk walk round the waters of the Pentlands with my 3 angels of H in my schedule. That is all

Beyond that my resolutions will be to live healthy, schedule to do more things and see more family and friends. And to celebrate each moment we live in our special wee corner of the world.

Good times to come. Guaranteed.

Love to you all for 2015. I am so blessed with so many proper people as my friends. Without you all I dont know where I would be. Onwards. xx

Looking forward to what’s next for Scottish Labour

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It is mission critical for all who care about Scotland that the Labour Party get a new leader that can challenge harry and test Nicola Sturgeon. She is probably the best prepared and ready new First Minister we have ever had. Democracy demands that she is stretched. In her quiet moments she will get the sense of this also.

My first thought on the 3 Labour leadership candidates is …. “well done”. I salute all 3 for throwing their hat in the ring. So hard to do. Gumption it takes, right there. So well done.

3 very different choices and all with their merits one way or another. Jim Murphy said all would be equally good. he didnt mean it. Which gets to my point.

Politicians need to be frank, honest, clear about their purpose and transparent about their performance against it. The people buy miss-direction no more.

Seeing all three line up to back the SNP policies the party campaigned against is just odd (council tax freeze and free tuition). Now My old University compadre thinks a raise in the top rate of tax he never worked for when in cabinet and something to do with 20schools is the answer? No.

We want leaders not managers, and the days of triangulating Blairtite positioning are long gone.

Be strong. Say what you think and stand by it.

My earnest cry and prayer to all 3 is just tell the truth. Be bold. We will love you more.

I can tell you in all honesty from my own dealings with Nicola over a quarter of a century that she is moved first by “what is the right thing to do”and second by “what will play”. That is the answer. It really really is.

But respect to you all for being in the mix. I admire that so much.

May the best and biggest hearted person win. Over to you …. er… strange electoral college.

It all begins with us

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Gandhi was inspired by Leo Tolstoy who in turn was inspired by the Gospel of St Luke. His book “The Kingdom of God is within you” inspired a young Gandhi and they corresponded before Tolstoy’s death. The theme was non violent opposition.

It leans on Luke 17:21 which makes the same core point.

Across the span of millennia the message remains profound. Each and every one of us has the power within us to change the world.

Colossal problems can be tackled by the actions of little old us. We need look to the skies for greatness to deliver us from evil no more. Begin it now. By our own actions.

As advent begins and we prepare to end a year like no other in my own small corner of the world this is the thought I am clinging to.

So much disagreement but in the end the chance to choose. And with that act comes the responsibility to show some. Now.

Whatever we make of the consumerist mash in our midst if we can reach for a modicum of the meaning in all of that year and reach back through Gandhi and Tolstoy to Luke then all shall be well.

I am thinking about how to contribute in my own very modest way. But I have nothing but optimism about where we are all headed next.

Gentler, safer, happier world. Of this I am certain. All will be well. It is up to us all.

Boooooooooooooo

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I am of Lanarkshire. My grandad was an Ulsterman from Ballymena and an orangeman although him I never knew. I wish I had. Despite or rather because of this, I was raised to dislike orangism for a host of reasons. I guess I was raised to embrace people for who they are. I think I am pretty attuned to the story of the orange and the green in Scottish life. I dont know it all, at all, but I have a strong sense of the what and the why. My instinct is to understand more and condemn less.

I smarted like every Scottish football fan when we lost two of our sons to Ireland. Two talented young men from Hamilton who could have played for the national team.

Leaving the football aside for a minute – it is clear our youth management was risible at the time as the ‘old school’ bosses we laud were and are in fact antediluvian in their ways and we all paid the price! I shant name names but some of the people I have met in football deserve ignoratherapy!

No I want to consider what it all means about us.

That James and Aidan felt drawn to play for Ireland rather than Scotland says a heap more about the country they grew in than about them. By all means boo. But realise that if we arent making each and every one of our number comfortable in their own skin then it is we who are failing not them.

Don’t boo kids who have become young men. Change our own ways.

We will have civilised when young men like them choose Scotland with ease and if they dont we treat their choice with indifference.

It is about us not them.

