A TIRESOME slew of obloquy ensued last week when The Herald shed light on the responsibilities of Scotland’s recently-appointed Minister for Independence, Jamie Hepburn.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that Mr Hepburn, who received a £32k salary boost for his ministerial upgrade, has no specific budget, only one member of staff, and has held only one ministerial meeting in connection with his grand new title.

I feel, however, that these critics are lacking in imagination and missing the point. Mr Hepburn fills one of 28 Cabinet and ministerial posts in Humza Yousaf’s government and it would seem strange if such a swollen executive didn’t have someone who was keeping a beady eye on constitutional matters.

Besides, I like the idea of giving as many MSPs as possible some kind of ministerial brief. It conveys the idea that you’re taking things seriously even when you’re not. Isn’t this part of modern politics where the optics are considered to be crucial?

And why stop at 28? I’d be in favour of creating brave new ministerial departments for all of the governing party’s MSPs. It would say to the world that in Scotland we expect every elected member to gain expertise in some area, even if it doesn’t immediately pertain directly to Scotland.

Mr Hepburn’s appointment shows that the party is at least keeping a light on for Scottish independence, no matter how remote that possibility may currently be.

I’d also have a Minister for the World Cup. We all know that Scotland winning the World Cup is about as likely as securing independence. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared if it were ever to happen.

And could we have a Minister for Bears? Large parts of the Highlands were once hoaching with the big chaps and their reintroduction would boost tourism no end.

They would also provide a wee Brucie Bonus in menacing the pestilent Munro-bagging community. Their endless jouking up and down our most beautiful wild spaces must affect the mental health of all those native species which had been living peacefully there for millennia before the invasion of the backpackers started.

I’d also have a Minister for Mars, just in case we get to colonise the Red Planet and need to claim a bit of it for Scotland. And how about a Minister for the Apocalypse because, well … you never know the minute.

Indy crusade

A DEAR friend of this column has provided me with a reminder that Scotland’s quest for independence is indeed a sacred one. It follows the disappointment I expressed last week in the low-calibre approach of the National Museum of Scotland to exhibiting the Declaration of Arbroath.

In pre-Reformation Scotland, the Catholic Church played a significant role in the Wars of Independence and in drafting the Declaration of Arbroath. In those days, the Pope was the final arbiter of a country’s self-determination. Since then, the Vatican is one of only two major global authorities which continue to respect Scotland’s own unique voice.

The other one is Fifa which permits Scotland to compete as a sovereign nation in the world’s most socially and culturally important sport.

I would commend both of these organisations to Jamie Hepburn and suggest that he undertake diplomatic missions to Rome and Switzerland in the very near future for the purposes of reinforcing Scotland’s cultural ties to both.

Claim to fame

OF COURSE, the small-minded among us would gather to shake their fists at such diplomatic undertakings should Mr Hepburn take my advice and rekindle our ancient links with the Pope and football.

Think of the cost of these trips, they’ll say.

At least it won’t come anywhere the legendary expense claims of Ernest Hemingway.





Napier University’s Professor Eamonn O’Neill, who is researching a new book about the great American writer, tells me that among the papers he discovered in the JFK Museum’s Hemingway collection was an expenses claim filed in 1944 for £13k

– amounting to more than £100k in today’s money.

It seems Hemingway had a falling-out with bosses at the magazine for which he was providing war copy, and decided to claim for everything that moved and had its being in his immediate environment.

This is another reason why many journalists consider Hemingway to be their unofficial patron saint.

Rise to the occasion

TO baking matters and a tale of which Mr Hemingway, inset, a noted bon viveur, would have approved in this week’s New Yorker magazine.

Hannah Goldfield, in her splendid restaurant review, adds an eye-watering postscript featuring a “sex-positive” bakery called Sugar Wood. This, according to Ms Goldfield, specialises in “waffles shaped like human genitalia, complete with icing as body fluid”.

I feel sure that Greggs, our own national patisserie, might rise to this challenge and attempt something similarly bold with its world-famous steak bakes, big softies and sundry others of its kenspeckle treats.

In these progressive times it behoves us all to embrace enlightened and challenging concepts.