To see ourselves as others see us – the UK and #ScotlandisNow

You’ll surely recognise the quote in the title of this post, deliberately in standard English, unlike Burns’ original words. That’s because this is mainly about international perceptions of the UK, although you’ll also find some discussion of contemporary Scotland.

I was led into the subject by an article on the BBC website entitled How do you market a country? much of it about how Chile had tried to change its international image. It cited something I’d not heard of before – the Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index. The Index starts with the presumption that people’s perception of countries is based on six factors – their governance, culture, people, tourism, immigration and investment, and exports:

It then carries out annual surveys in twenty countries to test perceptions of these factors for a total of fifty countries. The 50 countries are listed on the Brands Index website linked above, the methodology is explained here.

No doubt this all has its limitations but it does provide a consistent measure of the international perception of different countries. Facts are also important as I tried to demonstrate when I looked at the UK’s standing in the OECD’s Better Life Index of advanced economies, which measures 24 statistical indicators, from dwellings without basic facilities to time devoted to leisure and personal care. But if you doubt the importance of perception consider where you’d rather spend your holidays, Italy or Syria, or take part in a demonstration against the government, Norway or North Korea. Most of us could choose even if we’ve never been to those countries.

Bearing all that in mind, here are the results of the most recent Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index for the top ten countries, based on data collected in 2017:

You’ll notice how the top ten rankings are taken by what the index compilers call ‘Western market economies, along with Japan’. You might also notice how France has moved up the rankings from 2016 and the USA down (Macron and Trump respectively? My guess).

What I want to point out particularly is the UK’s position, in third place, above other nations usually highly thought of. The only Nordic nation in the top ten is Sweden and many Scottish nationalists’ favourite exemplar, Norway, doesn’t make the top ten at all.

If perceptions are important the UK’s third place is a major asset, even or perhaps especially in these Brexit hard times. It also gives the lie, repeated so often by many Scottish nationalists, to the claim that the UK is universally reviled throughout the world (cue canards ‘Westmonster’, ‘evil empire’, ‘butcher’s apron’ etc. etc.).

None of this says anything about international perceptions of Scotland which, if some nationalists are to be believed, are as high as they claim perceptions of the UK are low. But if you’re part of a country, the UK, that enjoys such a high international reputation, why not rejoice and use that reputation to support your own efforts to promote the advantages of Scotland?

That of course is not on the SNP’s agenda. Their own attempts at marketing Scotland focus on what they disingenuously call a ‘partnership’ with the fatuous slogan ‘Scotland is Now’, to ‘create a new campaign and identity for Scotland’. Their website has some interesting stuff on it but also much that is partisan. In its short life it has accumulated eleven items that feature Nicola Sturgeon, from ‘First Minister’s statement on the EU referendum’ (placed, I’m pretty sure, on the site retrospectively) to ‘Scottish whisky tourism gets £150M boost’.

The range of even this small part of the contents exemplifies another problem – who’s it all aimed at – investors, tourists, business, potential students, people who live here already …? In seeking to have something for everyone it looks as if it doesn’t have enough for anyone. As for ‘partnership’, all the agencies listed as partners are actually part of the Scottish Government except Universities Scotland, who rely for a substantial part of their funding on the government.

Admittedly, the endeavour follows other campaigns that didn’t last long – Scotland the Brand (which I quite liked), the Best small country in the world, and the stunningly imaginative Welcome to Scotland.

If it’s a problem finding the right image for a country, the originator of the Nation Brands Index, Steve Anholt, has a word of warning:

I have been looking for 20 years for a single properly documented case study of one single country, city or region that has demonstrably moved the needle, even by the most microscopic degree, on its global image as a result of marketing, messaging or communications.

His view is that reputation comes from doing things not consciously trying to build images.

In that context, ‘Scotland is Now’ is likely to be a waste of time and money.

Meanwhile in the real world, international perception of the UK is right up there with the best.

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In which I carry out a Twitter poll …

My having (almost) comprehensively trashed the value of Twitter polls in a recent post entitled Twitter polls – a word of advice to the wary, sceptical readers may even now have their finger over the hashtag button ready to bang out #hypocrite when they see this brief article.

