May 8, 2007

This should be my final election post, unless something really surprising happens in the next few days. My thoughts on the whole afair:

  • The voting mechanism was too complex. 3 votes, one election. It’s no wonder people didn’t know the difference between a constituency and a region. It’s not a surprise that people didn’t understand where to put the numbers for the local council election. With regards to the numbers, how are they counted? Is only one number used? How are the numbers weighted? Does 1 mean ‘1’, and 2 mean ‘0.5’, etc? The instructions telling me what to do with my numbers were fair enough, but if people don’t understand why they have to follow these instructions, then of course things are going to go wrong.
  • The smaller parties may have been drowned out by the noise of hundreds of leaflets in my letterbox, handed out on the street, attached to lampposts, etc. In this case, three votes in one day may have worked for the bigger parties, and against the smaller parties.
  • Labour weren’t destroyed, they didn’t lose that much. A vote for SNP was not the protest vote against Labour the media wanted us to believe. It was a protest vote against the perceived lack of change post-devolution, considering that the only party to gain seats was the SNP, and all others lost seats.
  • The vote for the SNP became possible when they made it clear that the vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence. At that point they became a valid political party. In the light of the results, it seems clear that outright independence is something a lot of Scots don’t really want. That’s fair: a lot of Scots would have grown up through the dark years of post-war depression and attribute the spectacular regeneration of the UK to the Union, not to Scotland.
  • An SNP minority Government can’t be a bad thing. If it requires more discussion and debate, then these election results could be the best thing yet to happen to the Scottish Parliament.

That’s what I think, anyway. Time will tell.


May 1, 2007

Pre-election jitters, that is. Is a vote for independence the death knell of my great nation? Or will it release us from our cage?

I’m not qualified to say, which is why it scares me that I should have this decision bestowed upon me. I’m not a money man. I’m not a politician. I’m an academically-inclined nerd who works at a University. Why should I have to make this important decision regarding where our nation goes?

Given that I feel this way, it strikes me as really scary that most of the rest of the nation can also vote. I’ve tried to dig into the facts behind the propaganda pushed out by the political parties, but how many people actually do that? How many people really think about their vote beyond “Oh, I really like that McConnell chap” or “Fuck the English”? That independence is potentially fueled by hatred than levelheadedness scares me even more.

So it is with interest that I picked up the current issue of the Economist, to see what they had to say on the issue. I enjoy the Economist; it’s well written, and provides me with a hell of a lot of new information whenever I pick it up.

They say the jury is still out on whether Scotland could support itself, but they err on the side of caution. Summary? Labour’s numbers show that the Government spent £11.2billion more in Scotland than we raised in taxes. But these numbers don’t include revenue from North Sea oil. This is where previous SNP campaigns, by suggesting that our North Sea oil money would have made us rich, have fallen short in credibility: oil prices vary heavily with respect to time, oil reserves are running out (and in the meantime, becoming harder to extract), and perhaps most importantly we haven’t yet negotiated which parts of UK North Sea oil belong to England, and which to Scotland.

The Scottish Executive suggests that if all North Sea oil revenues were attributed to Scotland, we still fall 5% short. I’m not against increased taxation, as such, to make up the shortfall. But how angry will people be if the numbers really don’t add up, and the SNP fail to provide what they’ve promised? Does Scotland need an ugly burn of right-wing capitalism directly after independence? I’m inclined to think so. We might still be a bit too left-of-centre to succeed.

Do I want to believe in an independent Scotland? Yes, I most certainly do. Do I feel qualified to suggest that we can make it as an independent Scotland? Certainly not. Do I feel so inclined to support the underdog (ie, ourselves) that I should vote for the SNP this week? Almost certainly yes.


April 27, 2007

When saying in my previous post that no party aside from the SNP stands out from any other, I’d clearly forgotten about the Scottish Christian Party. I’d never heard of them before (my previous addresses in the derelict regions of Lanarkshire, which have struggled to be anything but commuter towns ever since the coal mining went away, were unsurprisingly devoutly SNP, Lib Dem, and Labour strongholds). The Scottish Christian Party looks to be a whole different sort of dangerous.

I’ve taken an extract from the wikipedia page on the party:

