Exactly 100 years ago 30,000 Scots went into battle. Many did not return. Of the 72 British infantry divisions taking part in the first phase of the battle of Loos in northern France, half were Scottish.
Of the 20,598 names of the dead on the memorial at Loos, no less than one third are Scottish. No part of our country was unaffected. The Black Watch had massive casualties, the 9th alone lost 680 in the first few hours of fighting.
Of the 950 men of the 6th Cameronians who went into battle, 700 were casualties. On the Loos memorial there are 678 names of the Gordon Highlanders, 697 from the Highland Light Infantry and 671 names from the King’s Own Scottish Borders.
You can read my full column for the Press & Journal and The Courier by clicking on the links.
Catalonia did not disappoint with its historic vote, delivering a clear majority for the independence coalition. How should people react to this outpouring of democratic expression in Catalonia?
First, the international community should cease viewing Catalonia as a problem and start to see the opportunity in this democratic expression. In a world where violence abounds peaceful democratic movements should be accorded respect and legitimacy.
There is nothing unreasonable in the idea that Catalonia could be successful as an independent country. Catalonia, like Scotland, has a per capita GDP that is higher than the European Union average.
Second, it is important that all of Spain recognize Catalonia's aspirations. The Spanish people need and deserve creative thinking about how to move toward a political settlement. Perhaps they will get it from the other parties in the upcoming elections.
Lastly, the independence forces in Catalonia would be well-advised to take a “calm souch,” as we say in Scotland.
In Ireland, a long time ago, there was a saying that “England's difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.” Catalonia is not Ireland; nor is it Scotland. However, Madrid’s difficulty could soon become Catalonia's opportunity.
On my way to the Scottish Parliament, I stopped off at Kinglassie to give our local council candidate, Julie Ford my support. The people of Kinglassie are among some of the friendliest I've ever met and it was great to see Julie receive so much support.
By the time I got to Edinburgh, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, which made my lunch with Pauline, Cheryl and Nina all the better. Pleasure to meet you all.
I was invited to the Chinese Consulate by the Consul General Pan Xinchun to celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China. I thoroughly enjoyed singing Auld Lang Syne with everyone.
It was great to catch up with the incredibly talented, Gerard Burns and his son Matthew. Gerard has kindly donated a print of one of his works, "The Journey", the original of which used to hang in my office when I was First Minister, to auction off at this year's SNP Conference in Aberdeen in aid of the refugee crisis
In the chamber, I had the chance to ask the Scottish Government for an update on the Inveramsay bridge on the A96:
On the relationship between the AWPR and the Inveramsay bridge on the A96, could the minister say a word about the benefits that that will achieve and the timescale? We in the north-east of Scotland have been waiting for 30 years through ineffective and useless Liberal Democrat representation, and the Scottish Government and my friend Dennis Robertson have achieved the Inveramsay bridge— Can the minister give an indication of the benefits of that major infrastructure improvement and its relationship to the AWPR?
Response from Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities:
The member is quite right to talk about the delay of the Inveramsay bridge, but it is also worth bearing it in mind that people have been campaigning for the AWPR for the best part of 50 years. It has taken this Administration to bring that scheme to fruition.
The AWPR is the largest road scheme of its kind, and the Inveramsay bridge will bring huge benefits to Aberdeenshire by reducing congestion, improving journey time reliability by avoiding the existing bridge, and enabling the free flow of traffic. Once again, the current Administration has delivered real improvements for local people.
Iñaki Soto from GARA magazine in the Basque Country came to the Scottish Parliament to interview me following my article in Bloomberg View about the Catalan elections. Those of you who can speak Spanish will be able to read the interview next week.
I met with Dr Nabil Shaath, the International Relations Commissioner for Fatah, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, and his delegation.
My morning was made when I heard the news that Julie Ford was elected, taking 59% of the vote. An incredible result!
By the end of the day, the SNP had six new councillors. Overall the SNP won almost 45.9 per cent of the vote across all seven of yesterday’s by-elections – representing a 5.7 per cent swing from Labour. By contrast, Labour’s vote fell by nearly 5 per cent.
It was good to catch up with Brian Cox and John Bett over lunch at the Scottish Parliament.
Following my article for Bloomberg View, I had a number of requests from Catalan media. It was a pleasure to discuss Catalonia, Scotland and Europe with Quim Aranda from the El Punt Avui.
Later on, I spoke with Carles Costa from TV3. It was great chance to discuss the issues facing Catalonia and Europe following their elections, as well as a great chance to show off how beautiful Edinburgh is. Just look at Arthur's Seat!
Good to meet up with these great Scots actors again. This was just after a terrific performance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. There is only one week left, so get your tickets if you can.
On my way to the Wigtown Book Festival, I had the pleasure of visiting the Belted Galloway visitor centre in Newton Stewart. Good luck to Gordon Andrews and the team for the future.
I had a fantastic time at the Wigtown Book Festival. Veteran journalist, Ian Macwhirter asked me questions about the new paperback edition of my book, which includes excerpts . It was a full hoose in the Scottish Power Foundation Marquee. Thanks to everyone who took time out of their Saturday to come along.
My campaign to improve mobile phone coverage continues...