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.

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Review: The Equaliser

I don’t often do reviews because there’s no shortage of people reviewing stuff on the internet and many of them do it far better than I could. When I do review things it’s either because I’m really excited by the thing or I hadn’t heard much about the thing before trying it. It’s both in this case.

This is the film of The Equaliser from 2014 not the TV series of the same name from the 80s. And yes it is a reboot of the TV series. The protagonist, played by Denzel Washington, is called Robert McCall just like the character played by Edward Woodward. What little backstory we get about the character is very similar.

It’s a welcome addition to the growing genre of ‘Action Grandpa’ films. Mr Washington is a more convincing righteous force of nature than Mr Woodward was and he was pretty convincing if you’d seen any of the British TV series Callan.

Some of the ‘Action Grandpa’ films feel a bit forced but this isn’t one of them. There’s no feeling that this is a vehicle for the ego of a fading action star. It also doesn’t feel like an aging director or writer’s fantasy of relevance in a changing age. None of the action feels like it’s been shot round the infirmities of the lead.

It’s beautiful to look at. It’s not just in the camera work but in the lighting. Mr Washington is often shown emerging out of the darkness like a figure in a Rembrandt portrait. A trick that reminded me of the way Jean Reno was shot in Leon.

The fights are inventive and very, very violent. We are repeatedly shown that Robert McCall is a very bad man. Or at least a man capable of very bad things. it’s not just that violence comes easy to him. It seems to be easier than solving problems in any other way. You can tell it’s an effort to try the non-violent solution first.

It creates a tension with everything else we know about him. Right from the start we’re shown a man who can’t help but help people. He’s charming and engaging and concerned with the welfare of others but we also get the sense that this charm is deliberate. Connecting with people is something he is choosing to do. Friendship doesn’t come naturally to him so he’s reaching out to people by helping them to improve their lives in small practical ways.

The supporting cast is excellent. They don’t get a lot of screen time because the camera spends so much time focussing on Mr Washington (and who can blame it) but any cast that features Chloe Moretz, David Harbour and Bill Pullman is worth a look. Even with very little screen time some of the supporting players do get interesting character arcs that mostly avoid the cliches of the genre.

My only criticisms of the film are that some of the dialogue is a bit stilted, there’s a couple of small plot holes and there are some very heavy handed literary references.

Recommended if you’re in the mood for an action film with a bit more depth and a less frantic opening than the usual fare.

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.

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?

Please don’t kill me.

The UK is facing an unexpected election in June.  I have a message for everyone eligible to vote in it – I’m a human being, my disability doesn’t make me any less human, people like me don’t deserve to die just so that our elected leaders can pursue a dream of austerity that most reputable economists regard as purest bunkum.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going on about. It’s not like anyone is talking about loading disabled people on to cattle trucks. Yet. So here’s some further reading for you:

If you vote Conservative you’re voting for people who don’t care about child poverty, the working poor, or disabled people. You’re voting for people who can’t even lie consistently. You’re voting for people who claim that they are subsidising an entire nation (Scotland) while refusing to subsidise a spare room to store the equipment needed by a disabled child.

A vote for the Conservatives says that you’re just fine with selling off the NHS. It says that you think filling in an 8 page form about sexual assault is a reasonable burden to place on a woman just trying to get tax credits for a third child. It’s saying that you think the 50,000 disabled people who have already lost their motability vehicles are better off indoors.

Whatever else you think you’re doing when you put your X in the box marked Conservative And Unionist Party you’re also telling me and people like me to just fuck off and die quietly.

Do the thing now

If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently (and I really should have learned it a long time ago but sometimes I am hard of thinking) it’s that you should always do the thing now. Don’t put things off. If you can afford it, if you’re physically able, if you have the time or you can make the time. Do it now.

Clean up the mess as soon as you notice the mess. Wear the nice outfit while it still fits. Go see the film before someone spoils it for you. Tell the people that you care about that you care about them while they’re still around to hear it. Don’t wait for some far off perfect future to write your novel. Do the thing now.

I wanted to go and see Logan on Monday. I was really tempted to book the tickets on Sunday but I didn’t and when Monday came around my other half wasn’t really feeling it and we didn’t want to cook and see a film and we couldn’t afford take out and tickets and so we didn’t. We put it off.

Then we got some bad news. News so bad that it colours everything. I could still go and see the film but I’ll never enjoy it as much now as if I’d gone on Monday. And with every passing day the temptation to spend the ticket money on something more sensible grows. It becomes more and more likely that I’ll never see the film.

It will become the latest in a long line of lost joys. These are the things that would have given me a tiny spark of joy but didn’t because I didn’t do them. I put them off. Or decided they weren’t sensible choices. I waited and the moment was gone.

This does not change my positions on technology and computer games though. Leave the early adopting to people who get a kick out of being first. Let them deal with all the bugs and the glitches and the exploding batteries. Buy the fancy new kit when the price drops in anticipation of the next model coming out. If you can stand to wait for the computer game at all then wait for the game of the year edition or the Steam sale.

Not that I expect I’ll be able to follow my own advice. I give it 6 months before I make exactly the same mistake again and I’m back here saying this all over again.