Yes, I’ve carried out a Twitter poll.

Easiest way to explain is a screenshot of the question together with the results:

I only kept it open for 24 hours because it was not an entirely serious endeavour and I make no claim for the accuracy of the results. Indeed, I am surprised at the high proportion of people, 72%, who said the most common response to asking nationalists politely for proof of some unlikely assertion was ‘Abuse’.

I guess that unlike the unambiguous response of ‘Silence’ or the specific ‘Find it yourself’, abuse is a very subjective concept. One person’s mild banter can be another’s deep hurt.

What did surprise me was the fact that nearly 550 people went out of their way to answer my question, many of whom were not followers of mine. The subject clearly struck a deep chord.

Although only 5% chose ‘Other’ responses as an option, a selection of comments on the exercise, not all of which relate directly to that option, are worth recording.

  • Typically, I get all of the above. Usually including various @s so that the person you’re engaging with requests backup so that you’re overwhelmed with nonsense.
  • ‘I’m not doing your research for you’ followed by a long thread with me trying to explain the concept of burden of proof.
  • Don’t forget all the hashtags.
  • The usual rants. Scottish sovereignty, Westmonster, Tories, Empirical Overlords …
  • ‘You must hate Scotland’ is a favourite.
  • Other: ‘Look! Squirrel!’ [For those unfamiliar with the shorthand, a way of trying to create a diversion on to another subject]
  • Usually a sequence of all of them followed by a block.
  • When nationalists ask for proof and I show it, they eventually descend into how I have supplied evidence from one viewpoint and anyway what is proof, the only true proof is a mathematical proof… etc etc.

I suspect that most of these comments will be familiar to many who brave the wildlands of Twitter.

As a counter to the dismal litany, two other responses should be noted.

First, one brave soul admitted that they sometimes do the same, telling people who challenge their own assertions to go and do a bit of investigation themselves. I must admit, it’s tempting.

But I especially liked:

Having experienced all your options, every now and again you get a decent debate with none of the above!

I agree with that last one. It’s a rare but satisfying Twitter moment when you can thank someone for their exchange of views and depart wishing each other well. And – hint to online opponents – so much more effective if you want me to consider your point of view.

The serious point, of course, is that if you make an assertion supposedly grounded in fact you should be willing to provide evidence if asked, otherwise your claim is worthless. I usually just say ‘A link will do. Thanks’.

If you’re tempted to tell me that the same phenomenon happens the other way round, I can only say I’m sure it does. I don’t see many examples of that because, by and large, I tend not to be engaged in contentious debate by people who are united with me on the separation/independence question.

And just to prove my own even-handedness (yes, I can provide the evidence if I’m challenged), within the last week I’ve asked politely for proof of what I thought were particularly unlikely assertions not only from various Scottish nationalists but also from a UKIP politician and a Momentum supporter. Both of them remained silent. I drew the line at a demented American who believes the sale of pre-packed plastic picnic cutlery has been banned in the UK.

Sometimes, life is just too short.

My thanks to those who answered the poll, and especially those who commented on it and are quoted above. You might see I’ve changed your words slightly, but only to eliminate Twitter shorthand and fit the style of this post.

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Weeping for Kenny MacAskill and his view of Scottish politics

It may seem perverse when the furore around the Salmond allegations is in full flood to be distracted by a column from former SNP politician and cabinet secretary Kenny MacAskill in yesterday’s Herald, entitled Why I weep for the Scottish Parliament that might have been (you need a subscription to read it so if you haven’t seen the article, you’ll have to take my interpretation of it on trust). But it contains unintended lessons the SNP should learn.

Jim Naughtie did a piece on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning on Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond’s political relationship (from 1:46:15 as long as it’s still on the BBC website). He concluded:

We can’t know how this story will play out except that it won’t have a happy ending.

MacAskill acknowledges the current goings on when he writes

Far from members returning to a legislature eager to debate the great issues of state, it’s likely to be introspective if not convulsed by debates over impropriety and personal conduct.

