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A week is a long time in politics

I’d put money on the fact that Alex Salmond is squirming today after another horrendous week in his dream for Scottish Independence – and since it’s only Thursday I’m sure he’s got time to drop a few more clangers!

It started with the resignation of two of his backbenchers over the NATO u-turn announced last Friday and then came the “little” matter of not seeking legal advice on whether an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union.

Highland MSPs Jean Urquhart and John Finnie stood down in protest at the decision to end the SNP’s long-standing opposition to NATO.

Former police officer Finnie, who joined the SNP as a 16-year-old, insisted: “I can’t continue to belong to a party that quite rightly doesn’t wish to hold nuclear weapons on its soil but wants to join a first-strike nuclear alliance.  Although I envisage I’ll continue to share common ground with the SNP on many issues, I can’t in good conscience continue to take the party whip.”

Urquhart, who has been a supporter of independence for 25 years, said: “Nuclear disarmament and removing Trident from Scotland’s waters is a red line issue for me.  I couldn’t remain committed to a party that has committed itself to retaining membership of NATO.”

This all seemed bad enough but to then find out that the SNP Government didn’t feel it necessary to obtain legal advice over such an important matter as to whether a separate Scotland could join the European Union was laughable to say the least!

The First Minister then decided it was ok to miss a House of Lords committee inquiry yesterday into the economic consequences of Scotland breaking away from the UK.  The meeting in Edinburgh City Chambers was the first time a Lords committee has sat outside Westminster and  was attended by a host of Scot politicians, including ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling and all opposition leaders.  Mr Salmond blanked the session to attend the book launch of a local businessman’s biography at the Britannia Spice restaurant in Leith.

And today Salmond left it to Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to admit that it was “unfortunate” that the SNP had given a wrong impression over whether they had taken legal advice on an independent Scotland’s place in Europe.  Reiterating her leader’s stance that they had never confirmed whether or not they did have legal advice because they were not allowed to do so under the ministerial code, she conceded the impression had been created that ministers had already taken legal advice on the matter.

Perhaps to emphasise the fact that politics is a very smelly business, it is perhaps no coincidence that both the First and Deputy First Ministers have the names of fishes in Salmon(d) and Sturgeon ….. I rest my case!

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God bless her … and all who sail in her

We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours yesterday visiting The Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith.  In case you haven’t heard of it, she is considered to be one of the most famous ship’s in the world – for all the right reasons, I’d like to add. She isn’t remembered for the great tragedy that could have been averted (like the Titanic) and nor is she an unsolved mystery of modern times (like the Mary Celeste).  No, the Royal Yacht Britannia, launched on the 16th April 1953 at John Brown’s Shipyard in Clydebank served the British Royal Family for more than 40 years, before being finally decommissioned in 1997.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was originally meant to be a mobile haven for the Royal Family, in case nuclear war broke out with the Soviet Union. This queenly vessel has sailed all over the globe, clocking up more than a million miles.  In addition to having carried British diplomats and dignitaries on over 900 official voyages, it was also used by the Royal Family for holidays and recreational getaways.

Honeymoon Suite (the only double bed on board)

In addition to being a second home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family the Yacht was also a grand host to political figures, kings, queens, prime ministers and presidents.  Among the world leaders who have enjoyed the lavish hospitality of this famous yacht are Nelson Mandela, Sir Winston Churchill, and Bill Clinton.  While, more famously perhaps, being used for the honeymoon of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. 

Bunks for Royal Marines

Walking around the ship, one can’t fail to notice the obvious differences between life on board as a passenger and that of a crew member.  Whilst by today’s standards the living accommodation enjoyed by the Royal Family was by no means on a par with that of a 5 Star luxury modern cruise ship, it was perfectly functional and comfortable.  I could not help but feel sorry for the poor crew who had to spend months at sea in far from ideal conditions and absolutely nothing in terms of privacy and we didn’t even get to see the bunks for the lowliest of them either!

I can however definitely recommend a glass of bubbly and a smoked salmon sandwich in the magnificent Tea Room on what was the Royal Deck and you can’t leave without buying a box of fudge from the NAAFI on board either!

After it was decommissioned, Her Majesty the Queen declared that no other Royal Yacht would ever replace the Britannia. Today, moored permanently at Leith, Edinburgh, this magnificent vessel has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland. BBC News calls it “Scotland’s leading visitor-friendly attraction” and it has received Conde Nast Johansen’s prestigious UK’s Most Excellent Dedicated Venue title.

Next time you’re in Edinburgh with a couple of hours to spare, it is well worth a visit.

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