St Andrew’s Day 2015

Or, as Nicola Sturgeon wittily suggests, St Andy’s Day, after Andy Murray’s major contribution to Britain’s Davis Cup victory yesterday. He says himself, he tends to play his best tennis for a team. OK, so we make the comparison between Nicola’s SNP and Jez Corbyn’s Labour Party. Which one is in the bigger mess? On the face of it, that’ll obviously be Labour, with the leader not agreeing with what seems like the majority of Labour MPs and certainly a good number of his senior colleagues over whether or not to support Cameron’s wish to bomb Syria. It sure is untidy. I was at a Don’t Bomb Syria demo this evening, in Edinburgh. I urge Jez to stick to his guns here (sorry, bad simile). But it’s an honest open debate, and there will be consequences. Syria does’t need more bombs, and our bombs would only put us further in the firing line for retaliation. I don’t have a ready answer for what Syria does need right now, but I’m clear it isn’t bombs. And not our bombs. Am I clear? The Labour Party is being ridiculed and vilified in the media, but Jez is on the right side of history here.

Contrast this with the SNP. Clearly they are dealing with the same issues by a different process: they have all agreed to keep schtum until St Nicola decides. She will not decide on what is good for Syria. She won’t even decide on what is good for Scotland. As a party that has no guiding principle but only a single aim – to separate Scotland from the UK – she will decide on how it plays for the good of the SNP. Don’t expect teamwork. St Nic and her party could learn a bit from St Andy.

Stranger Than Fiction – that’s the name of a writers’ group I go to. I submitted my draft character profiles of Tommy, Diane and Johnny Swan in Trainspotting the film last week, and got some really good feedback. This evening – after the Don’t Bomb Syria demo, did I mention that? – I went to a (re)launch of a book written by one of the members, Vin Arthey. It’s a biography of Willie Fisher, the Soviet (he was really a Geordie) spy who was exchanged for the American Gary Powers who was shot down during the Cold War. Spielberg’s new film Bridge of Spies tells the story of the exchange from the USA point of view. It’s not a film of the book. Vin told us he had several conversations with Willie Fisher’s daughter in Moscow. ‘Oh yes’ she told him, ‘it’s too early to tell my father’s story in a biography. It’s much better told in fiction.’ That chimes with my thinking. Fiction involves the intellect and imagination, bringing characters to life and bringing the reader or audience into a living relationship with them. Much better than history.

Vin inscribed an earlier version of his book: ‘To Tim, who knows that everything is linked.’

My book is making real progress. I’m getting people to read drafts. It’s gonnae be guid.