England 3-0 Scotland

A comfortable scoreline for England, but the result was not always the formality it seems to suggest. The first half lacked in shots on target or quality, particularly in the final third. The one bit of quality in the final third came when Walker fizzed a cross in and Sturridge headed in to give England the lead. Scotland’s best chance came from a corner, but Hanley headed well over from 8 yards out with a free header.

Scotland started the second half well and created 2 good chances at the start, but were unable to take either. This proved costly when the head of Lallana met a cutback from Rose and doubled England’s lead. England started to keep the ball better and their third came through Cahill heading in a corner from Rooney.

England looked frail at the back and in the first hour, Scotland created plenty of chances but were unable to take any; against a stronger side, England will be punished. England do look better going forwards, but too often the quality in the final third was lacking, but when it does work, England do look dangerous. England need to improve keeping possession as too often they gave the ball away cheaply and as with the chances, better teams will punish England.

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Question Time: 10/3/16

The show came from Dundee. The first question asked if there would be a second Scottish referendum would be inevitable. Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Green Party felt there would be, whilst Ruth Davidson of the Conservatives felt there would not be because the SNP had described it as a once in a generation vote. John Swinney of the SNP argued there would be because the ‘No’ campaign put forward the case that voting to remain part of the UK was the only way to ensure Scotland remaining as part of Europe. Journalist Tim Stanley argued that austerity measures would be forced on Scotland. Jenny Marra said that she thought the UK would vote to remain in the EU, but if the UK did leave, it would be up to the Scottish people to decide. Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats argued that if the UK voted to leave, it would re-open the Scottish independence debate. Rennie also accused the SNP of threatening referendums on Scotland’s future on a constant basis since the result was announced.

The second question asked if we should listen to the Queen’s opinion regarding Britain’s role in Europe following the story in The Sun, in which she is alleged to have favoured leaving. Stanley said that we should only know what the Queen thinks if she wants us to. Swinney agreed that if the conversation was private, it should have remained so. Davidson said that the Queen has remained above politics and that Buckingham Palace is denying a story that has no firm claims behind it. Harvie argued that the Queen taking a side would not be in keeping with her role. Marra also agreed that the Queen has remained out of politics and that private conversations should remain so.

Question 3 asked if the economic argument for Scottish independence is now dead following a £15 billion gap.. Davidson agreed that it was and the figures support this and that all countries benefit from Scotland being in the UK. She added that it was known that oil revenues would drop, which would have affect the economy. Swinney argued that Scotland needs to make the most of the resources it has and favoured looking at Scotland’s economy over a period of time longer than one year and that there are good signs for the Scottish economy. Marra countered that Scotland’s defecit is higher than the rest of the UK. Rennie said that Swinney had said in the past that Scotland’s economy would be volatile due to changes in oil prices. Harvie argued that the SNP’s economic plan was reliant on oil, something opposed by the Greens for both economic and environmental reasons and that oil and gas are not the future. Stanley said that the SNP had gambled with the oil price staying high and that Scotland is stronger as part of the UK.

The fourth and final question asked if the panel would increase taxes to secure the future of the NHS in Scotland. Rennie said there does need to be investment in the NHS and that the Liberal Democrats would increase taxes to improve public services. Morra agreed there is an issue with finance in the NHS and they would put a penny on income tax and protect health spending. Stanley put forward the point of view that raising taxes would not help because the NHS needs to change to reflect the changes in the country since it was introduced. Swinney argued that health spending has never been higher in Scotland and that he chose not to increase tax to pay for higher spending so as not to place a greater burden on taxpayers on the lowest levels of income. Davidson argued that levels of investment in the NHS in Scotland were lower than for the rest of the UK, but Harvie countered by arguing that Scotland should not mirror the spending of the rest of the UK and that people earning more should be prepared to pay more.

Australia 35-34 Scotland

Australia secured their place in the semi-finals with the narrowest of victories over Scotland. Australia started well and it looked that the game would progress as expected with a routine Australian victory, but Scotland soon got themselves into the game. Australia found success with driving mauls from the lineout, but gave away some soft tries, with Foley in particular having a poor game; he missed many kicks, struggled under the high ball and had a kick charged down that led to a Scottish try. However, he slotted the winning penalty with just under a minute to go.

