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Pan-Am Flight 103
(Picture: Air Accident Investigators)

For years, the former Labour MP, Tam Dalyell, insisted that there were fundamental flaws in the accepted explanation of what caused the Lockerbie disaster.243 passengers and 16 crew were killed on 21 December 1988. Another 11 people died in the ground. After a three-year investigation involving both Scottish police and the American FBI, the finger of blame was firmly pointed at Libya – then a pariah state.

Tam Dalyell Always insisted the Iranians were responsible

Tam Dalyell
Always insisted the Iranians were responsible

It took 11 years before the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was persuaded after protracted negotiations to hand over the two men who were eventually tried at Camp Zeist. Only one of them, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, was convicted and sent to prison in Scotland. However, Mr Dalyell, sounding like a lone voice in the wilderness, continued to question both the evidence and the result of that trial. In interview after interview, he insisted that the investigators had been looking in the wrong place and that the real culprits would be found in Iran.

Now, a documentary from the Arab television station, Al Jazeera, has presented evidence which suggests that he may indeed have been right. Indeed, it appears to cast doubt over the entire investigation, because documents obtained by the network and verified by security experts point instead to the involvement of Iran Secret Service, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine – General Command.

The documentary backs up Tam Dalyell’s assertion that the bombing of the American aircraft was an act of revenge for the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by USS Vincennes earlier in 1988 which killed 290 people. The television station said it had obtained US Defence Intelligence Agency cables confirming the commission of the operation by Iran. As part of its investigation, the reporters secured interviews with a former CIA agent and a senior Iranian intelligence official.

The former CIA man, Robert Baer, claimed that the CIA and FBI investigations diverged completely…because the case was being run by the Department of Justice in complete disregard to the intelligence. “As far as I can tell,” he told the programme, “someone said, look, Libya is vulnerable to prosecution, small country, Gaddafi sated, let’s go for it.” He insisted he was not giving a controversial opinion – adding that, on the intelligence side, the CIA “to a man” said it was Iran.

The documentary will be shown at 8 o’clock tonight on Al Jazeera – Lockerbie: What Really Happened?

By Jan Eichhorn, University of Edinburgh

A lot of things have been said about those who have not made their minds up yet with regards to whether they will vote yes or no in this year’s referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.

Sometimes those undecided have simply been declared as those who probably do not care at all and are therefore not likely to think about it – and who will probably not turn out. On other occasions links to a range of socio-demographic variables have been made suggesting that people from particular backgrounds, in particular those from lower socio-economic backgrounds would be less likely to make up their minds.

But very few of these propositions have been backed up with actual data.

The vote: should Scotland be an independent country? SSA

Using the representative 2013 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA) we have been able to properly investigate what characterises those undecided. We found a lot of the commonly expressed assumptions paraphrased above could not be supported.

But about one-third of voters say that they have not made their mind up yet. Therefore it is worth engaging with them in more depth to properly understand their reasons for indecision.

Age, sex and class

First of all, demographic differences do not show major differences in the likelihood of being undecided. There is no consistent age pattern – most age groups are similar to one another. While those older than 65 appear to be a little more decided and those 25-34 a little less, none of these differences are actually robust when you account for other influencing factors at the same time, such as sex and social class.

Proportion of voters undecided by age group. SSA

Similarly there are no major differences in decidedness between different social classes. Most are very similar, with those that may be considered about in the middle (small employers and own accounts workers) being slightly less likely to be undecided and those in lower supervisor and technical occupations being slightly more likely. But there is no clear pattern. The percentage of those undecided is effectively the same for those in the highest and those in the lowest social class (at 35 and 36% respectively).

Again, when controlling for other demographic factors we do not find the relationship between social class and decidedness to be robust.

Proportion of voters undecided by social class. SSA

There is a small relationship between indecision and general political interest. A small group of politically very disinterested people (about 10% of respondents overall) has a substantially greater likelihood not to have made up their mind. These “usual suspects” indeed exist, but they are only a small proportion of all those undecided. Whether people have more or less interest in politics only relates marginally to their likelihood of having made their minds up.

