Letter from Edinburgh

Some years ago Abertay University in Dundee launched a degree in computer games. They were given a hard time by the media which cited “Mickey Mouse” degrees with pictures of kids on their playstations.

But there is less fun at the univer­sity’s expense now. The computer games industry grows more every year. Dundee is inter­nationally recognised as a centre of innovation and new ideas. Many of the top games arriving with Santa this Christmas originated in Dun­dee. There are Abertay graduates working both locally and nationally in the industry. So it’s a success story.

But what of the ethical question? The one that states that too many Scots are couch potatoes and most of us don’t take enough exercise. And simply designing new ways to sit behind a PC isn’t helping.

I posed this question to a software engineer this week. He asked what exercise is taken read­ing a book other than of the brain. He observed that, when television became the norm, what did that do for the nation’s health? The better answer was that what was needed was an agile brain and an agile body in balance. And there’s no point in having a go at one of Scot­land’s growth industries because the nation is worried about obesity.

There has been a surreal air to the Scottish Parliament since the Christmas break. The politics is all in Westminster. We could all tell that this week because Alex Salm­ond, despite being an MP for these past two years, made one of his very occasional visits to the House of Commons!

But big politics – the General Election, yet another woeful attempt by Labour to remove Gordon Brown – has all been going on south of the border. It will be like this till the election is fought and people exercise their democratic rights. The sooner the better.

In Edinburgh, the Parliament will debate the budget. Local gov­ern­ment is facing a real financial squeeze. Not many councils had spare money put aside for three weeks of snow and ice, to say nothing of the road repairs that will be required. Yet the Scottish gov­ern­ment’s budget will be like the world hasn’t changed. But finan­cially it has. So when will there be a real debate on budgetary pres­sures facing schools, hospitals and care homes? After the election of course. I don’t think treating the Scottish and British electorate as playschool aged children is a terribly sensible strategy.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel – Up-Helly-A’ is but a couple of weeks away. Fine to see the Scalloway Fire Festival enjoying a beautiful night of weather.

Incidentally I will leave the following question hanging in the hope of one day getting an answer – why does my squad so love dance routines?

Tavish Scott MSP


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