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People marching across the Tay BridgeOn Saturday, YES North East Fife organised a march across the Tay Bridge from Fife to Dundee followed by a rally in the City Square. It was well-attended for a local event – by hundreds, according to the precision journalism of the Courier. The weather was fine, and many motorists seemed to approve of the display, judging by the proportion of them sounding supportive horns – though in the interests of balanced reporting, I must admit that there was one car that went by shouting something incoherent and waving the Vs.

Once arrived in Dundee there were a few stalls, including one selling books by the speakers that had them to sell, a Scottish Green Party stall (with Maggie Chapman in attendance), and a stall for English Scots for Yes. English Scots for Yes seemed to emerge quite late in the last independence campaign, but I think what they’re doing is important. Although many English-born residents of Scotland voted Yes – and there are plenty English people in the SNP – they are out-numbered by their compatriots who voted No. I don’t think English Scots have anything to fear – if I did, I would be siding with them – but it’s clear that as supporters of independence we haven’t done a good enough job of convincing them that there is no beef between us. English Scots for Yes may help to change that impression.

Change of that sort is sorely needed when there’s nonsense going on like the news story that finally made it to the top of the BBC's Scotland page today of suspect chemical packages being sent to at least three Scottish locations. It’s been an emerging story since Tuesday, but has taken two days to get any profile. Stuff like this is happening because of people whipping up resentment against independence supporters – unionists so “obsessed” with their fear of a democratically driven readjustment at a national level that it’s all they can talk about in their council election leaflets, and a poisonous press. No-one could claim that independence supporters are all saints, but I honestly don’t think they’re the dangerous side in this.

There were talks from a variety of speakers, not all of which I was able to stay and attend, but I caught and enjoyed listening to Robin McAlpine, Billy Kay, Paul Kavanagh (The Wee Ginger Dug) and Lesley Riddoch. Three of the talks can be watched below, and if you’ve got the time I recommend doing that. I was a bit disappointed Maggie Chapman wasn’t among those speaking, since she was present, but I presume she had her reasons.

ggreig: (Default)

This evening I’ve become a reluctant mover to Dreamwidth. I’ve been with LiveJournal since 2004, have had a permanent account for most of that time, and have not previously set up an account with Dreamwidth; but the effect of the recent LiveJournal licence changes on LGBT users is not something I can support. I’m still in the process of configuring stuff, and my LJ entries haven’t even been imported into DW yet, so I’m not sure precisely how things are going to work out and whether my LiveJournal will stay and be cross-posted to. The logic of “taking a stand” suggests that it should go, but I’ll have to wait and see what the practicalities are before making a final decision. This post itself is a bit of a test to see how things work.

I don’t seem to be alone in taking this decision now.

My new account is at http://ggreig.dreamwidth.org/. In the short term I intend that content will be cross-posted to LiveJournal, but that may end at some point.

ggreig: (Forever)

Two and a half years ago, almost to the day, I stopped blogging on political matters as the argument I cared about was over for the time. My last post on the subject started “Oh Scotland. I think you’ve made a big mistake.

You may not be surprised to hear that I still think that (especially if you follow me on Twitter).

The events of today mean that it’s time to be prepared to use whatever small platform I have again, reluctant though I may be to do so.

Since September 19th 2014, the promises made by “No” campaigners to win the Scottish independence referendum have mostly been watered down or abandoned altogether – a bit like the promise of more money for the NHS that was going around on an infamous bus last summer.

One of the reasons I thought Scotland had made  a mistake was that I saw the EU referendum result coming – although like everyone else, I was surprised by how quickly it came, and the degree of incompetence involved. It was inevitable though – given twenty years during which pro-EU politicians didn’t dare to stand up for it against the poison of the newspapers, a referendum had to happen at some point, and the result was not surprising. I just thought it would take longer.

Well, OK, regrettable as the outcome is, that’s democracy. But what’s not OK is that the promise of staying in the EU was a major part of the Unionist case in the Independence Referendum. What’s not OK is that leaving the EU has major effects on all sorts of things that affect Scotland. What’s not OK is that, without even consultation never mind approval, Westminster is now talking about taking back responsibility for devolved areas like agriculture and fisheries. What’s not OK is that Scotland voted to stay in the EU by a far larger margin than that by which the UK voted to leave (62% Remain as opposed to 52% Leave).