Political interest only matters at the extremes. So many of the undecided voters are not disengaged, but can be identified by other factors.

Proportion of voters undecided by interest in politics. SSA

There are some differences between men and women, with women being somewhat more likely not to have decided yet. This is a robust finding when taking into account other demographic variables, but the difference can be explained when we look at whether people think they know enough about the issue.

Those who feel that they do not have enough knowledge about independence yet are more likely to be undecided – and women are more likely to report the desire to know more about independence before deciding.

Proportion of voters undecided by political party identification. SSA

Those who feel independence would affect their lives more significantly are more likely to have made up their mind. So campaigns for both sides have been given a clear message – and a strategic approach would need to clarify this indecision on how independence would affect potential voters on each side.

Playing politics

Indecision is greatest among those who do not identify with any political party (at 48% indecision). This makes some sense, as those voters are probably not receptive to the clear pointers that the various political parties are providing. But there are also differences between parties in the campaigns. While nearly all those who identify as Conservative and Liberal Democrat have made up their mind (89% and 85% respectively) Labour identifiers, show similar levels of indecision to SNP identifiers (36% and 35% respectively), despite Labour being part of the Better Together campaign.

There is one more important group of undecided voters the campaigns should pay close attention to: those who do not have their favourite option on the ballot paper.

Decidedness by constitutional preference SSA

Approximately one third of respondents in the survey stated their most preferred option for Scotland would be further devolution (commonly referred to as “Devo Max”). Among the Devo Max-inclined voters, 45% were still undecided (compared to only 30% among those who preferred other constitutional solutions). Neither campaign has been able to capture a large number of potential voters who would have preferred further devolution to either independence or continuing full union.

If they want to reach these people, they will have to convince them that their proposals come closest to the preferred option of these voters.

The Yes campaign would presumably have to convince them that a No is unlikely to result in substantial further devolution, while the Better Together campaign would have to persuade those people of the opposite, that a No would be followed by effective further devolution.

If either campaign is able to do this we may see a relevant number of those undecided still shift correspondingly.

Hard Evidence is a series of articles in which academics use research evidence to tackle the trickiest public policy questions. The graphics were reproduced with the kind permission of ScotCen Social Research.

Jan Eichhorn receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2013 with ScotCen Social Research.

This research has been funded by the ESRC. Members of the research team are Jan Eichhorn and Lindsay Paterson (both University of Edinburgh) and John Curtice, Rachel Ormston and Susan Reid (ScotCen Social Research).

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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It’s ‘Today’ Jim – but not as we know it!

The world of the Keltie Clippie seemed to go quiet for a while. It could have something to do with the way that fact’s been stranger than fiction recently. One just has to think of the conflicting messages coming from the Coalition in London!

However, she has decided that the time has come to poke a little fun at one of the bastions of Britain – the BBC!

Bringing the best of a Scottish tradition to New York
in a fast paced celebration of music and dance!

The New York Tattoo will showcase some of the finest bands, Highland dancers and Scottish performers in an inspiring 90 minute stage show.

The New York Tattoo will feature Scottish performers

The New York Tattoo will feature Scottish performers

Featuring a cast of over a 100 performers, the event is scheduled to take place between April 4-6th, 2014. The show will provide an exciting new platform for Scotland and for everyone who shares a passion for Scottish music in New York!

The event does not aim to replace the Tartan Day Parade – however, it does aim to give many bands, which pay thousands of pounds to travel to New York, an additional opportunity to perform in a formal indoor setting, with proper lighting and sound.

The New York Tattoo aims to be the first event of its type to secure crowd funding – the collective effort of hundreds of supporters online who pledge a small amount online to make the event happen!

The video for the Kickstarter campaign

The show is being developed by Magnus Orr, a piper from Edinburgh, Scotland, who helped produce the first and biggest New York Tartan Parade in 2002, when thousands of pipers and drummers led by Sir Sean Connery marched along 6th Avenue.

