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.

Once upon a time this wasn’t 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 look 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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Fascist Zeppelins over Catalonia

This is not a forecast so much as a warning. Events in Spain should be reminding us all what a fragile thing democracy is. For anyone who’s missed it while following the aftermath of hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the various scandals of the Trump administration, the current failures of the Conservative Government in the UK and the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas here’s a short summary.

Catalonia’s pro independence regional government tries to hold a binding referendum on independence.The national government of Spain declares that the referendum is illegal because it goes against the Spanish constitution. The local government decides to hold the referendum anyway. The national government sends in the army and the Guardia Civil (a military police force) to suppress the vote.  Many people try to vote anyway. In some places Catalan police officers and Firefighters form human shields to try to protect civilians. Violence erupts. The Guardia Civil are accused by independent observers of a disproportionate response including firing rubber bullets and baton rounds into crowds of peaceful protesters, forcibly seizing ballot boxes and interfering with the medical treatment of protesters and  bystanders.

After all this the vote was counted anyway. The result was 90% in favour of independence on 42.3% turnout. Now you could argue that the turnout is a bit low for such an important decision but given that people were being beaten unconscious and shot at for trying to vote it seems pretty high to me.

There’s something very worrying in all this. Why would a democratic government react to local democracy with such force? Why isn’t the rest of Spain up in arms at the very idea? Did Spain really throw off Fascism with the fall of the Franco regime? Is this some alternative Spain where the Fascists never went away leaking through?

For a more sensible overview on this try Another Angry Voice.

If you’re wondering what all this Zeppelin stuff is about check out my Zeppelin page for an explanation.

 

Be careful what you wish for

I realised a strange thing this week. Through the power of the internet I saw a Nazi 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 Nazis as a group. Something about it seemed familiar. A also saw a young man who marched with Nazis and thinks that multiculturalism is cancer but swears he isn’t a Nazi 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.

A request for Zeppelin sightings

It’s an old trope of science fiction that you can always tell if you’ve slipped into an alternative reality because there will be Zeppelins. As I’ve mentioned before I tend to nip outside and do a quick Zeppelin check whenever weird stuff happens. You know, stuff like a reality TV star getting elected president.

Things have been getting so weird recently that I think it’s time to produce a regular Zeppelin forecast. That means I need to collate reports of weirdness. I don’t mean the sort of weirdness I normally look for, like that time a goat was kidnapped from a petting zoo and then returned wearing nail varnish on its hooves. I’m thinking more of the rumours (now denied) that Sinn Fein MPs would be taking up their seats in the Westminster parliament for the first time ever.

I’m asking my readers to send me links to the sort of news stories that make them look to the skies in search of airships. I’m looking for mainstream news stories that are as weird as that time a guy in Florida tried to eat someone’s face but also weirdly mundane like the news that two of the Grenfell Tower victims had been threatened with legal action for campaigning about fire safety. One of the weird trends recently is elected bodies and individuals behaving like pantomime villains. I’m sure that used to be really rare.

So if you, my loyal readers, send me links via Twitter (or Google+ or Facebook if you prefer) I hope to produce a weekly Zeppelin forecast. That way we’ll all know if it’s time to break out the helmets and hide from our new reptilian overlords or whatever else we have to expect when we are all shunted into some strange parallel world.

Good luck.

Still not feeling it

Sadly I am still not feeling like writing anything constructive or useful. I had planned another commentary on a film or another post full of advice for young writers but I’m on strike.

I am on strike because the world continues to be unfairly messed up.

In the United States politics continues to be a shit show. The ongoing argument about the extent to which the Trump administration is corrupt, incompetent, or in the pocket of Moscow may distract people from the attempts to ninja a terrible new healthcare act through the Senate.

In the UK our Prime Minister risks restarting armed conflict in Northern Ireland in order to hold on to power. She’s trying to do a deal with the DUP – a party with longstanding links to loyalist terror groups; a bunch of climate change denying, creationist, homophobes who hate Catholics.  There are just a few massive problems with this.

  1. It risks breaching the Good Friday Agreement.
  2. It’s pissed of Sinn Fein so much that there are rumours the might take up their seats in the Westminster Parliament.
  3. The DUP will resist the hard Brexit demanded by much of the Conservative base because they don’t want to reinstate the border with the Republic of Ireland.
  4. So will Sinn Fein if they do take up their seats.
  5. The only genuinely popular Conservative politician in the UK, and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, is a Lesbian who’s engaged to an Irish Catholic woman.

