The Mathematics of Scottish Independence

Recently an English friend that I haven’t seen in ages suggested that I might hate all things English. I suspect that she thinks that because of all the pro Scottish Independence stuff I post on Facebook. I felt hurt at first but then I realised that it’s not her fault. The London based media has been lying to her about the Scottish Independence movements for years.

Yes I said movements. As in it’s not just the SNP. The Green party is pro independence, so are the various socialist parties. There are pro independent Labour supporters. There are unaffiliated groups like Women for Independence and YesBikers. Most of us don’t hate the English. Particularly not English Scots For Yes – a group of English born people who are vocal in their support for independence and their belief in an inclusive future for Scotland.

Of course that proves nothing. There are pro Trump gay republicans but that doesn’t change the homophobic and transphobic nature of his administration. Saying that some English people are pro-independence therefore it’s not anti-English is like saying that you can’t be racist because you have a black friend.

I’d like my English readers to put their preconceived notions about the SNP and Scottish Nationalism and the Union to one side for a moment and look at the maths.

  1. The first past the post system used for Westminster elections inevitably skews to a two party system.
  2. The Scottish electorate is too small to influence who wins at a Westminster election
  3. Since the Scottish electorate can’t get them into power the Westminster parties have no reason to pay attention to the needs of the Scottish electorate.
  4. Therefore Scotland puts more into the Union than it gets out.

You don’t have to believe me on the problem with first past the post. Here’s CGP Grey explaining.

 

The Scottish population, and thus electorate is tiny compared to the rest of the UK. If you don’t believe me you only have to look at the last two elections. In each one the whole Scottish electorate could have voted Labour and we would still have a Conservative Government.

This didn’t use to be such a huge problem. The industrial working class in Scotland could make common cause with the workers in north of England and south Wales. Scottish farmers had the same interests as farmers in the rest of the UK. The Peterhead fishing fleet could unite with the fishermen of Cornwall and Suffolk. It’s become a problem because the rest of the UK has swung to the right politically and because advances in polling mean that politicians now know who they have to appeal to in order to win at Westminster and it’s never us.

I know that you’ve been told that Scotland is dependent on the Union. That Scotland is a nation of subsidy junkies. Think about who it is that’s tell you this. The same people that won’t subsidise a spare room for a disabled child’s medical equipment want you to believe that they’re subsidising an entire nation. In the end it doesn’t really matter though. If Scotland is a drain on the rest of the UK then we should be taking responsibility for our own economy and standing on our own feet. If it isn’t then the UK Government has been lying to all of us and basically stealing from Scotland.

In the future these mathematical inequalities will only get worse. Westminster politicians are stuck chasing thinner and thinner slices of the electorate who can actually affect the outcome of the election. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit and it will probably be  worse for us than for the rest of the UK but we’re stuck with it. See my Tapas Bar post for how that feels. The Scotland that’s depicted in the UK press looks nothing like the Scotland I see when I look around. It’s starting to like the UK government is ramping up to remove powers from the Scottish Government, maybe even get rid of the Scottish Parliament completely.

 

Bonus Maths:  When London hosted the 2012 Olympics the whole of the UK paid for it, including Scotland. The Scottish share of the bill was at least £165 million. When Glasgow hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games it was paid for by Scotland. The rUK share of the bill was ZERO. The new Queensferry bridge across the Firth of Forth was paid for entirely by the Scottish Government. Scotland is paying towards the cost of the HS2 rail project even though it doesn’t come north of the border and will probably increase travel times from Edinburgh to London. Estimates of the exact share paid by Scottish taxpayers vary and the oft quoted £3.64 billion estimate is from an anti HS2 organisation.

Advertisements

It’s not big or clever but it is funny.

Farting. Not pleasant but a necessary human function. Also hilarious. And something that some people don’t do in front of their romantic partners, apparently.

The other day my other half woke me up reading some headline about how a study revealed that the earlier in a relationship a couple farts in front of one another the longer they’ll stay together.*

Well duh. In other news water is wet.

I’ve been hearing for years that women in particular aren’t supposed to fart in the presence of prospective intimate partners. I must have missed that memo. If you’re in a relationship for the long haul then farting is amongst the least of things you’ll have to worry about.