Magnus Orr Every year - a call for a tattoo

Magnus Orr
Every year – a call for a tattoo

Magnus Orr, said that crowdsourcing, using sites such as Kickstarter, “provides a great way to help establish an event, helping raise seed funding and developing demand. Having helped promote a number of events in New York, we have a large database. Every year the biggest call has been to help establish a Tattoo in New York. Kickstarter provides a wonderful way to connect with this interest and having established demand it then makes a much more interesting proposition to sponsors.

“I would imagine that in the future a lot more events will be funded this way. It is also a great way to test your marketing. At this stage we are really pleased with the support, but must really push over the next ten days to reach our target for the event to be funded.

“We are delighted that four times and current World Champion Drum Major – Jason Paguio has agreed to perform. We also have a very well known narrator lined-up to give an authentic voice to the show and other members of the production team bring years of experience working on the best Tattoo’s around the World. We may not have the biggest cast in the World, but we do aim to have quality and look forward to presenting an indoor show next April. We hope that this turns into a great yearly event providing a platform for Scotland’s music and artists”.

The term ‘tattoo’ dates from 17th century Europe, when garrisons sent out drummers in the evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known in Dutch as ‘doe den tap toe’ (Dutch for “turn off the tap”), an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer. Over time the performance of a ‘tattoo’ became more elaborate to include music and dance elements.

With kilts swinging and bagpipes playing, the tattoo format is ideally suited to showcase Scottish music – pulling together a wide range of acts with individual and massed performances to encapsulate the spirit of Scotland!

Support the New York Tattoo on Kickstarter. The campaign ends on the 25th of January.

This season, it’s all about the jacket for Watson.
Pictures from the BBC

By Sarah Artt, Edinburgh Napier University

The third season of the BBC’s Sherlock opens with a bang and gives us Derren Brown, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in an action hero window smash, followed by an insouciant hair tousle and a Hollywood kiss with Molly Hooper. The opening of Empty Hearse is more in the style of Guy Ritchie’s fantasy Victoriana Sherlock Holmes films, and could not be more different from the show’s more procedural beginnings.

This similarity with Ritchie is certainly deliberate, because Season 3 of Sherlock shows its infinite adaptability by incorporating the style of the two recent Sherlock Holmes films, along with various elements of the infinitely flexible Sherlock canon. As someone who is quite happy at the prospect of living in an era with three different iterations of Sherlock (Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller in Elementary and Robert Downey Jr. in the two Ritchie films), I’m also quite happy that they adapt and reference one another.

Sherlock as a series is also clever about its Victorian origins, particularly when it comes to costumes, and the latest season is no exception. Upon his return to London, we are treated to a sweeping, Romantic image of Sherlock surveying the city from on high, clad in his now iconic great coat; an image that recalls the powerful 19th century explorer. This is just one of the myriad Victorian allusions embedded in the Mark Gatiss and Seven Moffat’s costumes and design for Sherlock.

Steampunk and shoulder patches

Dr Waton's Haversack Jacket

Dr Waton’s Haversack Jacket

Consider the attention accorded to John Watson’s black Haversack jacket, which he wears consistently throughout the three series. The jacket has received a GQ fashion profile, not to mention endless remarks on Twitter. Haversack is a Japanese label that reproduces and draws inspiration from traditional menswear and workwear. Watson’s jacket expresses a sort of commercialised steampunk aesthetic, a gesture towards an earlier era. Its leather shoulder patch evokes the structure of military uniforms (something we see Jude Law’s Watson wearing in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, for example) delineating Watson’s status as soldier. The jacket is contemporary and yet evocative of Victorian “period” professions and pursuits.