What’s not OK, outside Scotland, is the effect on Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

What’s not OK is that the UK government hasn’t even responded to compromise proposals put forward by the Scottish Government, despite having promised to reach an agreed position before Article 50 was invoked.

And what matters most of all is that a party with one MP out of 59 in Scotland, and at a high point for them, the votes of 22% of the population, think that they can say “no” to a Holyrood majority for a new Independence Referendum, arrived at in a proportional system, based on a manifesto commitment to deliver exactly that under exactly these circumstances, because it’s a time that doesn’t suit them. There is no higher test of the will of a people – except for the referendum that’s being sought!

And as for “now is not the time”, well, the proposed time period for the referendum (between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019) is exactly the period during which other EU governments will get their say on the final deal that’s due to be agreed by September 2018. Why is it inappropriate for the Scottish people to have their say during that same period?

(One caveat: that Holyrood majority won’t actually materialise until the debate next week, but the chances of it not occurring are somewhere between extremely low and non-existent).

Meanwhile, the same party playing these games’ one Scottish MP is under police investigation for possible election fraud, along with others in his party. They lied that they cooperated fully with the Electoral Commission in that investigation when the Electoral Commission had to take them to court to get their cooperation. Today they introduced the so-called “rape clause”, which will require tax credit claimants to prove they were raped in order to receive assistance for a third child. Their main Brexit negotiator when questioned in committee had to admit that he knew almost nothing about what was going to occur. That’s only in the last couple of days! How dare these paragons lecture us?

Imagine if the EU had said the UK couldn’t run their referendum, or when they must run it? That’s the direct analogue of what is happening here. If you are a democrat, you can’t support that. Conservatives, and Labour and the Lib Dems who support them should be ashamed of themselves.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I recently bought a 3D camera second hand from [livejournal.com profile] ffutures. Here are a first few shots:

West Port, St. Andrews - from the west

West Port, St. Andrews - from the east

Blackfriars Chapel, St. Andrews

The Scottish Cabinet in Cupar, 6th July 2015 

Interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. There seems to be a greater sense of 3D if there’s something distinctive in the foreground, which is why I actually chose pictures with cars in shot when I had examples without. Things further away tend to flatten out a bit, even if there’s something in the foreground to emphasise the difference – but even in the middle distance, a significant difference in depth can make things stand out. I didn’t notice the pedestrian crossing the West Port in the second photograph when I took it, but she becomes an interesting feature when viewed in 3D. As usual, click through for full size – it’s probably worth it for that second one at least, as the figure is a bit lost in the smaller version.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
I've only seen reports of this in Scotland so far, but it could potentially apply anywhere in the UK.

The method of registering to vote has changed since the Independence referendum last year, and although people who were already registered to vote were supposed to be carried over into the new system, there seems to be some doubt as to whether that has occurred.

Two MSPs have had to re-register and supply documentation within a week proving they are who they say they are, despite being registered at their respective addresses for about 30 years each. I went through the registration process this morning and was told that I was not on the register, despite having been registered at my current address and voting in every election for over 20 years.

There seems to be some doubt as to whether its a genuine issue with registration or poorly designed systems that are causing a degree of false alarm. However, either way, I figure better safe than sorry - make the effort to make sure you're registered.

You can register online, and read the UK government's information about the change.
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Oh Scotland. I think you’ve made a big mistake.

But you made it clearly, on a fantastic turn out. And while 45% isn’t enough for the change I wanted to see, that’s an enormous percentage that voted not just for a bit of change but for actual independence. It wasn’t half the population, but it’s close. The percentage who want to see significant change short of that is greater still.

And you’ve been promised that change, albeit in vague terms by politicians you don’t think much of, who don’t currently seem to have much of a clue of how to deliver it. The next step is to make sure they deliver, and don’t take your No vote as a blind acceptance of the status quo.

Alex Salmond’s concession speech was a great example of how to continue the positive attitude to change that’s brought us this far.