If farting in front of someone puts them off how are they going to deal with menstruation, or pregnancy or childbirth? And if neither of you has a working uterus then there’s still old age and it’s attendant indignities to look forward to. How are you going to deal with that if you can’t deal with a fart?

Yes I know that some of you are planning to hit the longevity wave** and stay young and fit until you both die in a freak tandem nude skydiving accident on your 150th wedding anniversary but I was promised flying cars and space stations and look how that turned out.

My point is that if a fart kills your relationship it was doomed anyway. Best to get it over with lest you invest years of your life in someone who’s going to run at the first whiff of methane.

 

*Or something. I may have mis-remembered but in my defence I was half asleep.

**The longevity wave is the dream of being young enough when the first wave of life extending technology arrives that it can keep you alive until the next tech arrives and that can keep you going til the next one and so on.

Be careful what you wish for

I realised a strange thing this week. Through the power of the internet I saw a Natzi go from blustering about his power to weeping in fear that police might shoot him. The comment section was full of people holding him up as an example of the fundamental weakness of Natzis as a group. Something about it seemed familiar. A also saw a young man who marched with Natzi’s and thinks that multiculturalism is cancer but swears he isn’t a Natzi complaining about getting death threats over the internet. Something about that seemed familiar too.

I realised that they were experiencing what it’s like to belong to a minority. They’ve been saying for years that white men are the ones who are really oppressed and now they get to find out what that’s actually like. You see when a woman fails she fails on behalf of all women. When a person of colour breaks the law the reaction is disproportionately harsh. When any member of a minority sticks their head above the metaphorical parapet someone will try to shoot it off. One needs privilege to survive mediocrity and incompetence.

I have no illusions that it will last. Either things are going to get very dark or the Natzis will climb back into their holes for a while and people will forget that there are still Natzis in the world. Very soon it will again be possible for white people to espouse the beliefs that sent millions to the gas chambers and plunged the world into war and other white people will pretend that they don’t really mean it.

But for a while perhaps thost of us who really do face discrimination and oppression are allowed a little schadenfreude at the idea of Natzis finding out what it’s like. They really don’t seem to have the constitution for it.

Well suck it up, buttercup. This is what life is like for everyone who isn’t an able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual white man. This is what the rest of us put up with while you’re whining on the internet about how women oppress you by refusing your advances or sleeping with men you don’t approve of. While you’re blaming immigrants for depressed wages and affirmative action for keeping you out of your ‘rightful’ job the rest of us have been working twice as hard for half as much and being told that we should be grateful for it.

Growing up.

This weekend I spent some time around people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve known many of them since they were teenagers and it made me think about growing up and how it’s done.

When you’re a kid you look up at adults and you assume that they actually know what they’re doing. You assume that they have everything easy and they can do what they want and that they’re free. Growing up is slowly realising that you were mostly wrong. Adults are mostly making it up as they go along. Adults are weighed down with responsibilities and commitments. Adults do have the freedom to choose to do what they want but they mostly have enough sense not to use it to do all the stuff they wanted to when they were kids.

Spending time with people that I’ve known for so long, seeing the ways in which they’ve changed, and the ways in which they haven’t, set me to thinking about how some people grow up and how some people don’t. I’m probably going to come back to this subject again but I think I’ve come up with a way to define the process of becoming an adult.

Growing up is an ongoing process of learning the correct amount of fucks to give and then putting that knowledge into action.*

The correct amount of fucks is almost never zero. People who give zero fucks can be intoxicating to be around. For a while. They start out entertaining and exhilarating, like a fairground ride, but there’s a reason that fairground rides are short. Exhilaration soon turns to exhaustion. People who give too few fucks are prone to dickish behaviour. They leave things undone. They’re careless with the feelings of others.

People who give too many fucks make themselves miserable. That misery inevitably spreads to everyone around them. They often fall victim to procrastination and indecision because they care too and everything seems too risky. They’re too raw, too easily hurt, too fragile.