The décor of 221B Baker Street in Sherlock is absolutely neo-Victorian, with its bison skull adorned with headphones that forms a focal point of the sitting room. The skull evokes the décor of traditional private men’s clubs or military messes – the trophy from a big game hunt. The headphones on the skull reflect the contemporary presence of technology via laptops, smartphones, blogs, and the Skype-like software deployed in season two’s A Scandal in Belgravia. The pairing of skull and headphones encapsulates the show’s fusing of 19th and 21st century.

As embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock adapts the Victorian fantasy of total mastery over knowledge. Though apparently as flummoxed by composing a best man’s speech as he was by his nemesis Irene Adler’s voracious sexuality, he once more demonstrates this near-total mastery in The Sign of Three by delivering a deeply moving speech and solving the crime, just as he outwits Adler by confirming her deep longing for him in season 2.

Mary Watson A woman with a past

Mary Watson
A woman with a past

The series as a whole mocks this aspiration to total knowledge while also, for the most part, presenting a Holmes who expresses an astonishing level of knowledge. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the line: “Get out, I need to go to my mind palace”. Yet Sherlock’s mastery is undermined by his frequently remarked-upon social ineptitude: Mary observes that he knows nothing about human nature after he bungles his reappearance in The Empty Hearse.

What also makes the original Holmes stories timely is that many of them centre around the theft and retrieval of information. In A Scandal in Belgravia and The Hounds of Baskerville, referencing two of the most well-known stories in the Holmes canon, concerns with information and technology are front and centre. The season 3 finale His Last Vow also centres on the information that surrounds Mary Watson’s past and how the Appledore files of blackmailer Magnussen will be deployed.

All these versions of Sherlock Holmes can exist simultaneously because they demonstrate how the presence of Sherlock and Watson act as anchors for the story. Sherlock has weathered the sometimes troublesome shift to the present moment particularly well due in no small part to its carefully constructed neo-Victorian references.

Sarah Artt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Jenny Niven joins the Creative Scotland team
(Picture from Flikr)

In the latest moves of Janet Archer to strengthen the team at Creative Scotland, has arrived from Australia to take up her new post as a Portfolio Manager, leading on Creative Scotland’s work supporting Literature, Publishing and Languages. Prior to joining the team, had been Associate Director at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. There, she headed the programming department, responsible for creating over 300 literary and cultural events annually, in UNESCO’s second City of Literature.

Creative Scotland logoJenny has also spent six years in Beijing, where she directed the events programme at The Bookworm, China’s foremost English-language literary events venue. She was director and co-founder of The Bookworm International Literary Festival, which runs annually across the three Chinese cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. Continuing the books and travel theme she spent April and May 2008 and 2009 working on the PEN World Voices Festival in New York.

During her time in Beijing Jenny was books editor at Time Out Beijing from 2006 to 2008, and has continued to provide books commentary and reviews for a range of broadcast stations and publications including The Age, and Triple RRR Radio. A frequent events host she has interviewed writers including David Mitchell, Jeffrey Eugenides, Kate Grenville and Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan. She was a founding board member of Australia’s Stella Prize for women’s writing.

Jenny is originally from Scotland where she gained an MA in Scottish Literature and Film and a PG dip in broadcast journalism. She also spent time as an arts researcher for Hopscotch Films and BBC Scotland for ‘Writing Scotland’, an eight part TV series of hour-long documentaries on Scottish literature which screened on BBC2.

Laura Mackenzie Stuart

Laura Mackenzie Stuart

Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Acting Director of Creative Development, said that she was “delighted to welcome Jenny to Creative Scotland. She brings a high level of experience and expertise in her field along with a clear ambition and passion for literature in Scotland. This is also matched by her proven international success which I am sure will continue to be a source of inspiration and opportunity for writers and publishers in Scotland”

Jenny herself described her appointment as an “exciting new challenge. “While living overseas I’ve kept a strong engagement with literary Scotland and am looking forward immensely to being ‘back on the ground’ and engaging fully with the excellent work being produced here, by individuals and organisations alike. It feels a very vibrant time culturally in Scotland, and in books and writing specifically, despite the challenges of the changing market and cultural environment.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people from across the literary sector, and to applying my experiences overseas to Scotland’s unique context. And of course to working with Creative Scotland’s impressive team to support and develop all kinds of new and existing work, and to help bring great ideas to fruition.”