His analysis of what has gone wrong – Salmondgate apart – is fascinating for what it says about both the SNP and the wider separatist mindset. It’s a masterclass in viewing the past through rose-tinted specs and seeing only what everyone else has done wrong to thwart progress towards an independent Scotland.

Consider.

First, the 2014 referendum campaign, which for Kenny ‘was a time of great optimism with widespread political discourse across the country’. According to him, ‘other than one minor egg-throwing incident, magnified out of all proportion, it was conducted in a fair and dignified manner’. His referendum clearly took place in a universe parallel to mine.

Then once it was all over, ‘loyalist thuggery [was] unleashed, the likes of which hadn’t been seen on Scottish streets for generations’. Really? The reality was not much more than one evening in Glasgow’s George Square when a tiny number of idiots from both sides chose to provoke each other.

Again, ‘criticism of independence being divisive and splitting communities was hyperbole if not total rot.’ Not true. Many came forward to say how the referendum had split friends, work colleagues and families, sometimes bitterly so.

As sometimes happens, the detail of his words reveal unintended truths. His hoped-for outcome of the referendum was nothing to do with so-called modern civic nationalism but ‘the restoration of independence for an ancient nation’.

He believes that ‘the debate now stands on whether powers have been removed from Holyrood’. Does it? I thought the opposite had happened with the additional devolved powers from the Smith Commission.

He can even find grievance in a name change with ‘the Scottish Office has even been rebranded as the UK Government in Scotland’.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, there is an overblown sense of Scotland’s importance in 2014 when ‘the world … was also watching and waiting to see what Scotland did’.

And he throws more into the mix – Brexit, the EU, Trump and racism all get mentions.

What he doesn’t do is turn the light upon his own party and government. Not one mention anywhere of their own contribution to what might have gone wrong. For example:

  • the sucking of power and public services into the centre and away from local communities– economic development, water and sewage, police, and fire and rescue
  • never-ending problems with Police Scotland and its governance
  • the botched named person scheme
  • the unnecessary and now abandoned (?) takeover of British Transport Police
  • the decline of educational standards, and teacher shortages
  • ever-lengthening NHS waiting times, and more staff shortages
  • the poor record of parliament in scrutinising the executive and its legislation (not solely the SNP’s fault but as the party of government for ten years they bear a major responsibility)
  • .. and so on. I’m sure other examples could be added.

If Mr MacAskill wants to weep for a parliament that might have been he needs to turn his gaze away from what everyone else has done wrong to the failure of his own party.

I too weep for the parliament and our government but for very different reasons.

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Some fall-out from the Clara Ponsati affair

On 12 July, I wrote a blog post entitled Scotland-Catalonia update – the first minister, the president, the professor, and the lawyer. It was prompted by a meeting between the first minister and the president of the Catalan Generalitat, Quim Torra. I assumed, not unreasonably as he was videoed emerging from Bute House, that Professor Clara Ponsati’s lawyer Aamer Anwar had been in the meeting:

Taken from President of the People Quim Torra Video 3 at 21:51

Ms Ponsati, you probably won’t need reminding, is a professor at St Andrew’s university and was briefly a minister in Catalonia’s devolved government in 2017. She was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant from the Spanish government at the time.

Various things about the meeting had intrigued me, as a reading of my previous blog post will confirm. I decided, therefore, to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, as follows:

I would be grateful if you could provide me with the following information:

  1. any briefing note(s) she [the first minister] received in preparation for the meeting, whether from Scottish Government civil servants or other sources
  2. any minute or note of meeting that was made by civil servants attending the meeting
  3. if not included in 2., a list of all those attending the meeting
  4. specifically, if not included in items 2. or 3., confirmation of whether the Scottish lawyer Mr Aamer Anwar attended the meeting (as context for this request an online video taken outside Bute House that day and posted on YouTube clearly shows Mr Anwar emerging from the building and joining Mr Torra on the pavement. Should it prove necessary, you can view the video concerned at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDTnkI2jaOM– the relevant part is at about 22 minutes)
  5. if not included in any other items listed above, the reason Mr Anwar was at the meeting and what role he played in it.