It’s hard to put your finger on the correct amount of fucks. That’s why growing up is a lifelong process. It’s learning to care what your loved ones think of you but not to tie your sense of self worth to it. It’s understanding the difference between a valid criticism and a personal attack. It’s knowing how to cut toxic people out of your life but still being able to reach out to help a friend who is in a bad place or going through a bad time. It’s giving of yourself when people you care about need you but still being able to hold onto what you need for yourself. Most of all it’s about forgiving yourself when you inevitably fuck all of the above up.

I can’t tell you how to do any of this. I’m still working on it myself. But maybe I’ve helped define the problem a tiny bit.

 

*I’m defining ‘fucks’ here as both caring about stuff and being patient with people about that stuff.

Not a real person.

One of the things I struggle with a lot is the feeling of not being a real person. I think some of it is imposter syndrome and some of it is a throwback to the bullying I grew up with. When everyone tells you that you’re ugly and stupid and worthless you tend to start believing them. If you’re smart enough to know that it’s not true you still can’t help suspecting that you’re not a real person because who would treat a real person like that? Real people have rights. Miss-treating real people has consequences.

But lets not forget that for a lot of people I am not a real person. I am a poor, disabled, depressed, fat, middle-aged woman. You’d be surprised how many people will lose interest in my humanity the moment one of those trigger words is mentioned.

There are a few men for whom no woman is a real person. They might not express it this way but it’s clear that to them personhood is a uniquely male quality. That’s why they think that rape is not a thing. Because they think that only male desires count. If you think of women as objects then of course you don’t care about consent.

There are a larger group of men for whom women are people but with an asterix. They say woman* or female* but that asterix leads to some mental footnote that defines a woman according to some personalised criteria. If you listen to them long enough you find out that woman means a cisgendered, hetrosexual (or bisexual but only for male entertainment), able-bodied woman, between the ages of 17 and 35, with a BMI in the underweight or normal weight range with an attractive face (and if she’s a woman of colour she’d better have a really attractive face) and “good” breasts. The rest of woman-kind doesn’t count as female because we have failed in some aspect of our femininity. Remember that to them the primary purpose of a woman is to be decorative. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do only how we look.

There’s a lot of people for whom poor people aren’t really people. That’s why they don’t care about minimum wages or benefits or social housing. The assumption is that poverty is some kind of moral or intellectual failing rather than a necessary side effect of capitalism.

Some people make similar assumptions about both physical and mental health. There’s an almost superstitious belief that ill-health and injury must be a punishment for something. There’s also a surprising number of people who are happy to declare that depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD and autism are “all in the mind”. Which of course they literally are. They are illnesses of the brain. They cause changes in brain activity, neurochemistry, and sometimes in the physical structures of the brain. No amount of willpower is going to remake the chemistry, activity or gross anatomy of your brain. You can’t just get over it.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to agree that people are people.

Regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, age, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, wealth, health, ability or IQ there is only one Homo Sapiens species. We all belong to it and we are all people. Even me. Even when I don’t feel worthy of it. Even when people in power are trampling all over those rights that I have but for some reason can’t use.

The Zeppelins are due on main street

Once again I return to the subject of how messed up everything is right now. For those who’ve missed my previous posts on the subject the title of this one is a joke about how in fiction Zeppelins are often a signifier of alternative reality.

If you’ve studied much history you’ll know that sometimes stuff happened that makes us look back and wonder exactly what Clio (muse of history) was smoking. There was a time when tulips were so sought after that a single bulb could sell for more than a house. There was a time when Britain used opium to pick two fights with China because China wouldn’t sell Britian enough tea and somehow Britain won. There was a time when armed gangs roamed the wild west of the U.S. battling over the remains of ancient monsters . There’s a period of European history (1870 -1914) known as the Great Binge because everyone who could afford it was constantly off their faces with a combination of drugs and alcohol. In 1932 Australia went to war against Emus (actual birds) and lost.

I think that we’re living through one of those periods right now. In the future people are going to look back and wonder if the train of reality somehow jumped its tracks. That’s assuming that there is a future and that the people alive then will have anything to look back on other than a giant crater.

