Alex Salmond and RT: Unwitting Russian Stooge?

It can be hard when you retire. I wouldn’t know much about this. I’m due to retire in 2052. However, in some ways, it can be more difficult for career politicians. You’re at the top of your game. You’ve self-actualised. Where do you go from there? You can’t usually improve upon ‘democratically elected leader of free Western nation’ on your CV.

Well, for some politicians the post-retirement options can vary. Usually, once the biographical memoirs are published, you’ve justified your actions, slandered you enemies and tried to secure your position in history, you have a number of choices.

You could disappear into obscurity. After a number of years in the unblinking public eye, this could be a very attractive option. David Cameron was spotted eating fish and chips in Cornwall a few weeks after resigning as Prime Minister. The press screamed that he’d fallen from grace, but he looked quite content and happy to me. Margaret Thatcher staged a few public interventions with regard to General Pinochet and British Airways removing the British flag from their aircraft after she left Downing Street in 1990, but not anything too substantial. In Britain, it’s customary for former Prime Ministers and high ranking politicians to take up a seat in the House of Lords and contribute your political knowledge and nous to the second chamber. You could opt to become an ‘elder statesman’ in a similar manner to that of former US president Jimmy Carter did; set up a foundation, become a humanitarian and use your political clout and expertise to right social wrongs across the globe.

Or if you’re former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, you can present a talk show on the Russian Government backed news channel, Russia Today. An unorthodox option for a retired politician, but one he has chosen to pursue none the less.

Mr Salmond has made no secret of his dislike of the ‘British state’ in his recent public appearances. But it seems that the former First Minister has started to embark on a concerted and sustained campaign to undermine not only the ‘British State’ but all aspects of Britishness now with little regard for the future. At the Scottish Independence Convention in November 2017, he said to the audience that he has ‘never seen the British state in a state of more disorientation and chaos’ and that ‘The structures of Westminster politics are decaying before our eyes’. You could counter this and argue that from a unionist perspective, the UK looks stronger than ever, with the Conservatives in government thanks to a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with the Northern Irish DUP and the SNP having lost twenty-one seats in the June 2017 general election.

Regardless of his opinion on the precariousness and fragility of the ‘British State’, he is appearing on a news network that is officially sponsored by the Russian government. This is a country that has been consistently rated as ‘not free’ when it comes to press freedom, according to Freedom House. A place where LGBT relationships are still not recognised and there are numerous discriminatory laws in place. Russia is rated 119th in a list of the worlds least corrupt countries. The UK is number 11. A place that is infamous for now resembling an oligarchy and Vladimir Putin has held onto political power, in some form or another since the year 1999.

I find it almost impossible to believe that these are issues that Mr Salmond agrees with. I didn’t like him as First Minister and disagreed with many of his parties policies. I didn’t like what he instigated in Scotland with his call for a referendum on Scottish independence. I don’t like the festering divisions that it opened up to questions that didn’t even need answering.

However, I also earnestly believe that he wouldn’t approve of the same policies as the Russian government, which in many ways he is tacitly doing at the moment. A lot of people in Scotland disliked him, but he seemed like a decent enough person and not likely to turn autocratic within the current parliamentary system. Had the ‘Yes’ campaign won the referendum in 2014, Scotland, under Alex Salmond would at least have enjoyed the same freedoms as it currently does with regards to minority groups and press freedoms.

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We could quickly venture into conspiratorial territory if we so wished. Russia was one of the few other nations (The other was North Korea) to support an independent Scotland in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum, not because of any vague notion for the self-determination of people, but more because of the damage it would do to the Western World. In Russia, it still seems like politics is very much a zero-sum game to be played in a multi-polar world.

Also, major figures in the UK, particularly those from a leftish leaning persuasion have always had an unhealthy obsession with the Soviet Union and now Russia. Beatrice and Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw were all acolytes of Stalin’s Russia, before changing their minds after actually witnessing the squalid reality of communism. To many on the left today, Russia is still viewed as an opponent of perceived Western Imperialism despite its own imperialistic misadventures throughout history. An alternative to the ‘hyperpower’ of the United States.