I’m pleased to say that I received a full response within the statutory timescale although some information was redacted (withheld).

The first thing to get out of the way is an unequivocal statement about Mr Anwar:

 I can confirm that Mr Anwar did not attend or participate in the meeting between the First Minister and President Torra. He did however accompany the Catalan delegation to Bute House.

That much is good and assuages one concern I had previously. As he was pictured (above) emerging from Bute House we must assume that he waited in an ante-room during the meeting. One hopes he was at least offered a coffee.

However, the FOI response and other information available raise a number of other issues that are worth recording.

A first preliminary comment is that this is the first time I have seen both the first minister’s briefing notes for a meeting she has attended, as well as a minute of the same meeting. If for no other reason, they are worth a wider circulation and I append them both at the end of this post.

The briefing notes are a competent civil service job about which little complaint could be made. They were doubtless supplemented with an oral briefing at which other, unrecorded things were said but that would be true of any significant meeting involving an elected office-holder.

You either agree or disagree with the wider political context set by the notes:

The Scottish Government is keen to strengthen [its] bilateral links with Catalonia … further opportunities for bilateral cooperation … We profoundly regret that the Spanish Government has not proceeded by way of dialogue with Catalonia’s political leaders and that the issue is now, instead, subject to a judicial process.

My own view, which will be no surprise, is that our SNP government dabbles too much in what are essentially foreign affairs.

There are some intriguing details in the material.

  • In the main note, part of what the Scottish government can ‘offer’ the Catalans has been redacted. What might the first minister have considered offering the Catalans that is so sensitive?
  • In the covering letter I received with the FOI response, one ‘exemption’ justifying redaction relates to ‘the provision of advice by … Law Officers’. What might that advice have been and where might it have appeared in the briefing? Did it perhaps relate to the legal limits beyond which any statement or action by the first minister should not go?
  • Annex A lists bilateral links between Scotland and Catalonia, including shared membership of ‘The Climate Group, The Under2 MoU Coalition, Districts of Creativity, and The Vanguard Initiative’. Who’s heard of any of them and what is Scotland getting out of them? As for the ‘Districts of Creativity’, apparently run by the separatist regional government of Flanders in Belgium, how ironic that our SNP government is willing to be a member of a group that characterises the entire  country as a ‘district’.
  • Annex C T&I [Trade and Investment] refers to two new jobs as ‘part of the EU expansion project’ that has received some media coverage. One is in Barcelona, the other in Madrid (which will cheer the Catalan separatists no end). Both are ‘co-located’ with ‘DIT’, the UK government’s Department for International Trade; in other words a quiet acceptance by the SNP government of the reality that internationally Scotland is a region of the UK and that promoting trade has to be done under the umbrella of the DIT.

If that last point is an example of the gap between the SNP’s outward assertive rhetoric and essential timidity, is this photo also?

It shows the first minister and Mr Torra in the by now traditional formal photo taken with visitors at Bute House. You’ll notice that like her earlier meeting there with Theresa May, but unlike most meetings with foreign leaders, the room sports two large saltires. In the May case, there was a widespread assumption that not showing the union flag was a calculated insult. But what’s going on here? Surely, she wouldn’t wish to insult the Catalan leader as part of a meeting described as ‘cordial [and] aimed at strengthening the ties of friendship between Scotland and Catalonia’?

The answer may lie on the Bute House mantelpiece. If you look hard enough you’ll see two much smaller flags, a saltire and a yellow and red striped official flag of Catalonia. The version approved by the nationalists, including no doubt Mr Torra and sported at Scottish separatist events, includes a blue triangle and white star. This is curious, smacking perhaps not only of timidity but also a last-minute amateurish attempt to square some arcane circle of solidarity vs legality. It’s not of course a distinction that bothers many SNP supporters and politicians in meetings about Catalonia, online or at demonstrations.