On a more personal note, I expect the political content of this blog will now go down. You may be relieved to hear that! For me, independence was a project for improving my country that was worth breaking my political silence for. Having got here, I won’t be giving up on that, but it’s now a change that won’t be coming soon. Now, whatever side we were on yesterday, let’s work for a better Scotland within the United Kingdom.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

A short documentary about the role of the media:

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Any vote is a choice between two or more futures. The referendum on Scottish independence is a choice between two (or more) futures.

Two, because the choice on the paper is a simple Yes or No. More, because each choice is supported by multiple parties who have different views of what should occur after a Yes or a No.

But today we focus on making our choice of one of two futures; by saying Yes or No to whether Scotland should be an independent country.

You wouldn’t know it from the campaigns though. Despite two and a half years in which to prepare and make a case, only one campaign has had anything much to say about building a future that’s better for Scotland; for the people who vote today. Only one campaign actually deserves to win.

It may not turn out that way, of course. The flawed AV referendum was lost to a campaign that didn’t deserve to win. (Unfortunately Alternative Voting, the version of proportional representation on offer, probably didn’t deserve to win either – it was a tough decision for me to vote for the proposal on that occasion.)

I don’t have children, but I want to leave the planet a little better than I found it when I go, and giving Scotland a better go at running itself is probably the biggest, most positive project I can contribute to in my lifetime, even if that contribution boils down to a single X on a bit of paper. And this may be my only chance to do that.

It’s taken an extraordinary set of circumstances to bring us to this point. There’s majority support for independence in a parliament that was designed to prevent it. Those circumstances that may not be repeated in the next twenty years, or ever; and in twenty years I’ll be approaching 70 and perhaps the end of my life (though I hope for a bit more!).

Yes campaigners don’t share a single vision for the future of Scotland, but at least they all have one, and almost all of them envisage a more egalitarian Scotland that deals more kindly with the less fortunate and makes sure that the citizens of the future can benefit from a high quality education with less debt. We can probably get some sort of blend of those proposals through coalition our proportionally elected parliament.

The No campaign have little in common but their opposition to change. The three main parties couldn’t come together to make an alternate positive proposal for Scotland’s future. If they had, they could have put it on the ballot paper and almost certainly won – the SNP left the door open on that for a long time, while making it clear it wasn’t their responsibility to come up with a proposal they didn’t support*. The Scottish electorate has waited even longer for them to come up with something worthwhile, but it’s become clear they have nothing, and large swings to Yes show patience is running out. In the case of a No, what we get depends on who gets in at Westminster, and it’s likely to be just one party’s version that gets enacted. Not to mention they’re all pretty rubbish. Take a look at this graphic to see how significant the proposed changes are:

Click through for source and more information

Click through for the source and more information. The Westminster parties are offering S1 through to S5. Polling suggests most of the Scottish population wanted S9; independence is S10. Which of those looks closest to S9?

“No” may win, but frankly I think that would be a bit of a disaster for democracy and Scotland, and deeper entrench the cynicism and disgust many people already feel for politics and politicians. I won’t be helping them, as I’m voting “Yes”. If you’re reading this and have a vote, I hope you’ll consider it too.

My friend who prefers not to be linked closed his “Yes” post with this video. I recommend it too:

 

* This may not be how you’ve seen it reported, with delusional commenters suggesting that the party of independence somehow didn’t want what it’s always campaigned for, and that Cameron had manoeuvred Salmond into a corner. Really? It was a win-win for the SNP – if the Unionist parties came up with a credible third option for the ballot paper, it would have romped home with a safe, large majority that independence-minded voters could have accepted as a significant step in the right direction. As it was, they made it clear there was nothing much on offer and forced waverers to consider whether independence was really the only game in town. The Unionist behaviour was, sadly, predictable. It’s a gamble for the SNP, and not guaranteed to win, but it was always likely to push more people into supporting independence.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Nick Robinson’s second question to Alex Salmond in the video clips I embedded yesterday was (in full) “…on a more general point, John Lewis’s boss says prices could go up, Standard Life’s boss says money will move out of Scotland, BP’s boss says oil will run out; why should a Scottish voter believe you, a politician, against men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profit?”