Australia will play Argentina in the semi-final. After good performances against England and Wales, Australia were expected to secure quite a comfortable victory, but Scotland seemed to cause them problems and did much better at the breakdown than either England or Wales managed; Australia must be hoping that they can name Pocock next week. Argentina have showed that they are a dangerous side and a similar performance from Australia next week would give Argentina a great chance of making the final. For Scotland, this was a performance that they will be hoping to build upon in the Six Nations.

Scotland 39-16 USA

Scotland survived a first half scare and recorded a comfortable win over USA in Pool B to move to the top with the maximum number of points possible. The first half saw USA play physically with some big hits, whilst Scotland lacked precision; this resulted in America leading 13-6. Scotland righted this in the second half and their increased precision saw them run in 5 tries and secure another bonus point victory.

Scotland have achieved exactly what they would have wanted with two bonus point victories over the weakest two teams in the Pool and have put themselves in a good position to qualify for the quarter finals. However, they have a sterner test against South Africa next week and finish with a difficult game against Samoa. For USA, it is difficult to see how they will beat South Africa (when Scotland’s precision increased, USA struggled and South Africa will surely play with precision whilst matching the physicality), but they will be looking for a victory over Japan.

Rugby World Cup: Pool B preview

Countries competing in the pool (IRB ranking in brackets):

Japan (13)
Samoa (12)
Scotland (10)
South Africa (3)
USA (15)

With the exception of South Africa, this looks to be a closely matched pool. I think that South Africa will qualify with ease and can’t see any of the other four teams challenging them effectively. I think that the key game will be between Scotland and Samoa, with the winners of that game qualifying behind South Africa. I also think that the game between Japan and USA will be an important one, with the winners of that game avoiding bottom spot in the group.

Predicted final table:

1. South Africa
2. Scotland
3. Samoa
4. Japan
5. USA

Question Time: 28/5/15

Question Time was in Aberdeen and the first question was about the SNP’s role at Westminster. John Nicolson argued that as the third largest party, the SNP should sit where the third party traditionally sit and that Labour were making an unnecessary fuss over it; Nicolson said that he believes most people are more interested in what is being said as opposed to where people are sitting. Nicolson said that the SNP would be looking to increase the amount of power Scotland has. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, focused on some problems the SNP has in the Scottish parliament as opposed to their role at Westminster. Lord Falconer argued that the SNP MPs should be looking to represent their constituents as best they can within the context of Scotland as part of the UK. Alex Massie, Scotland editor of The Spectator argued that the role of the SNP is, as with all opposition parties, to hold the government to account, particularly with regards to the Scotland Bill. Lesley Riddoch, columnist for The Scotsman put forward the view that the SNP should be looking at big issues, such as Trident, PR and the EU Referendum.

Question two asked if the Home Nations should boycott the World Cup. Massie pointed out that it needs collective action for it to happen, otherwise it would be fairly ineffectual. Riddoch argued that there are problems throughout the game of football, so there should be little surprise that there are issues at FIFA; I would argue that there is a big difference between the game of football and FIFA. Nicolson wanted the presidential election to be delayed and the 2018 and 2022 bids to be re-run. Davidson’s point was that there has been the suggestion of corruption at FIFA for 10 years. Lord Falconer believes that withdrawals would hasten the end of FIFA in its current state.

The third question asked what should happen if the UK voted to leave the EU, but the vote in Scotland showed a majority wishing to stay in the EU. Massie believes that if that were the case, another independence referendum would follow. Nicolson argued that all countries of the UK should have to vote to leave in order for the UK to leave and that 16 and 17 year olds should be eligible to vote, along with EU citizens. Lord Falconer believes that the vote across the UK should be the one that is stood by, regardless of regional differences. Riddoch argued that polls have shown Scotland being steadily 2 to 1 pro-Europe.

Question four asked if Alistair Carmichael should resign following a story during the election that Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to win. The general view seemed to be that it was up to Carmichael and his constituency to decide what should happen.

The final question concerned the right to die for terminally ill patients. Riddoch said she supported the right. Davidson said that it is an issue that needs to continue to be debated. Lord Falconer was in favour as long as there are safeguards in place like there are in other countries. Massie was unsure as to what should happen. Nicolson argued that it is a matter of conscience for the individual, but personally would be in favour.