According to the recently released paper titled ‘Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia‘ since the launch of Russia today, the news network has sought out high-ranking politicians who are known to protest British foreign and domestic policy. The best known of these are Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway. Alex Salmond has just become the third member in what Dr Andrew Jackson has termed ‘Putin’s Useful Idiots’. How much persuasive power this mild fifth column triumvirate actually has is unknown, but there are a large number of posts on social media that seem to have a great deal of mistrust in Britain and a little too much regard for Russia. The recent allegations from the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, claiming that Alex Salmond is a ‘puppet’ of Russia Today will not help this notion either.

Mr Salmond seems to suffer from the occasional bout of selective memory loss. The United Kingdom was one of the great historical engines of liberal democracy, toleration, press freedom and minority rights. When rated in the terms of soft, cultural power, it is often just behind the United States and is still very much a ‘Force for Good‘ in the world. Russia not quite as much, although her past cultural and intellectual achievements can be regarded very highly. Great Britain was at the forefront of the enlightenment project during the Georgian period and the stream of intellectual and philosophical thought that this precipitated continues to influence us to this day. Scotland’s own part in this cannot be overlooked, so much so that the French political philosopher Voltaire said ‘that we Look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.’

Equally Importantly for Scotland, and even if you didn’t vote for the SNP or Alex Salmond, he was still the First Minister. If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014 he may have been our first leader. He may not now be an elected politician, but he still has a responsibility to his previous post. It may be that his own show at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe has gone to his head and given him a taste for showbiz and that his appearance on Russian Today is just a misguided and gauche attempt at a post-political career. We can only hope so.

If you are interested in learning more about the United Kingdom, Scotland's place in it, and a breakdown of all the major debates at the moment, then please visit A Force For Good, below: 

For some friendly and succinct unionist and pro-UK news on your Facebook feed  please check out United Against Separation, below: 

If you're looking to get actively involved in Unionism or just want to live the next half-decade without another Scottish Independence referendum round your neck, then get involved at Scotland in Union by clicking below: 

For news and current affairs from Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world, have a look at Scotland's Big Voice on Facebook. Be sure to check out their tactical voting wheel for the GE2017:

For more of my work, please click the following links:

The Scotsman


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The Backbencher


Skyrim, Skyrim; So Good Its Been Re-released Seven Times

Skyrim. The name needs no further introduction. If you are even slightly interested in computer gaming, you will have heard, or more likely played it. Currently, it has been released on seven platforms, was remastered only half a decade after its original release, has three official expansion packs and has sold over 30 million copies. It’s a game that has probably taken up potentially billions of hours from humanity. Hours that could have been dedicated to reading War and Peace, learning a foreign language or perfecting that soufflé recipe you saw in one of the glossy Sunday supplements.


It’s the very definition of ‘High Fantasy’. If J.R.R Tolkien, G.R.R. Martin, and Brynjar the Viking from Jorvik had a brainstorming session, with copious amounts of coffee and mead; Skyrim would have been the result of their epic meeting. Not being computer programmers, (linguists, authors and the bane of the Saxons are not known for their overwhelming skill with the propriety Creation Engine) they would have passed this onto Bethesda, who would bring their epic vision to life.

I’m something of a Skyrim fan and a keen student of the open-world formula that Bethesda has been refining for well over a decade now, at least since Morrowind, the first truly ‘live your own adventure’ game that I ever played. Morrowind soon became one of my favorite games of all time, despite a shaky start on the titular island of Vvardefell where I stupidly and naively went a puny imperial and was harassed, robbed, mugged, shaken down and killed by all manner of insect life, angry traders and cliff racers. I then created an orc character and had a fantastic adventure, solving every conundrum by hitting it on the head with a two-handed axe in what became an all-encompassing and enthralling adventure that in many ways has not been beaten since 2002.