Some people, including Nick Robinson, are claiming that he answered the first question (about RBS), but not the question I’ve transcribed above. Here’s the clip again, followed by my breakdown of the answer with regards to Nick’s second question:

Alex starts addressing the second question, at 1:50, making it clear that that’s what he’s doing by saying he’s moving on “to the generality” – the same sort of language Nick used when describing it as “a more general point”. He doesn't say why we should trust him more than the businessmen, which was the literal question (would anyone believe it if he did?), but he sets out a couple of reasons why the businessmen's announcements might be seen in the same light as claims from a politician:

  • He suggests they were coordinated by David Cameron's business advisor.
  • He states that the "new" announcements from two of Nick Robinson's three examples (BP, Standard Life) were repeating things they'd already said months ago. (He doesn’t mention John Lewis.)

He then goes on to make a detailed comparison with RBS (not one of Nick's examples in the second question, although it’s relevant to the first) where the reporting was substantially more alarmist than the Chief Executive of RBS's portrayal to his staff, leading in to his criticism of the Treasury's (and the BBC's) role in the reporting.

In fact, he spends nearly four minutes working on reducing the relative credibility of the announcements from business and their leaking and reporting before he first tries to move on to the next question, which is pretty much (if not literally) what Nick asked him to do.

Finally, at 7:00 he mentions two witnesses from the business world (Martin Gilbert and Sir Angus Grossart) who've made statements more favourable to the case for independence, thereby introducing a positive argument as well as the preceding negative ones.

It wasn't a soundbite answer to the soundbite question, but (IMHO, obviously) it was as reasonable an answer as any politician in that situation could give.

The BBC’s has published a response to complaints.

This article started out as a comment on [livejournal.com profile] andrewducker’s post. Both videos were captured by Wings over Scotland.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Compare this:

With this:

...and draw your own conclusions.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Over the last few years, it's often been something about the reporting of the independence debate that's spurred me to write about politics on this (generally) non-political blog. (Hopefully soon I'll have nothing more to say.)

Here's an interesting short online documentary featuring Professor John Robertson talking about his findings of bias in BBC and STV reporting during the independence campaign.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

As a supporter of Scottish independence, even I sometimes get frustrated that the SNP don't explicitly say what their "Plan B" is (implicitly it's always seemed fairly clear - a currency union isn't the only way of keeping the pound).

Whatever you may think of Alex Salmond, he's not daft, so there had to be a reason for him consistently failing to give the clarification that obviously many people want. I would have guessed that it was something to do with maintaining the strength of his negotiation position after a "Yes". That wasn't a million miles off, but it wasn't wholly right. Here's Alex Salmond giving the clearest explanation I've seen of why the SNP are taking the position they are:

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Well, I already knew I was an extremist, as Nick Clegg was kind enough to inform me of it a couple of years ago.

What I hadn’t realised was that I’m practically one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. According to George Robertson – sorry, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen – Scottish independence would be “cataclysmic in geo-political terms”. Gosh, nice to know we count for so much.

There’s a lot of inflated language going round about the independence campaign and it’s daft. Really, if a measly 8.4% of the UK’s population peacefully vote to govern themselves, that’s going to cause the fall of Western civilisation is it? Particularly when what’s being proposed actually sounds a bit like a loose confederation with the rest of the UK? There’s a lot of good will there, if folk are prepared to stop caricaturing independence for a small country as a global catastrophe, and comparing the Unionist cause to that of Lincoln in the American Civil War.

George Robertson’s a coof – if you don’t believe me, watch him comprehensively lose this debate in Dundee last year, turning a 38% margin in his favour into a 13% lead against him. And remember he was involved in determining the Scottish Parliament’s electoral system that was going to help devolution “kill Nationalism stone dead”.

Let’s take his words as seriously as they deserve, at this, the dawn of the Apocalypse. If the world says it’s time to go, tell me, will you freak out? No; with fires in New York, locusts in Detroit, and zombies in Atlanta, you’ve gotta laugh at the zombie in the front yard:

And I really, really want to thank you for reading to the end. ;-)

Contrast

Feb. 3rd, 2014 08:58 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Today the Financial Times published an article containing this image, showing that on at least one measure, an independent Scotland would be approximately 11% better off than it is in the UK:

On the 22nd of January, Alistair Darling – former UK Chancellor and head of Better Together – re-tweeted this:

I’m not sure that’s anything to be proud of.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Further to my earlier post, it's worth reading "Failure at the BBC" the opinion of Derek Bateman, independence-supporting former BBC broadcaster.