The Torchlight Procession on the Mound

They came marching out of the old year bearing flaming torches. There were 10,000 of them, citizens and visitors, led by a band of Vikings, and accompanied by the heavy beat of rock music. If I was the New Year, I’d be very frightened indeed, they obviously mean to set me alight.

The Procession ended on Calton Hill

The Procession ended on Calton Hill

There was something defiant and patriotic about the torchlight procession that launched Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay celebrations. By the time the march made its way along Princes Street to Calton Hill, there were over 30,000 people there. Mercifully, the rain held off. Indeed there was a starry sky above us, with Jupiter clearly visible and Orion beginning his tumble across the dark stage overhead.

On the ground, a carpet of lighted torches stretched across the hillside. At the west end, a huge bonfire blazed in the wind. Then the crowd was blown away by a son-et-lumiere show which began with purple lights playing on the pillars of the National Monument and the Trafalgar Tower and ended with great crackles and bangs from a five-minute firework display.

And the torchlight procession was just the beginning of the Hogmanay celebrations. The famous fireworks party marking the midnight hour in Princes Street is catering for its usual 80,000 spectators. A concert in the gardens featuring the Pet Shop Boys and Nina Nesbitt is a sell-out. So too is the outdoor Keilidh at the Mound. And, for those who enjoy their music a little more quietly, there’s a candlelit concert in St Giles Cathedral.

The rest of the country is joining in the fun with fire-work parties in Inverness, Stirling, Stonehaven, Biggar and, no doubt, a string of other towns and villages less well-known for their fire festivals. Glasgow’s George Square will be alight till 10pm but Glaswegians will all be tucked up in bed by midnight by order of the city fathers who fear the drunken revelry of Edinburgh will spread to their more godly city.

This rather special year of 2014 is to be marked by a linked son-et-lumiere show in Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh earlier in the evening, at exactly 20.14. It’s one of the 430 events of the Year of Homecoming when Scots abroad will hopefully be coming home to watch the Bannockburn re-enactment, the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and, of course, the excitements of the Referendum.

In the ‘Roman de Fergus’, the hero must travel to Dunnottar to retrieve a magic shield

Scotland has a new hero. He’s called Fergus and he comes from Galloway. He sung his way onto the stage at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh last night (Tuesday 10th December ) in the world premiere of a new operetta by Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham.

Fergus of GallowayScotland’s master storyteller has retold a 13th century tale of a knight from Galloway who wins the approval of King Arthur and the hand of the beautiful princess of Lothian, Galiene. A series of 12 poems sees Fergus hunting stags in the forest, defeating evil knights, rescuing the lovely Galiene from a siege at Roxburgh and, of course, marrying her. “I believe in happy endings,” McCall Smith told the audience afterwards. “ But of course the Le Roman de Fergus, written in courtly French, was a send-up, a parody of the King Arthur legend.”

And the 8-member cast of the Edinburgh Studio Opera brought all the humour to life. This is an operetta mainly for the chorus and their chorus work was superb. Every face told the story, every word could be heard and their movements around the stage were assured and precise.

Alexander McCall Smith  believes in 'happy endings'

Alexander McCall Smith
believes in ‘happy endings’

Tom Cunningham’s music too was delightful, flowing natural tunes with a pacey accompaniment provided by Stuart Hope on the piano and Emma Donald on the violin.

The whole show reminded me of Gilbert and Sullivan with its immediately appealing music and its comic observations on our social manners.

As McCall Smith said afterwards; “Almost everything we do has a deeply symbolic meaning, if we care to look for it.” And while this, like the opera, was meant as a joke, there is a slight element of truth in it and this is what gives the comedy backbone.