  1. legislation to ban abortion
  2. increased taxation on alcohol and tobacco
  3. initiatives to bring personal responsibility to bear upon self-inflicted disease (such as alcoholism)
  4. Zero Tolerance on drug possession
  5. curfews for the under 11 year olds, with mandatory intervention of child protection agencies in relation to any child 10 years or younger that is found unaccompanied on the street after 9:00pm
  6. return to use of corporal punishment in schools
  7. greater observance of a weekly day of rest (Sunday)
  8. seek limits around coastlines to preserve stocks of fish and sand eels
  9. promotion in school of chastity before marriage
  10. re-instatement of Section 2A (also known as Section 28), thus calling for the end of the promotion and “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
  11. re-introduce corporate readings from the Bible in all Scottish state schools
  12. science curriculum should reflect the evidence of creation/design in the universe
  13. will publicise the catastrophic effect of ungodly behaviour on the life expectancy and health of people, whom God loves and we should love; particularly homosexuality, excessive drinking and the use of addictive substances
  14. restore the right for parents to smack their children
  15. Mind Pollution Levy on 18 Certificate Films, DVDs, CDs, Video Games and Top Shelf magazines
  16. seek to re-establish the principle of the innocent party in a divorce being acknowledged in any divorce settlement
  17. oppose the practice of altering birth certificates to reflect gender re-orientation surgery
  18. provision of Christian religious education should be mandatory
  19. promote biblical alternatives to the current criminal justice system
  20. that Mechanical Copyright Protection enjoyed by songwriters should be extended to featured recording artists and record producers
  21. that a minimum royalty percentage (the level of which should be decided through consultation with the music industry) should be paid to featured recording artists and producers on exactly the same basis as is currently paid to songwriters

Like, WOAH. Don’t these guys sound like a bunch of wackos? It’s the anti-alcohol, anti-tobacco, anti-drug, anti-abortion, anti-sex, anti-contraception, anti-INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT BRIGADE.

1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18 are all just crazy talk. These guys clearly don’t believe in individualism. More than half of their policies are crazy talk.

A bigger concern with all of this is that there are people out there who believe that religion can, and should, be a strong part of Government. It shouldn’t. It never really has been, so why should it now.

For centuries, we operated with two controlling bodies: the church, and the state. In most people’s lives, the church was the more important part. The church had power. For instance, the church was initially the group who provided what eventually became the Poor Law: benefits, food, shelter for people temporarily down on their luck. That Scotland was allowed to keep its own Church distinct from England’s was one of the selling points of the Union — for as long as Christianity prevailed, we largely governed ourselves. Most Governments since the Union have taken the viewpoint that Scotland is a country within the UK, not an extension of England (Thatcher being the notable Prime Minister who thought otherwise), so for a long time we had our own church, and distinct representation at Westminster. One primary reason the Union has lasted so long is that we were granted rather a lot of freedom by this arrangement.

Of course, times change. I believe modern-day church attendances are around the 20% mark. Over time, Government slowly but surely sucked up the power that the church was losing, and so prior to devolution we were more centrally governed from outwith our boundaries than ever before. Devolution restored the balance somewhat (whether it’s inadvertently found a tipping point whereby independence is inevitable, only time will tell).

Within that percentage of the population who are regular churchgoers, I’d like to think that most aren’t so totalitarian as the Scottish Christian Party. I hope to see them receive as few votes as possible.


April 22, 2007

I’m standing outside of the train station. There’s a group of people huddled together, with an array of yellow banners, badges, leaflets, and clipboards. The SNP look to be canvassing. Standing amongst this group is Nicola Sturgeon, deputy leader of the party, also campaigning against the majority Labour vote to win a seat in this particular part of the city. It’s always interesting to see somebody from the TV standing in front of you in the street.

I watch quietly, off to the side, to see what they’re doing. While they’re talking, a gent in his thirties approaches the group. He’s recognised Nicola, and he’ll realise that she’s running for the local elections in this area. He tries to get her attention.

“Nicola. Nicola… Nicola

She either ignores, or doesn’t hear. He’s not being obnoxious or impolite, though perhaps he is just a touch forward. Eventually, she notices, and moves toward him.

“Nicola, you’ve got ma vote. Nicola, you’ve got ma vote. Ah cannae even get a job at the moment. Nae fuckin’ money.”

She steps over to him, doesn’t say a thing, and shakes his hand. She walks away. He’s determined to have his say.

“Nicola… Nicola…”

She takes a leaflet off a fellow canvasser, and hands it to the poor guy. He stumbles away.

She seems to have his vote either way, but she wasn’t exactly an advert for herself or her party. Too busy to talk to a voter? Come on.

I’m not sure what he’s wanting out of the SNP. Does he actually want a job? Or does he want a bigger state handout? Scotland’s been slowly but surely working off the socialist leanings it had to adopt after two world wars to survive. We don’t want to step back.

What’s important for Scotland?

  • Governance. Whether that means increased power in the devolved parliament, or total independence, I do not know.
  • Transparent taxation. All the parties win votes by campaigning for lower taxes, but they’re never clear on how they’re going to lower taxes and improve everything else. I want an honest-to-god tax, straight up. Tax my income. Don’t tax my income, my home, my car, my fuel, my miles, my air travel, my beer. We have no clue how much tax we actually pay, because most of it is hidden away from us.
  • Education and healthcare for all. Total left-wing stance on these issues.
  • Improved infrastructure. Maintain and improve basic amenities: electricity, water, gas, data, travel. Private companies who offer services over this infrastructure is great. Encourage any public transport scheme, improve bus links, build new rail lines, open up tram links. I’d heartily suggest unifying the ticketing scheme used by all forms of Scottish public transport, and the publishing of a guide to services.
  • Politicians who speak to the people. My previously neutral stance of Ms. Sturgeon has gone downhill somewhat after her behaviour today.