(If you’re interested, you can see the difference between the two Catalan flags here, as well as a past, flag-related, indiscretion by Alex Salmond, so keen in 2014 to get his iScotland into the EU)

One almost inevitable outcome of the meeting is the acceptance by the first minister of an invitation to visit Barcelona. I look forward to reports of the practical outcomes, as well as confirmation that the party got bargain-basement fares on Ryanair from the SNP’s favourite airport, Prestwick.

There’s a final irony in Mr Torra’s visit to Scotland. It’s other (the?) main purpose was to lend support to the eponymous Clara Ponsati, subject of the Spanish European Arrest Warrant. Eight days after the Sturgeon/Torra meeting, it was dropped, not as a result of the meeting but because of wider political considerations in Spain.

So what of the money raised for Ms Ponsati’s defence in two related online fundraisers I documented previously? Here’s the state of play today (24 August):

Over £340,000 raised, and the second is still open for another 15 days, despite the case being dropped over a month ago. I wonder how much of that total has been dispersed or is outstanding? Still, the first appeal website does say

Please rest assured that any funds leftover after paying for my defence will go to support legal funds for Catalan political prisoners and others in exile.

So anyone contributing will know where any surplus funds are supposed to go, although I doubt there will ever be a public audit trail of where they actually did go.

———————————————

First minister’s briefing notes

Minute of meeting

 

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Twitter polls – a word of advice to the unwary

This is not a pro- or anti-anything post.

I assume most readers of this post will be familiar with the Twitter poll. Introduced a while back, it allows you to ask a question and have people select one of up to four answers. Here’s an example I’ve just drafted:

Before you jump in, yes it’s boring, although it’s at least straight-forward.

But the truth is, almost every Twitter poll is a complete waste of time if it pretends to tell you anything serious. Here’s another selection, helpfully provided by someone who thinks my view about Twitter polls is partisan:

In the cause of balance, I’m sure someone could have found a similar set of polls that led to the opposite conclusion and had them rhetorically asking Mr Harrison, ‘Not bad for No, I think you’d agree?’

I hardly know where to start with the many reasons these exercises are spurious, but they all boil down to one phrase – lack of quality control.

Undertaking a valid survey of people’s opinions is no less a skilled exercise than prescribing medicines or designing a road junction. Here’s how most of these Twitter efforts fail.

  • Promoters of Twitter polls are usually biased to one side of an argument and the question asked often reflects their bias.
  • Even if they’re not biased, they often don’t know how to structure a question and the possible answers to avoid leading people on to a particular conclusion.
  • Only people on Twitter will see it, a small subset of people not representative of the overall population.
  • Even worse, only Twitter users linked directly or at a couple of removes from the promoter of the poll are likely to see it, of whom only some will bother to vote.
  • Saying a poll is ‘open to all’ (but see above) and Inviting people to retweet ‘for a bigger sample’ doesn’t make a Twitter poll more accurate. More people with a fixed view pile in, often egged on by someone tweeting ‘Get on over there to vote so the nats/yoons don’t hijack it!’
  • Many Twitter polls deal with big complex issues that are not amenable to resolution by a single question and a maximum of four options for an answer. Question and answers together are also subject to Twitter’s length limitations, forcing further simplification.

For all these reasons, and unlike a professionally-conducted poll, it’s impossible to have any confidence that their results reflect the views of people overall.

I was first exposed to this sort of exercise – though not on Twitter – during the 2014 referendum campaign in a poll run by someone based in Shetland. It was a simple ‘How will you vote?’ Yes/No/Don’t know exercise. I pointed out most of the problems listed above, only to be told ‘Well get out there and get your pals to vote, mate’. If my memory’s correct, the end result before the referendum itself was that something like 88% of those voting were for Yes, accompanied by a good deal of naïve ‘Yay!’-ing and triumph in the forum associated with the poll. It summed up perfectly why this sort of thing is a complete waste of time. Unless of course you’re just conducting a propaganda exercise and/or want to have your point of view reinforced regardless of the facts..

