Happy New Year to one and all.
I'm on the train heading back to that there London for the start of the new term at the political equivalent of Hogwarts.
Lots of stuff in the diary already this week. Looking forward to my studio debut on The Politics Show tomorrow. Then a series of briefings throughout the day. On Wednesday I hope to get in on a debate of the treatment of Palestinian children by the Israelis, and there will be Scottish Questions in the main chamber after. And I trust there will be several opportunities to hold the government to account on both flood defences and selling arms to the barbaric regime in Saudi Arabia.
Inevitably, though, minds are turning to the May elections. I'll be playing a supportive role this year helping the excellent team of SNP candidates in Edinburgh East as much as I can.
I'm looking forward to being able to put the SNP's record in government to the people for judgement. It's a good record of decent choices made in difficult circumstances, of free provision of medicines and higher education maintained in the face of a ten percent overall cut in the Scottish budget - which is, of course, controlled by Westminster. And I'm looking forward to campaigning on a positive practical vision for Scotland's future - even before we become independent.
But there's a worrying development in this prelude to the election campaign in the actions and and attitude of our main opponents. I know both Tories and Labour have their own problems. The Tories facing a year of division over Europe and Labour is divided on, well, pretty much everything. But even so, we've all got to try to engage in some political discourse rather than name calling.
The argument goes, and degrades, like this at the moment.
The SNP's opponents will make an allegation about something the Scottish government has apparently done and demand that they defend their record. The SNP and its supporters do just that - either refuting or explaining. At this point our opponents should say - ah, but that doesn't answer the question and besides, here's another one. This is how political arguments usually unfold. But in Scotland many of our opponents often don't do that. Instead, they condemn the SNP - often SNP members on social media - for having responded to the criticism in the first place. You can't take criticism, they say, you're all being told what to do. SNP monolith. One party state. Robots! Yada-yada.
Come on guys, countering an argument or a point of view with an alternative is actual political discourse. It's a great thing and we should all see it as fundamental component of a thriving democracy.
Some anti SNP commentators go on about how shocking it is that people in the party agree with each other and that this is obvious evidence of brain-washing or democratic centralism rather than individuals genuinely sharing a common perspective. Is really isn't. We don't all agree with each other all of the time by the way. But we do seem to have the knack of having a discussion to resolve disagreements in a collegiate, dare I say fraternal, way. And why is it remarkable that people in the same political party should agree on the big picture stuff anyway?
I don't mind being called a robot or brain-washed. I'm big and ugly enough to take whatever names I get. But my guess is that this probably isn't a good thing to call the Scottish electorate if you're trying to win them over.
Anyway, here's Kings Cross - let's see how it goes.....