23 January 2009 The Guardian

Visit Scotland: Land of cliches

IF you feel like a laugh, do check out the 60-second advert promoting Homecoming Scotland, an embarrassing attempt by the Scottish government and its official tourist agency to lure expats to the country upon the 250th birthday of Robert Burns.

12 January 2009 The Guardian

Funding drama turns into a crisis for Creative Scotland

THE relationship between artists and funding bodies is rarely smooth – just look back at the hoo-ha when Arts Council England tried to clean out its cupboards last year. But you can tell things have reached a pretty sticky stage when no fewer than 440 artists band together to protest about what's going on – or rather, what isn't – at the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) and Scottish Screen, as they endure an amalgamation process designed to produce a new body called Creative Scotland.

24 November 2008 The Guardian

Stand up for comedy in prisons

THEY say Tony Blair was obsessed with how his government was perceived, but his legacy appears to live on: what else but tabloid headlines could justice secretary Jack Straw have had in mind when he pulled the plug on a standup comedy course at HMP Whitemoor last week?

December 2005 Scotland on Sunday

Christmas songs

LET'S suppose you founded a religion. Let's say it was about 2,000 years ago. Let's imagine that over the centuries you enshrined your most sacred beliefs in song Once a year, at the centrepiece of your devotional calendar, you would have a special set of these songs - you would call them carols - that could be sung in schools, by choirs, by groups of believers in high streets, hospices and old folks homes across the land. .

January 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Smoking ban

KEN Stott slumps into his seat in the Oxford Bar. It's been a tough day for Inspector Rebus, what with the mysterious murders, the troublesome girlfriends and the office politics. What Ian Rankin's Edinburgh detective needs is a moment to unwind. He readies his pint, opens a packet of fags and lights up.

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