Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bute House cleanliness

Hot on the heels (although obviously unrelated) of BBC Radio Scotland's documentary on the history of Bute House, it seems the new First Minister isn't too impressed with his new official residence, having reportedly called it 'minging' in an overheard remark. You can read the Scotsman's account of this story by clicking here.

I only ever set foot in Bute House once, to conduct a rather amiable interview with the then First Minister, Jack McConnell. It struck me as a typically grand Adam New Town townhouse, although it also had the sense of being a little faded around the edges. Although I only saw a few rooms, however, it certainly couldn't be described as 'minging'. Perhaps Mr Salmond has higher standards.

New St Andrew's House

New St Andrew's House, the modernist concrete home of the Scottish Office since 1975, has lain empty for several years now, but it's been cropping up in the Edinburgh Evening News recently in the context of plans by the site's (including the St James's Centre shopping centre) new owners, Henderson Global Investors (HGI), to demolish it and the shopping centre. You can read the most recent story by clicking here.

My favourite story about the building is that during its construction in the early to mid-1970s, workmen scrawled 'Willie's Room' on the wall of the room which was designated as the Secretary of State for Scotland's office. A reference, of course, to Willie Ross, who was the first Scottish Secretary to occupy the new building.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Council of Economic Advisers

Alex Salmond's recent announcement that he is going to establish a 'Council of Economic Advisers' rang a few bells in my Scottish political history memory bank. Far be it for me to imply that a Nationalist First Minister has pinched the idea from a resolutely Unionist Labour Scottish Secretary, but back in the Swinging Sixties Willie Ross appointed grandly-titled 'Economic Consultants to the Secretary of State' to advise him on the Scottish economy, then undergoing some Wilsonian planning. These advisers were selected from the senior economic professors at Scottish universities, which will perhaps also form Alex's recruiting ground?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Douglas Alexander

The Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander, was under more pressure today as he defended his role in the recent Scottish elections during a debate called by his Conservative shadow, David Mundell. You can read more about what was said by clicking here, or an account in today's Herald by clicking here.

Monday, May 21, 2007


The weekend news carried impressive (is that the right adjective?) pictures of the four distinctive chimneys at the old Chapelcross nuclear power station in Dumfriesshire being demolished. The Magnox power plant was the first nuclear station to be built in Scotland; it was constructed in the late 1950s and inaugurated by the then Scottish Secretary, Jack Maclay, in May 1959.

BBC Online has some excellent before-and-after pictures, and also some video footage of the demolition, which you can see by clicking here.

Scotland Office

Not only has Scotland's new First Minister, Alex Salmond, been calling for the Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander, to be sacked because of the recent Scottish Parliamentary elections debacle, but now it seems he wants the Scotland Office (and associated position of Secretary of State for Scotland) to be removed too. You can read more about Salmond's call in today's Scotsman by clicking here. In calling for the Scotland Office to be scrapped, the First Minister should find support from the Liberal Democrats, who made a similar call last year.

Scotland's Number 10

BBC Radio Scotland broadcast an interesting half-hour documentary on Bute House, 'Scotland's Number 10' as the programme was called. Presented by Liz Quigley, it included much on the building's use as the official residence of the Secretary of State for Scotland and used interviews with, among others, Lady Younger, who lived there with her late husband George in the 1980s, and Fiona Ross, who occasionally stayed there with her father Willie in the mid-1970s.

You can read more about the programme by clicking here, or you can listen to it on the BBC Radio Scotland website by clicking here and scrolling down to 'Scotland's Number 10'.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Douglas Alexander and elections

Please forgive my not posting regularly on last week's Scottish Parliamentary elections; the related problems with the new ballot paper and resulting high level of spoilt ballots. As Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander is (and was) responsible for Holyrood elections and also played a role - alongside the Scottish Executive - in the altered design. My google alert for Alexander has been going into overdrive recently so there's no need to post links to the media coverage here; it was, is, and will probably continue to be, well covered in the Press.

Lord Monro's will

The news that the late Lord Monro of Langholm had left more than £1 million in his will was covered by a few newspapers last week. His estate included classic cars and even number plates, motoring being a longstanding passion of Hector's.

As Hector Monro, and later Sir Hector, Lord Monro served two spells as a minister at the Scottish Office as well as the UK sports minister. He died last year. You can read the full story in the Herald by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Napier Report

Interesting story on BBC Scotland online about the 1884 Napier Report which exhaustively studied Scotland's crofting communities. The University of the Highlands and Islands has scanned the report's four volumes and appendices and put them online. Crucially, the Napier Commission's findings helped frame the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act of 1886, the first significant piece of legislation passed by the fledgling Scottish Office.

You can read the BBC story by clicking here, or you can download the report by clicking here.