She may have just lost my local vote.


March 26, 2007

We’re running rather close to the upcoming Scottish Parliament election in May. I find myself torn over who to vote for.

I’ve spoken before about how I’m proud of my nationality. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m Scottish, was brought up in Scotland, and still live in Scotland. I enjoy wearing a kilt and chasing haggis whenever possible. If someone asks me where I’m from, I’ll say Scotland. I write “Scottish” under “nationality” on any form. I’m Scottish before I’m British.

But I’m torn. There are only two serious candidates in the upcoming election: Labour and the SNP.

Labour, in the red corner, are currently in power but don’t seem to have any teeth any more. Jack McConnell is fairly bland as politicians go, the novelty of somebody-other-than-the-Tories being in power has long since worn off, and enough people dislike Blair’s Iraq war, the Trident “nuclear deterrent” (just a few miles from here), Labour’s stab at promoting “Britishness” (though I wonder what our friends in Northern Ireland think of that), and Brown’s recent budget forcing the lowest earners to pay twice as much income tax, that Labour are on very shaky ground. The Tories, in the blue corner, will never gain power in Scotland, not in my lifetime. They did enough damage to their reputation during their last gazillion years in power in Westminster. The Lib Dems, bless ’em, never seem to have anything of their own to say. They don’t have any balls as a political party, so have often been viewed as a ‘default’ vote whenever the voting public couldn’t figure out if they preferred red or blue (ironic, then, that the Lib Dems are a nice shade of yellow).

The only other real option I see up here is the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). I’ll ignore the fact that their colour is also yellow for the purposes of this blog post.

The SNP have been around for a good long while, always shouting for an independent Scotland. Their stance since the discovery of North Sea Oil is that England has been taking most of our money away from us, and that Scotland will be a rich nation if only we can make money out of the last of the oil, and that we can only do that by freeing ourselves from Westminster. I’m pretty sure using oil as one of your biggest bargaining chips these eco-friendly days isn’t the best way to win votes, but their bigger message is that of an independent Scotland. That’s the part people will listen to.

Yesterday, the papers ran the following story: The SNP revealed their intended timing and cost of a referendum on independence. If they win power this time around, they intend to ask the following in 2010:

The Scottish parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the white paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state. Do you agree of disagree?”

The timing is such that they’ll have enough time in power to prove themselves in the eye of the public. I’ve not read in enough detail to find out if the white paper they refer to is available yet.

So, should Scotland be independent? Perhaps. There are certainly lots of other small nations who get on just fine by themselves, so why can’t we? I certainly don’t want to poo-poo the Union, as it’s served both Scotland and England very well over the years. But is it still relevant in 2007? I’m not so sure. So much stuff gets outsourced to business these days that Government is left merely to shape the rules within which business must play, and offer basic services such as pensions, healthcare, armies, etc. If that’s the case, then a more localised, more lightweight, Government makes sense.

Further, with more and more of the Big Power moving over to the EU, and Europe becoming more of an entity to be reckoned with, it seems that it makes sense for Scotland to sit independently on the EU Parliament, and to speak as a nation of its own

Scotland is an advanced nation. Glasgow is still, in many ways, the second city of the Empire (well, if the Empire existed any more). In the UK, we have the biggest suburban rail network outside of London, and the biggest shopping area outside of London. Lots of people, and lots of cash, flow through the two primary cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The ship building industry in Glasgow is nothing compared to what it once was, but what little is left is arguably at the top of its game. The cities, and the Highlands, are steeped in history that brings endless streams of Tartan-clad Americans to our shores in search of their great-great-grandfather’s friend’s Auntie’s cat. All over Scotland, lots of money is being pumped into updating infrastructure, building new buildings, renovating old areas, and generally keeping things as up to date as seems possible. We’re way ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of utilising renewable power sources. We have a lot of expertise to make a go of things, particularly in the technology and software market.

To me, it looks like we as a nation stand in good stead to have a go at it. But it’s possibly now or never. The only problem I have is that the media is always vague on what the SNP really intends to do. What does the above question really mean? Do we attach ourselves to the Euro, split out our armies, NHS services, etc, from the UK, and hope for the best? Or would Scotland be an independent nation, with, say, joint membership of the British Army? Would we/should we still trade in Pounds Sterling? Or is the Bank of England (set up, by the way, by a Scotsman) too English to deal with our country? Would we have a Scottish Pound? (And would English retailers then finally have a valid reason to refuse Scottish notes?) There are still too many questions surrounding independence that I long for transparency from political parties and the media.

So who do I vote for? I don’t know. Labour, Tory, Lib Dem … they don’t offer me anything different, so far as I can see. All politicians are afraid to do much these days for fear of the backlash they might receive. The political parties really vary very little, apart from the SNP, who actually want to do something radical. I’m tempted to vote SNP and be very quick to be very vocal should they try anything that doesn’t sound good for the nation. And I don’t yet see independence as being bad for the nation…