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 4, 2007

The outcome? Well, there isn’t one. Not yet, anyway. Lots of results aren’t in yet.

I was watching last night when McConnell won his extremely safe Motherwell & Wishaw constituency, and was highly amused as another candidate unrolled a banner to the effect of “No trident replacement” (exact wording lost in the mists of a headache); quite clearly over the microphone was one woman on stage who said “oh, don’t spoil it,” soon after which the banner was sheepishly removed.

It looks like the SNP have done pretty well out of things. It also looks like Labour have done pretty poorly out of things. It wasn’t the trouncing many of us enjoy seeing, but the numbers look much more balanced, and will hopefully make things interesting in the coming days, months and years.

Of note is the weird decision to run two different voting systems in one night, leading to around one hundred thousand ballot papers being null & void, I’m not surprised. Given that I received mail on how to vote, saw instructions plastered all over the BBC News website for weeks, and was offered further instruction at the polling station, I’m not surprised in the slightest that the number of void votes was that high.

In the grand scheme of things, the existing vote should be representative of the final outcome whether those void votes were counted or not. Of course, we can’t know for sure, unless we ask for only those votes to be redone (though that’s impossible to achieve), or for the whole election to be done again.

More thoughts as things unravel.

Apologies for turning this into a political blog of late, I realise that this isn’t what most people want to hear about. I’ll return to normal posting soon, once I’ve completed this huge pile of work on my desk…


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.