Polls telling of remarkable times

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Stunning opinion polls in Scotland this week demonstrated a surge in support for the SNP in voting intentions for both Holyrood but especially Westminster ahead of next May’s General Election. Underlying this was very strong trust ratings for both Nicola Sturgeon and her soon to be predecessor Alex Salmond. In sharp contrast trust in the Westminster leaders trailed with one finding that Ed Miliband was less trusted than David Cameron the tory Prime Minister. This is a remarkable time and the potential for seismic shifts in the nature of politics on the country are clear.

At the same time it seems that there is now possibly a growing support in the country for independence which is now supported by a narrow majority.

I hate to be so Scottish in saying this however, those of us who love the SNP and what we stand for should retain a degree of caution and calm any risk of over-exuberance. The wrong response to all of this could see the opportunities squandered which is something Scots have been doing for generations.

It will take a very clever campaign position that unifies enough people to secure votes in the sort of numbers these polls suggest for the SNP. The mind of the country always turns to who will be in Downing Street as polling day approaches and the SNP have struggled to get much more than a fifth of the vote in such tests over the years with the exception of the October 1974 election. In 2010 we failed to get even to 20pc.

All things are possible but the SNP must keep its composure and discipline and use the resources it now has to continue to professionalise its organisation and political method. Looking ahead to what needs to be done to entrench support especially among the aspirant working people of the centre is very very important. Keep doing what wins and keep winning. Indulge ourselves and miss understand what we are being told by the population and you lose. Just look at the parlous state of the Labour party.

Their leadership election is a good thing for them however and will allow them to re-discover their purpose. I was impressed by Jim Murphy’s words today. But Unison’s support for Neil Finlay demonstrates that Jim wont have it all his own way. And Sarah Boyack is of a manner that could surprise and has strong credentials. She is also very likeable and that matters.

We should assume that Labour will get their act together at some point. It is the safest assumption and whatever else you think of Murphy, he is clearly a highly competent and skilled campaigners as his own success in his constituency should demonstrate. Whether he has a purpose and message that can lead the country and regain support remains to be seen.

But all three candidates should be saluted for putting their hat in the ring.

Unlike Labour members I think it is the case that all SNP members will look at the candidates for their own contest (for Deputy) with nothing but calm at the outcome. In Keith Brown Angela Constance and Stewart Hosie we have 3 quality senior people of substance. All three are completely different but also compelling and strong in their own way. I would be distinctly relaxed about any of them winning because the SNP has its heading and knows what it is for. Obviously this needs a constant review and complacency should be chased whenever it appears. We must be relentless in our own way it staying at the top of our game and learning the newest techniques and technologies for doing the job of a modern party.

This week also sees the launch of a new campaign for Home Rule that will make its own modest contribution to showing that people from across the political spectrum and from outwith it can work together to find a highest common denominator that is ambitious for the responsibilities of Holyrood but more importantly for what they can then do for living standards in the country.

The people are way ahead of the Westminster parties and the polling I suggest is part of that. The Tories languishing on a tenth of the vote suggests there is much more work to be done by them to translate media praise into actual support.

Remarkable times. Quite remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Scottish Labour

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I have been asked why I didn’t mention my old compadre from student union days, Jim Murphy MP, as a potential Scottish Labour leader. I didn’t because I took him at his word when he ruled himself out last week saying his future was at Westminster in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet. Very capable man but reversing his decision would be a mistake for him and his party in my view. But that is for him and his to decide.

I will find it very interesting to see how open, honest and prepared for reform the party is in this process. It can’t be easy so few weeks out from a major electoral test. You can see why Ed Miliband wants it over quickly. What they really need is a proper deep campaign with many branch meeting hustings and the time to exercise thoughts and ideas about what should be next for them.

They appear to be in the scenario for succession that is quite difficult with very strong reasons why any one of the candidates are capable but flawed and unsuitable. My advice would be therefore to focus less on the candidates for now than on the arguments. The divisions on structure and strategy are clear. Decide on what the right answer is there and the obvious candidate will present themself (selves).

The core question is does Scottish politics get led from Holyrood or Westminster as Ms Lamont herself argued. Ignore the personality fluff for now. Resolving that is the first question the party must answer. Once it has it can then determine a view on what the best way to run policy, and therefore itself, at a Scottish and UK level should be.

Members are entitled to ask why this fundamental issue has not been resolved properly since 1999. But that is now history and there is no value in looking back in anger. But it must be resolved now. Urgently.

The answer will tell us all we need to know.

 

 

 

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