The British media has spent most of the last five days telling us that a second Scottish independence referendum is dead because the SNP only won a clear majority of the votes, not the overwhelming landslide they won last time. Both the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Labour Party are claiming a victory. Even though both of them put together have just over half the seats of the SNP.

Every day the news is full of stuff that makes no sense. I have had enough.

 

I don’t have anything to say.

I should have something to say. I normally put something on the blog on a Monday. I’ve usually written in over the weekend. Normally writing something isn’t a problem. I planned to say some more stuff about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 but I’m really not feeling like it.

I’m worried. The election solved nothing. Brexit still lies ahead and there’s no plan to deal with it. Politics, both globally and in the UK, is still all messed up. I’m still broke. I still don’t know what to do with my novels.

I just want some sort of hint about where to go and what to do. A great big quest marker in the sky. Even it it’s only so I can decide to head in the exact opposite direction because screw quests.

I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m worried about the future. So instead of doing anything constructive I’m going to blow up some (virtual) tanks.

My country wants me dead. Again.

At the last election I was faced with the realisation that the electorate of the United Kingdom either actively wants me dead or at least doesn’t care if I die. It was a sobering realisation.

This time it is, if anything, worse. Because now it’s not just the United Kingdom. Many of my fellow Scots want me dead. Why?

Seriously, Scottish Conservative voters, why do you want me and people like me dead? You’ve voted for a party that has cut disability benefits, attacked the NHS, cut Social Care spending and refused to condemn the forced institutionalisation of disabled people. People are dying. People have died. And if, as seems likely, the Tories cling on to power then more people will die.

If you voted Conservative in this election then you voted in favour of turfing out law abiding EU citizens, you voted in favour of the rape clause, you voted in favour of taking mobility cars from disabled people, cutting benefits to the mentally ill and to people with learning difficulties. You voted in favour of benefit sanctions that drive vulnerable people to food banks where they can hang out with nurses and police officers. You voted against the NHS. You voted in favour of fox hunting and selling ivory and cosying up to Donald Fucking Trump.

If you voted Conservative then why? What was it that you thought you were voting for?

Of course if it’s Scottish Conservative MPs that return the Conservative party to power against the will of the English electorate I am going to laugh for about a week. Particularly since the EVEL legislation, pushed through by the Conservatives in the wake of the independence referendum, means that they wont be able to vote on a lot of bills.

Not the post I wanted to write.

I had a couple of ideas for today’s post. I had one in mind that was full advice for young creatives. I wanted to write something for my daughter who has trouble finishing things. But then some arsehole blew himself up inside an arena full of teenaged girls and suddenly that seems inappropriate.

I was flicking through Facebook and Twitter, not wanting to know more but unable to stop when I spied a comment from a right-wing journalist. I’m not going to link to the tweet or name the journalist because attention only encourages people like this. I will include the full text of the tweet though.

Why do we suspend politics when a terror attack happens? I want to know how our politicians plan to stop these attacks. Or don’t they know?

Oh dear lord. Where to begin?

Well for one thing they don’t know how to stop attacks like this because we don’t know what happened. There’s still an ongoing investigation. Maybe we should wait for the police and the security services to work out how it happened before we decide what to do about it?

Of course if you start by believing that Islam is inherently evil or brown people are less human than white people then I imagine you think you know what we should do. I’m sure that this particular journalist isn’t suggesting any of that. Plenty of other people were, though. I’ve heard a rumour that a certain other right-wing ‘journalist’ even used the phrase ‘final solution’.

We know where this particular road goes and I think most of us don’t want to go that way.

To answer the first question; we suspend politics in the face of terribly tragedy like this because Britain is a civilised fucking country. Making political capital out of terror is morally reprehensible.

To continue electioneering in the face of a terror attack is also fraught with danger. The ruling party shouldn’t be campaigning at a time like this it should be ruling. The parties in opposition could stand on the side taking cheap shots but if they win that way then the victory would be cheapened and they risk distracting the government. The government could deal with the distraction by calling the opposition unpatriotic and mobilising public opinion against them. The opposition could blame the government for the attack.

Then you’d get two factions drawn up against one another along party lines. The country would be divided. The terror attack would have damaged our democracy. Which was precisely the point.

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.