But back to Skyrim. The re-release on the Nintendo Switch and the lingering VR version on the PS4 (Yes, I’m very tempted, despite not owning a PlayStation 4 or the VR headset) has had me hankering to get back to the snowy and unforgiving province for the first time in about two and half years. This time with the Special Edition that was generously on my Steam account for some reason.


Also, to be honest, with the unfortunate dearth of truly unique single player games this generation (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the standout exception) I was eager to revisit, what for me at least, was the pinnacle of the last console generation.

On installing the game, the basic mechanics have remained identical to the original version and are totally untouched. The Special Edition is mostly an aesthetic upgrade. But the addition of mods cannot be ignored and add an amazing and wide range of gameplay fixtures and features to an already densely packed game. New, unique followers, with often well written, humorous dialogue can be downloaded to accompany you on your travels. Little incidental details like lampposts along the roads and beehives add to the notion that people are meant to live and work here. You can even get a camping mod and one where you get hypothermia.

True to all Elder Scrolls games, you start as a featureless, raceless and nameless protagonist. Bethesda games don’t really start until after the character creation and the obligatory introductory set-piece. Once this glorified cut-scene is passed, the game truly begins. Think of the moment in Oblivion where you leave the Imperial Sewers and are left squinting at the forested hills and sparkling waterways of Cyrodiil after the dank gloom of the labyrinthine sewers under the Imperial City. In Fallout 4 it is the moment that you leave vault 101, take the elevator to the surface, and survey the irradiated and blasted wasteland that used to be your white picket fenced home with the dilapidated skyscrapers of Boston just visible on the horizon.

From this moment forward, the special edition upgrades (and mods, if you have them installed) become apparent immediately. They add another level of detail to an already intricate and beautiful game world.

Clouds gently waft over crags, ravines, and mountaintops. Flecks of light snow prance in front of your eyes before being carried away by a breeze, where they lie in great drifts and twinkle when they catch the light. External masonry looks old and weather-beaten, scarred by millennia of snow and ice. Great iron braziers crackle with fire, keeping the cold at bay, spreading their warmth to the frigid surroundings. Timber is split and has a slight coating of green mold. Landscape features such as mountains, hills, and trees now block out the light with ‘volumetric god rays’ leading to some lovely shadowing effects.


Internal environments are also more noticeable and vibrant. Roots hang down into cave systems, searching for water and nutrients. Ancient Nord burial chambers look damp and mossy with centuries of water ingress. They almost look clammy to the touch.

The game is so richly detailed and so well designed that I’m not sure what was from the original game in 2011 and from the Special Edition from 2016. When I first played the game in 2011 one of the most immersive moments was watching salmon leaping up river to their spawning grounds. This small, almost miniscule detail added to the immersion in a very subtle way. In a similar manner, eagles soar on updraughts and insects swarm over marshland areas. All of this was present in the original version of Skyrim. The Special Edition adds to this sense of place and history by augmenting the landscape with another more detailed layer of fauna, flora, weather effects and lighting.


Admittedly, the quests do all have a certain clockwork monotony to them. Investigate this. Go here. Come back with a snippet of information or a quest item. Within a few days, I was Arch-mage of the College of Winterhold despite being a novice when I arrived at the gate. I’ll be the military commander of the province of Skyrim, after successfully crushing the Stormcloak rebellion, by the time you read this. I’ll be parading through the Imperial City, with a laurel and a slave whispering ‘Memento Mori’ into my ear as a reminder of my mortal existence on this plane.

Unlike Morrowind where you had to make irreversible decisions at certain points in the quest lines, but in a similar manner to Oblivion, nothing is closed to you. You can be a thief and a fighter. Loyally destroy the enemies of the Emperor, but kill him with another faction. Such gameplay features may upset RPG purists, but at least it allows you to access the full game without doing multiple playthroughs.

