McAlpine Signs off from Scotsman with Thanks and Recollections

It is the last day, today, of SNP MSP Joan McAlpine's weekly column for The Scotsman, as she prepares to take up a similar role with the Daily Record.

And she used the opportunity to dispense some grateful thanks and journalistic recollections, in readiness for adding an independence voice to the Labour-supporting Record.

She begins: “It’s always hard to say goodbye, particularly for the second time. When I last said farewell to The Scotsman, back in 1996, it was like leaving home. Certainly the transition from scholarly broadsheet – it was quite literally a handful – to a red-top tabloid, took some adjustment. The Scotsman was my first national newspaper, having joined as a reporter in the Glasgow office in 1989. I came of age there, professionally speaking. My current move – this is my last column for these pages – will be less of a culture shock, having been round most of the Scottish media houses in the intervening period, both as an editor and commentator.

“I appreciate the opportunity given to me by the comment editor, Peter MacMahon, and the editor, John McLellan, to play a leading role in the debate on Scotland’s future. The Scotsman’s Perspective pages are rightly acknowledged as the leading platform for the exchange of political ideas in the country’s print media. In an era of scant newspaper resources, the breadth and quality of opinion is in no small part due to the talent and ingenuity of the commissioning editors.”

She adds: “I will not miss the Cyber Brits who leave sexist, abusive comments at the bottom of my columns.”

And writing of her first time at The Scotsman, she goes on to say: “The journalists who most influenced my writing at the time were Joan Didion, whose chronicles of late-Sixties West Coast America are unsurpassed in capturing the mood of a time and place; Ian Jack, the London-based Scot whose feature writing examined the social upheaval of the Thatcher years without descending into cliché; Neal Ascheron, a brilliant mind who put Scottish aspirations in a historical and European context, and George Orwell, the novelist whose talent for reportage is too often overlooked. When I moved into the little cubbyhole above Fleshmarket Close that was The Scotsman features department, it was these people whose cuttings cluttered my desk.

“Under the direction of the late features editor Bob Campbell, we had space, time and encouragement to chronicle our country in a pivotal period. It was a privilege to speak to people and hear their stories. The kind of personal contact with communities and individuals that comes from being an MSP reminds me of that time.

“This most recent period at The Scotsman is a strange mirror of those earlier times. Like the 1990s, there is a desire for change. But then it was born out of anger and loss. Now, it rides on a wave of optimism. My first column on rejoining this paper in 2010 looked at the fiscally autonomous region of the Basque country in Spain as a model for Scotland’s future. Almost two years on from that column, the Campaign for Fiscal Responsibility, which I signed up to in 2010, is at the centre of the political debate.”