A call to action for Edinburgh which every one of us must heed


‘This is not a set of recommendations, it’s a call to action’, said Jim McCormick introducing the final report of Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s report today. With characteristic calm candour, McCormick, the commission’s chair, levelled with us. That call to action is not merely for officialdom. It is for all of us — the citizens of […]
Cummings must go – but whatever happens trust is the real casualty


The Prime Minister has bottled it. Astonishingly to even the most disinterested observer, he has argued that Dominic Cummings acted responsibly, legally and with integrity. But his defence won’t stem the tide of calls for Cummings to go. Quite the reverse. The case for Cummings’ departure was made with characteristic brilliance by the commentator, Alex […]
When plagues meet – a lesson from history about bad blood


Here we go again. New plague. Same stigma. Gay and bisexual men have been told they cannot donate their plasma to a trial hoping to provide a treatment for COVID-19. To be clear this is not about access to treatment. It merely reinforces a discriminatory provision already in place for blood donation. Men who have […]
We will meet again: but the world has already changed


A long time ago, in another world, I was with a group of trade union colleagues in Belfast. Drink had been taken. Late in the evening, our Northern Irish colleagues just out of earshot, one of our number, Pete, commented on how remarkable they were. And how we couldn’t do what they did. Pete was […]
‘Waiting for the world to begin again’ – a letter from a plague


I know it’s been a while since my last letter. But we agreed, didn’t we, a few months before you died when I broke down in the hospital, that I’d get on with life? The thing is, 25 years after you left us, we’re in the middle of another plague. I had to let you […]
Stay at home, save lives – nothing else matters now


We’re locked down. We knew it was coming and yet when the moment came it was still deeply shocking. It made for an evening none of us who live through this crisis will ever forget. And for the vast majority of us, like none other we’ve experienced before. Or ever thought we would. If living […]
How do we survive a plague? Only connect!


Picture it. Edinburgh, the Meadows. It’s late March. Dusk. The evenings have only just lightened up again. A group of runners assembling for our Thursday session. Sidling up in dribs and drabs. Chit-chatting. Waiting for coach Alex to call us to order. ‘Thanks for rocking up’, is how he’s always started. Accompanied by knowing grins […]
How do we survive a plague? Together


For those of us who found ourselves at the heart of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, COVID-19 incites old emotions which have never been far from the surface in the intervening decades. In myriad ways, the world of 2020 is one we couldn’t have imagined back then — not least the digital connectivity we […]