Lets take a look at some of the fun things that have happened in little over a year:

  • Widespread clown panics that suddenly stopped when a man many deride as a clown was elected to lead the United States of America.
  • The British Electorate voted to leave the EU and then the British Government tried to aggressively implement that vote without apparently having any sort of map or plan about how to do it.
  • The Northern Irish Assembly fell apart over a financial scandal, there still isn’t a new Assembly in place, but Northern Ireland voted against leaving the EU so Ireland could be about to reunify? Maybe?
  • Scotland votes to remain in the EU. The UK Government refuses to let Scotland remain without the rest of the UK. The SNP led Scottish Government votes to hold a referendum on Independence (again). The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, calls this decision divisive and says that it’s the wrong time and continues to say that right up until she calls a snap General Election that she had repeatedly said the could not and would not call.
  • In the wake of the election of a reality TV star with zero relevant experience or expertise the US begins a slide into a dystopian failed state. This slide is repeatedly halted by lawyers working for free and judges who’ve somehow become the enemy of the establishment. Scientists steal back their own climate science data before the White House deletes it. The US parks service goes rogue and leads the resistance.
  • The French presidential election is going to be a runoff between a fascist and the representative of a new political movement who is most famous for having married his former school teacher.
  • The apparent terrorist attack on a German Soccer team bus turned out to be an attempted financial scam by stock price manipulation.
  • The government of Chechnya has decided that now is the perfect time for a gay genocide. Presumably they think that Trump will distract everyone.
  • Marco Rubio, previously not a friend of LGBTQA rights, stands up and denounces the gay genocide. Has he discovered that he actually has both a spine and a conscience or this this just because Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya, is Vladimir Putin’s other boyfriend?
  • Russia has built a replica of the German parliament, the Reichstag, so the army could re-enact storming it. There is nothing at all threatening about the fact that the replica is based on the contemporary Reichstag rather than the way it looked in 1945 when the Red Army actually stormed it.
  • Kim Jong Un, the world’s favourite cosplay dictator, is so upset by now being the third or fourth craziest world leader that he has tried to pick a fight with the US. Presumably he’s banking on Donald Trump not knowing where North Korea is and launching missiles at North Virginia instead.
  • In the US the Republican Party narrowly avoids another Government shutdown in the face of opposition from the Republican president and the Republican held Senate and House of Representatives. The Democrats are confused by the Republicans taking the positions as both the party of government and the party of opposition. Democrats may have to start disguising themselves as Republicans in order to more effectively oppose the policies of the President. Or maybe judges. Or Scientists. Or park rangers.

Am I in a coma or something? Is this all a hallucination? The rest of you are seeing this stuff too, right?

Millennial Angst.

This isn’t a post about Millennials being all angsty. This is a post about GenXers and Baby Boomers getting all angsty about Millennials.

I just saw (with my own two eyes) someone claim that Millennials calling a phone with no battery charge ‘dead’ is down to their “morbid fascination with death”. This was my response.

What the actual fuck? I’m 45, so right in the middle of Generation X, and I say this. So does my mother, who was born during WWII, and my Mother-in-law, who is a Boomer. People have been describing a battery without charge as ‘dead’ for as long as we’ve had batteries.

To all the old people out there going to such an effort to ‘other’ young people I say, “Grow the fuck up. The reason you don’t ‘get’ them is down to the passage of time and your lack of imagination and intellectual laziness. Either make some effort or shut the hell up, lie the fuck back down and prepare for a dirt nap.”

It makes me so angry. The Boomers had entire genres of film and music based on the idea that the older generation didn’t understand them. And they learned precisely nothing from it.

I lived through the spectacle of the very people who listened to Rock and Roll (aka the Devil’s music) getting all panicky about Punk, Glam Rock and the New Romantics.  I listened to the very men who got beaten up for having long hair getting all sniffy about men with make-up and women with buzzcuts.

Time moves on and a lot of people my age and older seem to want to either pretend that it doesn’t or to blame young people. Neither of those is going to work. New stuff keeps happening and some of it is great. Ask some young people to recommend some for you. Maybe listen when they talk? Maybe don’t assume that the world still works the way it did when you were young? Maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn to accept other people’s lived experience as genuine.

Or you could stop pretending to be relevant and get the hell out of the way.