Like most RPGs, you end up doing menial tasks well below your station. As the only person who can devour the souls of dragons, it probably isn’t appropriate for me to be delivering letters between the members of a love triangle. Perhaps I shouldn’t be collecting three flawless amethysts for a wedding ring when the world is burning in dragon fire. Why can’t this alchemist from Riften collect her own damn nightshade? But alas, you do these things because it’s an RPG and let’s be honest, you enjoy the world revolving around you. You want to be the hero.

For the most part, the quests provide gameplay, narrative structure, XP to level up and a gradual way of exploring the map at a leisurely and constant pace. The well realised world and the sense of leisurely exploration is a gameplay element in its own right and you will end up stumbling into an unexpected quest just by walking into a mine.

Environmental storytelling has always been one of Bethesda’s strong points. For example, skeletal remains can be found at the entrance to a barrow, looking like they were trying to claw their injured bodies from some unknown and ancient horror contained in an antechamber of a long abandoned and foreboding city. Sets of shoes, just outside a tent, can be found next to sweet rolls, implying a romantic liaison that resulted in a tragic death where two lovers were swept out to sea. A woolly mammoth can be found embedded in a glacier with Dwemer (An ancient and long extinct race of dwarves in Elder Scrolls Lore) arrows piercing its side. A man can be found slumped over a bloody grindstone, implying a grizzly and painful end. Often, no further clues are given in these scenarios, letting you construct your own narrative with a few breadcrumb pointers left by Bethesda. It creates a world where people, again, admittedly mechanically, have lived a life, loved and lost.


Skyrim was never quite the ‘virtual world’ where NPCs live their own life, independent of your character. They do have a certain routine; get up, go to work, come back. Nothing complicated. You can get ‘married’ in the game, but your spouse won’t react to your long absences. No computer game has ever achieved this level of realism, despite the promises (I’m looking at you, Fable and Peter Molyneux). And I’m not sure it would be a desirable feature either.

To all intents and purposes, you are a God in Skyrim. Nothing happens without your agency and consent. Leave your character standing forlornly outside a city and nothing will happen. The dragon Alduin won’t enslave the Nord race with the help of his scaly compatriots. The Stormcloak rebellion against Imperial rule will go dormant until you decide to take up arms again.

Bethesda have taken a lot of flack for re-releasing Skyrim on multiple platforms over the past few years and for using this particular IP as a ‘cash cow.’ However, they are one of the few dedicated and large RPG developers still standing, now that Bioware is increasingly directing its efforts on the ‘destinyesque’ Anthem now.

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Regardless of what platform you decide to play on, if you just have the ‘vanilla’ version or are using mods, the core fundamentals of Skyrim are impeccable and it is one of the ‘must plays’ of that last two generations. Very rarely has a game realised a sense of place and history so well through expert world building and the use of in-game lore.

It was a flawed masterpiece on release. The plethora of official and unofficial patches over the years has ensured that the game now runs smoothly and largely without incident. Mods on consoles have delivered a game rich in new features and gameplay elements that were previously the purview of the PC.

All you need to do now is set aside 450+ hours to experience it properly.

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What’s With All The Nationalist Boycotts?

We’re all prone to a bit of pettiness from time to time, aren’t we? Not offering to make a colleague a cup of tea at work just cause you don’t like them. Not texting someone because of a perceived slight that you thought you had incurred. Doing something on purpose just to rile someone. Usually, and in my experience, it can often be caused by a power imbalance or motivated by someone not letting you get your own way. You can either deal with this like a mature adult and acknowledge your childish behaviour or alternatively you can sulk, put your bottom lip out and strike back the only way you can: pettiness.

In general, nationalism and love of one’s own nation is not an unhealthy emotion. No one is totally rootless in life and I’ve never subscribed to the idea that I’m a ‘world citizen’, freely floating in a globalised world who can just blithely move to another culture and settle in it like it’s my native one. I would assume that many of the people reading this article care deeply about Scotland and its place in the United Kingdom.