The Keltie Clippie promised to be unbiased in her satirical scribblings. In the last edition, she had a go at the ‘Yes’ Campaign – but promised right at the end to balance things up in her next outing. True to her word, here’s her view on the ‘No’ Campaign:

We’ve heard there will be more – very soon!

Stramash – a game of skill rather than luck

When East Lothian-based games developer, Tony Mitchell, announced he was launching a new family board game with a quirky Scottish twist, most folk asked if there was going to be a digital version. However, market research told him there was still a steady market for ‘traditional’ board games, and people still loved the idea of sitting at a table and playing together.

Tony Mitchell Still a need for games the whole family can play

Tony Mitchell
Still a need for games the whole family can play

The ‘eureka’ moment came after Tony played a version of an ancient Parcheesi game developed by a friend’s uncle which had very few rules, but an infinite combination of strategic, indeed ‘sleekit’, moves. With a background in sports marketing, the game reminded him of many on field skirmishes, and Stramash, the Scottish Board Game, was born.

According to Tony, the game is simple, but requires a certain degree of sleekitness. “It’s a classic chase game but has been described as being like ‘Ludo on whisky’, he says. “It uses interlocking board pieces called Mashies and coloured marbles or Laddies. The key difference is that Stramash is played with playing cards instead of dice, so players must depend on their strategic skills and not simply luck to win the game. As the name suggests, it can become quite feisty. But it’s simply good old-fashioned fun.”

As most Scots will know, the word ‘stramash’ has its origins in Scotland and has come to mean a ‘disorderly gathering’ or ‘ruckus’. It was most famously used by sports broadcaster Arthur Montford when describing a goalmouth rumpus in the 1960s.

Stramash LogoTony has enhanced the Stramash myth by introducing a number of spoof back stories to the game, claiming that Queen Victoria was a big fan and that John Knox banned the game when he became first head of the Church of Scotland as it caused too much aggravation (see below).

“The back-stories are a nod to the myths of the Loch Ness Monster and ‘haggis hunters’,” says Tony. “These are stories that people have talked about for years and often taken with a big pinch of salt, but are testimony to the affection people have for Scotland and the inventiveness of its people.”

With its high production values, Stramash is now attracting a lot of attention and already has a distributor in the USA and Sweden.. The game Stramash can be played by 2 – 6 players and is suitable for ages eight upwards. It costs £39.95 (including UK post and packaging) and can be ordered either direct from the company or from the Amazon website


Stramash: “History and Heritage”

At the end of 2008, a cache of documents came to light in strange and mysterious circumstances in Edinburgh. This strange collection of documents purported to be from a wide variety of sources, the earliest from around 1707. Some looked genuinely old and some more modern. Some were scraps, torn from letters and manuscripts. Some were printed material of greater length. The only things they had in common was their subject matter, a board game called Stramash and they all seemed to have been written in Scotland.
There have been many theories throughout the centuries about Stramash. Here are just a few – believe them if you will:

Rob Roy MacGregor rejected the normal glass marbles when playing Stramash, and instead used discoloured musket balls which he said were “The Dukes’ Balls”, gouged from the wounds he received at the hands of the Dukes of Atholl and Montrose while on the run on Rannoch Moor.

In the 1800s, Scottish regiments were not allowed, according to King’s Regulations, to carry “items of entertainment” in their packs. However, many soldiers kept their dirk down one sock and their Stramash ’Mashie’ (board piece) down the other. Many officers turned a blind eye to this for the sake of morale.

In 1759, Benjamin Franklin visited Edinburgh, drawn by the hotbed of genius at that time. He was introduced to the delights of Stramash by David Hume who brought him to a game at Allan Ramsay’s house.

An anonymous research graduate was working in the National Library and found some references to Stramash in Sir Walter Scott’s draft notes for “Waverley”. According to these documentary notes the source he was using was the weekly Edinburgh paper “The Brig’ o’ Dean Blether*”. (* “The Brig O’ Dean Blether” was literally a weekly newspaper as it would appear to have only been published for one week in May 1807).