By Tim Montgomerie
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Earlier this week an opinion poll suggested that Alex Salmond's dream of an independent Scotland was becoming more and more unlikely. Support for separation had dropped to 30% despite the Scottish First Minister's efforts to take the sting out of independence by, for example, arguing that leaving the UK wouldn't mean losing the monarchy, the pound or NATO membership.
Iain Martin has argued that the London 2012 effect won't help the SNP cause. "The generous, optimistic, outward-looking spirit of the British effort at London 2012," he blogged, "will boost Unionist morale and add to the sense that the game is drifting away from Salmond."
Murdo Fraser MSP, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, has tabled several questions to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body about hanging a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Scottish Parliament.
There are, of course, portraits of the Queen in Westminster and Boris Johnson has just unveiled a portrait of her in the London Assembly.
Mr Fraser commented:
“As our Head of State, I think it is only right that we have a portrait of The Queen hanging in a prominent part of the Scottish Parliament, such as in the Main Entrance or the Garden Lobby. When you visit public buildings throughout the world you invariably see a portrait of the country’s Head of State, and it seems extraordinary that we no such portrait at present in our own Parliament.
The Queen inspires many people across the world and is a leading example to us all of dignity, courage and goodwill. I am sure that everyone in the Scottish Parliament connects with these principles and I hope the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body look positively at this proposal.
If we are able to have marble cubes, rugs on walls and misshaped green bronze sculptures in the complex, then I am sure that a portrait of our Head of State is also possible.
We are celebrating ten years of devolution this summer and I think a permanent portrait of The Queen in the Scottish Parliament would be a great addition to our Parliament. Scotland is a proud nation and many people are proud of our Queen and of her affection for Scotland.”
These are the questions Mr Fraser tabled:
"To ask the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body why there is no portrait of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II in the Scottish Parliament complex"
"To ask the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body what consideration it has given to hanging a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II in the Scottish Parliament complex"
"To ask the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body if it will agree to hanging a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II in the Scottish Parliament complex"
Quite right too.
The red squirrel faces extinction: "Presiding Officer, tonight we are debating a serious subject matter. Since I first raised this issue in the Scottish Parliament in June 2006, some people still react to it with some amusement. However, we are talking about protecting the red squirrel from eventual extinction in the United Kingdom. As Scotland is the last stronghold for the red squirrel in United Kingdom, we have to play the leading role in saving the reds and longer we leave it, the harder it will be to reverse the decline of the red squirrel."
Grey and red squirrels cannot coexist: "Red and grey squirrels cannot co-exist together and red squirrels eventually disappear from an area that has both reds and greys. The reason for this is that grey squirrels out-compete the reds for food and shelter. Since the first introduction of the grey squirrels to the UK from America in 1876, grey squirrels have been continuously encroaching on red squirrel territory. To make matters worse, grey squirrels carry the squirrel pox virus which is harmless to greys but fatal to reds. In Summer 2007 we had the first confirmation of a red squirrel in Scotland dying from squirrel pox, showing that the disease has entered Scotland."
We must stop grey squirrels breeding: "As set out in my motion, I want the Scottish Government to consider long term strategies, such as research into and the possibility of immunocontraception for grey squirrels to stop them breeding."
We need to protect red squirrels' habitat: "As well as the possibility of immunocontraception, plans need to be implemented that will help and improve red squirrel habitat across Scotland, such as planting trees that are red squirrel friendly such as a mix of broad-leaved and coniferous trees. I hope that this debate acts as a catalyst for ideas and strategies to help protect the red squirrel, which the Scottish Government can use and build on."
This is Mr Fraser's motion:
"That the Parliament is concerned at the continuing encroachment of the non-native grey squirrel in Scotland on native red squirrel territory, including parts of Mid-Scotland and Fife; notes that Scotland is the last stronghold in the United Kingdom for red squirrels and is home to approximately 120,000 reds, which accounts for 75% of the UK red squirrel population; observes that red and grey squirrels are unable to co-exist together in the same territory and that red squirrels eventually disappear due to competition for food and the carrying of the squirrel pox virus by grey squirrels which is harmless to them but fatal to reds; is alarmed to learn that the first grey squirrel was officially reported in the Highlands near Inverness in April 2008 and that the first red squirrel in Scotland contracted squirrel pox in the South of Scotland in May 2007, underlining the growing threat to red squirrels in Scotland, and believes that urgent action is required to protect the red squirrel, including research into immunocontraception for grey squirrels."
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