However, there is a virulent petty streak in Scottish nationalism that is getting increasingly desperate now. With Scottish independence slowly receding into the distance, many nationalists are resorting to desperate and some might say tragic measures with increasingly ridiculous stunts to resuscitate their moribund cause, with many of these efforts only gaining praise from their own zealous peers on social media.

The harbingers of such future pettiness were present during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Discussion of the boycott of companies that supported a ‘No’ vote in 2014 was rife during the run-up to September the 18th 2014. And the nationalists would have had a hard time staying alive if they had carried through their plans to boycott all the companies they said they would. BP, Shell Oil, William Grants & Sons, British Aerospace, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, B&Q, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer’s, The BBC, Thomas Cook and Standard Life all voiced concerns over a ‘Yes’ vote. ASDA, in particular, had the temerity to voice some unofficial reservations over their operations in Scotland in the event of an independence vote. They were met with cries from the cybernats including: ‘Well ye wid side with the enemy fool hope yeez go out of business altogether and let the local shops rule again’ and ‘Still think NAW was the right idea ASDA? Traitors !!!!!.’ The notion of faceless companies being ‘traitors’ in Scotland is a relatively new phenomenon and one that is a common feature amongst the most zealous now, especially online

You would like to think that after the referendum, a period of calm would have ensued. Perhaps we all got a bit stressed out and let our passions run out in front of our logic. After all, ultimately, we were talking about our sense of identity. However, a week later, the pro-independence campaign group, ‘The 45’ were formed and they released a large list of brands that should be boycotted immediately. Mostly it was just a rehash of the brands already mentioned.

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Facebook pages titled ‘Remember The Companies That Scared Scotland’ were set up with the noble intention of recruiting citizen activists/warriors to man the barricades: ‘This is a call to the 1.6 million of you that voted yes, the 45%. Let’s never allow these companies to scare our people ever again.’ Quite how M&S scared me into making a well informed political decision during a nation-wide referendum is a mystery to me. The only time I was ever frightened in M&S was when I saw a small jar of manuka honey for £37.50p. Another Facebook page called ‘Boycott Biased Banks and Companies-BBBC’ has a selection of memes one of which says ‘Fuck you Tesco for taking the saltire from the fruit you sell. We in Scotland will buy from somewhere else’. The ‘we in Scotland’ being the 540 people who like the page.

The most infamous display of nationalist pettiness was the ‘Tunnockgate’ boycott in January 2016 where Tunnocks had supposedly removed the lion rampant from the packaging on their teacakes. It turned out that they actually hadn’t, but this was irrelevant. Such a flagrant display of a company exercising its right to independently manage its affairs at the behest of its board members was met by the 24th central-belt cybernat regiment, (The blue and white line, tipped with bile) who bravely tweeted ‘join me in boycotting #Tunnocks. Bad product anyway, Calories galore, no nutrients’ (Incidentally, that’s why people like them) another keyboard warrior stated that ‘On principle, I haven’t bought anything by #Tunnocks since 2014.’ Dark days indeed for the future of Scotland when a grown man refuses to eat a chocolate coated, marshmallow filled confection on political ‘principle’.


More recently Tesco has come under attack for a statement saying that it would be putting British flags on its produce to ensure brand continuity. Again, not unreasonable. Also, these are just products like strawberries. Scotland has a certain ‘brand’ and has foods that are associated with it. Whisky is the most prominent, but other ones include salmon, haggis, shortbread etc. So do all regions of the UK (The English do marvellous cheese pies). But soft fruits? Nothing particularly Scottish about them. However, Tesco withdrew this statement after more nationalist pettiness on social media in what A Force for Good called the ‘THE SUPERMARKET CLEARANCES’. Indeed one Scottish ‘patriot’ was so enraged at the sight of the ‘Butchers Apron’ upon his strawberries that he put a sticker over the offending flag with ‘End London Rule’ on it. I bet that showed the London ‘establishment’. This was a grown man. Follow the entire thought process that he went through and it’s really quite worrying. The faceless company makes a change to its packaging. Seething rage. Go to computer. Design leaflet. Acquire pack of stickers. Print. Go to local Tesco. Place sticker on strawberries. Ignore strange looks from staff and shoppers. Write a post on social media, probably in incoherent ‘Scoddish’ that no one has spoken since 1741. Social media ‘friends’ reply to endeavours. Increase in confirmation bias. Watch as reasonable Scottish nationalists distance themselves even further. At no point was there a period of self-reflection on such a monumental level of petty behaviour?