That’s it, almost. My apologies to professional researchers for not putting the word ‘poll’ in inverted commas when it is associated with Twitter. And one final thought. I do like Twitter polls where the percentage results don’t attempt to make a serious point. Even better if they’re (deliberately) trying to inject some humour into a situation. I wouldn’t claim my feeble choice-of-car example does that. But I think you’ll get the point.

 

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BBC ignores major news – shock, horror

Well, it does if pro-separation commentator Lesley Riddoch’s tweet a couple of days ago is to be believed:

which drew forth the not unreasonable response from the BBC’s Gary Robertson:

to which Ms Riddoch responded:

Ah, so she wasn’t talking about a news programme but a phone-in. Yes, she should have clarified what she meant. Not least because 1,500 people liked her original misleading claim and over 800 retweeted it, many of whom I suspect won’t have listened to either news or phone-ins on the BBC that day.

Although to any reasonable onlooker Mr Robertson was in no sense on the ropes, his Beeb colleague, London-based political correspondent Nick Eardley, felt obliged to chip in on his behalf:

But clarification of that sort was far from Ms Riddoch’s mind:

As I write, the thread rumbles on in classic Twitter style, with others joining in (confession –  I did too), the original claimant having fallen silent while, presumably, pondering the next faux outrage and Messrs Robertson and Eardley not unreasonably getting back to their day jobs.

But Lesley’s last tweet is a good place to just stop and ponder the significance of her statement there:

BBC Scot exists to let citizens discuss and analyse these massively important issues.

‘… to let citizens discuss and analyse …’. Really?

Not so much ‘Nation shall speak peace unto nation’ as ‘Phone-in caller shall rant unto small audience of like-minded listeners’.

I exaggerate of course. I’ve heard good phone-in discussions, although I have to say they’re in a minority of the genre and best when they deal with personal experience about issues like, well for example, ageism.

And if they’re to have any coherence, don’t they need some back-up beyond the microphone, a researcher to help provide context for the issues likely to be raised, an expert in the studio, perhaps, to provide support and comment for the presenter? What chance of organising that effectively if the topic of the day is merely ‘current chaos’? The result is only likely to be more on-air chaos.

The truth, my truth at least, is that most phone-ins are cheap and largely unstructured ways of filling airspace that rarely impart enlightenment on big issues of which callers have little direct experience. The idea that they enable citizens to’ discuss and analyse’ suggests Lesley hasn’t listened to many recently.

As for the claim that BBC Scotland exists ‘to let citizens discuss and analyse … massively important issues’, it’s news to me. Perhaps Ms Riddoch would care to back that claim up with some evidence?

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Scotland-Catalonia update – the first minister, the president, the professor, and the lawyer

Regular readers will know I turn occasionally to the connections between Scottish and Catalan nationalists. This week a couple of events came together to prompt another update and raise a few questions.

The first was the meeting yesterday between our first minister and the president of the Catalan devolved government, Quim Torra. The meeting was on government property at Bute House and she subsequently tweeted about it from her official government Twitter account, @ScotGovFM. This is relevant to what follows.

My first question is, should the first minister have met Mr Torra at all? The Guardian newspaper has called him a ‘hardline’ nationalist, citing the ‘“xenophobic” and anti-Spanish tone of his past writings and comments’. Here are some of his tweets from 2011-2014, subsequently deleted but then appearing in the Spanish newspaper El Periodico (translated by me with some online help):

The French and the Spanish share the same annihilating conception of the nations that live in their States

We own our own cars and we pay for everything, not like the Spaniards

We have been occupied by the Spaniards since 1714

Spaniards in Catalonia are like energy: they don’t disappear, they transform themselves into something else

Joking aside, if we go on like this for a few more years, we run the risk of ending up as crazy as the Spaniards themselves

Above all, what is surprising is the tone, the poor education, the Spanish snobbery, the nastiness. It’s horrific

Embarrassment is a word the Spaniards removed from their vocabulary years ago

Hearing Alberto Rivera [an anti-Catholic polemicist widely accused of fraud] speak of morality is like hearing Spaniards talk about democracy

Spaniards only know how to plunder

Catalan Socialist Party members, misguided people, speak Spanish like the Spaniards [The CSP is anti-separatist].