Again, this is not the whole of Scotland, but we should be concerned when there are people who think that a major supermarket chain selling ‘British Butter’ in their stores, North of the Border are ‘disrespecting Scotland’.

InkedDirespecting Scotland_LI

Such petty antics and boycotts also extend to Scottish cultural and historical organisations now. The National Trust for Scotland has recently appointed historian Neil Oliver as their President in what is largely a ceremonial role. However, this was also been met with howls of petty indignation from many nationalists berating the organisation with threats to cancel their subscriptions to the Trust because they appointed a man who was a unionist and a very measured and polite one at that.

InkedNeil Oliver cancel_LI

Indeed my own small, sleepy, town along the west coast of Scotland is not free from the nationalist pettiness either. A local shopkeeper has been known to throw people out of his establishment if they have a British flag on their clothing and even made the national press for his antics involving an armed forces day flag, that of course, contains the Union flag.

There is probably an underlying reason for such boycotts and one that is not immediately obvious. It’s another attack on ‘Britishness’ in Scotland. Either intentionally or by design, many of these companies are ‘British’. Think John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, B&Q. The first two quintessentially British. The obsession with ridding British flags on produce is another indicator. If you cant get a politically independent nation through democratic means, then the next best thing is to do the same thing in the cultural and economic sphere as much as possible.

The nationalists are losing the political and economic argument. The SNP were given a bloody nose in the 2017 general election and in the 2016 Scottish parliamentary elections as well. Companies and organisations should not be beholden to a bunch of petty nationalists. (What is the plural for a gathering of petty nationalists? A swarm? A hive? A plethora? A clutter?) If you are putting political slogans over British flags, you know you have lost the argument (and the plot). Like spoiled children who have been denied a sweet, the zealous nationalists in Scotland are lashing out anything they deign to be British, particularly the low hanging fruit like flags on produce etc.

The best that any person or organisation can do is it to ignore them and let them have their tantrum. In a way, it’s a positive development; if this is all they can attack now, then good. Just because you are the loudest and the pettiest does not mean you are correct. We made the same mistake of believing it in 2014, where the silent majority didn’t make themselves present until the 11th hour. We shouldn’t do it again.

More importantly is this really the nation that Scotland is turning into? Is this what we want, not even as nationalist or unionist, but as free-thinking Scots and/or Brits? A place where butter and teacakes are viewed as treacherous to a political ideology and a historical organisation takes flack for appointing someone because of their benign political views? Taken to extremes, these are dangerous trends that must be nipped in the bud. I still don’t believe that sensible, stoic, and socially conservative Scotland wants the world that the petty nationalists are trying to create.

If you are interested in learning more about the United Kingdom, Scotland's place in it, and a breakdown of all the major debates at the moment, then please visit A Force For Good, below: 

For some friendly and succinct unionist and pro-UK news on your Facebook feed  please check out United Against Separation, below: 

If you're looking to get actively involved in Unionism or just want to live the next half-decade without another Scottish Independence referendum round your neck, then get involved at Scotland in Union by clicking below: 

For news and current affairs from Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world, have a look at Scotland's Big Voice on Facebook. Be sure to check out their tactical voting wheel for the GE2017: 

For more of my work, please click the following links:

The Scotsman

The Intern Lunch

The Backbencher