The Guardian also quotes an article entitled The language and the beasts he wrote for the Catalan website elMón in 2012 in which he described those who opposed the use of the Catalan language and objected to expressions of Catalan culture and traditions as:

carrion-feeders, vipers and hyenas … beasts in human form … It is a sick phobia. There is something Freudian in these beasts, a rough patch in their DNA.

This is not the language of the ‘civic’ nationalism beloved of the SNP. If you doubt its intent, try replacing Torra’s ‘Spaniards/Spanish’ with ‘British/English’ and see how it feels.

My second question is on an apparently separate issue – what’s going on with the Clara Ponsati fundraising? Professor Ponsati, you may remember, was briefly a minister in the Catalan generalitat (government) and is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant for extradition to Spain. She is being represented by human rights solicitor Aamer Anwar.

In March, an appeal for funds to fight her case entitled Defend Clara Ponsati from extradition to Spain appeared on the Crowd Justice website. As I write, it still has nine days to run and has raised £282,290 of a ‘stretch target’ of £500,000. In other words, it has raised only 56% so far of what it hoped to.

However, yesterday a second appeal was launched while the first was still underway – #DefendClara Stage Two: Urgent Extradition Hearing Appeal. Again as I write, this has raised £34,255 of a second stretch target, this time of £220,000. Here are the two appeals as they appear on the Crowd Justice website when you search for ‘Ponsati’:

With the exception of a mention in the Stage Two appeal that ‘Within 24 hours nearly £200,000 was raised on the previous [sic – it’s still current] legal campaign crowdfunding page’ there is no reference there (at least in the English text) to that first appeal. Back on the original appeal a note dated 11 July, and only in Catalan, has appeared directing potential donors to the Stage Two page.

There are two other curiosities. First, although both appeals are in the name of and by Ms Ponsati, the second begins with a long statement in Catalan against her name that concludes ‘Una salutació ben cordial, Aamer Anwar, Advocat de la Professora Clara Ponsatí’. Second, even though the two appeals together are far from their total stretch target, having reached only 44% of £720,000, the second maintains a statement in the original:

In the event that money is left over, we would redistribute it among the other cases of political persecution in Catalonia [via Google Translate].

The whole thing is very confusing. Why start a second appeal when the first is still open? Did that first appeal stall, far from the sum required? If so, is the second appeal no more than a device to capitalise on the visit of Mr Torra to Scotland in the hope that it would prompt more contributions? And if you’re so far from your target, why retain a statement about surplus funds being used for  other (unknown) cases?

Reverting to the Sturgeon/Torra meeting yesterday, the first minister tweeted a joint statement about it:

It’s a fairly bland effort and I doubt whether a fuller minute will ever emerge, although I note the irony of the implication in the last paragraph that our own 2014 referendum ‘resolved’ Scotland’s constitutional sovereignty. A referendum will, of course, only ever resolve such a question for nationalists when they get the answer they want.

What the joint statement doesn’t do is say who was at the Bute House meeting, and here we’re lucky enough to have a video taken of the participants emerging. You can see the whole video on YouTube if you can bear the grunting impromptu voiceover. My attention was directed to 22:20 where you will see this image:

In the foreground, Mr Torra and behind him, also having emerged from Bute House and replete with yellow pro-separatist Catalonia ribbon … Aamer Anwar.

I noted earlier that the meeting was on government property and the first minister tweeted about it from her official government Twitter account. So, the most interesting question of all, and neatly linking the two topics this post has been about – what was the lawyer for a defendant in a highly-political extradition court case doing in an official meeting between the first minister and the Catalan president?

At the beginning of the whole Ponsati saga, the first minister said:

I know that many will wish that @scotgov was able to do or say more – I understand that. But I hope there can also be an understanding of the position as outlined and the importance of protecting due process and the independence of our legal system (The Scotsman).

That was a cautious and proper approach. Has it now been abandoned? And why was Mr Anwar in that meeting?

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