Some of his older posts are also illuminating as to how the BBC in Scotland works.
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention (apart from Ian Davidson, who seems to think it’s the other way round), but a study at the University of the West Coast of Scotland has found that the BBC, and to a lesser extent STV, are favouring the No campaign in their news coverage of the independence referendum. It’s worth reading the article; some of the margins are considerable.

This follows the leaked ruling by the BBC Trust – still to be officially announced – that the BBC breached its own editorial guidelines over the reporting of what the Irish European Minister said about the relationship between an independent Scotland and the European Union.

What the study doesn’t measure is the stories that haven’t even made it to broadcast for some reason.

Whichever way your own personal preference goes, if you want a balanced view of the referendum, make sure that besides following the established broadcast and print media, you’re reading some of the citizen journalist sources that openly prefer the alternative; the three most obvious being Newsnet Scotland, Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Apologies for posting something to do with politics rather than something substantial from my own life again, but this is worth highlighting: a debate at Abertay University between the SNP's Stewart Hosie (unless you're from Dundee, you're probably saying "who?" right now) and Labour's George Robertson (former UK Secretary of State for Defence, and Secretary General of NATO).

Even if you're not interested in the issues per se it might be worth watching this to see some really effective debating as Stewart Hosie turns a pre-debate 59%/21% vote in favour of the Union into a post-debate 51%/38% vote in favour of independence; a swing of 25%.



They both make historical errors in the course of the debate. I don't think that pre-Union Scotland, although it did have a Parliament, could be described in modern terms as being democratic (as Stewart Hosie claims). On George Robertson's part, he conflates Vidkun Quisling and Lord Haw Haw into one person.

Sorry I've not written much of late; I don't seem to have enough time to do everything I want to do at the moment even without writing, but I'll try to be a bit more visible in future.
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Here's the response I got to my complaint to Question Time:

Dear Dr. GREIG

Thanks for taking the time to contact the BBC about Question Time, broadcast on 13 June 2013. We forwarded your concerns to the Executive Editor who passed on the following response:

Question Time is a current affairs programme that covers a range of subjects and debates issues in a UK context. It chooses panellists carefully across the series. We regularly invite politicians and non-politicians from one part of the UK to appear on the programme in other parts of the UK. This programme was no different – it was not an independence special discussing exclusively issues related to the independence referendum. It dealt with a range of topical issues in the news. We aim to offer the audience across the UK as well as in the room, as wide a range of voices and opinions on the issues being discussed as possible.

The only difference in this edition was in the makeup of the audience. 16 and 17 year olds have been given the vote for the first time in next year's independence referendum and we wanted to look at what sort of things were of interest to and influenced this age group, to acknowledge why these people were being given the vote.

The composition of the audience reflected both those for and against independence, and contained a number of people who were undecided. It was also broadly representative of voting patterns across the party political spectrum.

The Green Party has been on the programme twice since March, and we have offered the Scottish Greens a seat on the panel the next time we come to Scotland in the next series.

Nigel Farage represents a party with growing UK support and their recent electoral gains since the 2010 general election makes them of interest to our audience.

Thanks again for contacting us.
Kind Regards
BBC Complaints

No surprises there then.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

This is an uplifting video, and it’s nice to see the leaders of our top six political parties agree on something worthwhile!

Credit where credit’s due on an occasion like this, so for those unfamiliar with Scottish politics they appear towards the end after most of the celebs and ordinary folk, and in order of appearance they are:

  1. Patrick Harvie (co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party)
  2. Colin Fox (national spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party)
  3. Ruth Davidson (leader of the Scottish Conservative Party)
  4. Johann Lamont (leader of the Scottish Labour Party)
  5. Willie Rennie (leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats)
  6. Alex Salmond (leader of the Scottish National Party)
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I’ve complained to the BBC about the make-up of the panel on Thursday’s Question Time. I was prompted to do so by the Scottish Greens’ official complaint, which seems to me to be quite justified. The Scottish Lib Dems were also short-changed by the inclusion on the panel of George Galloway of Respect and Nigel Farage of UKIP (neither of which parties have significant electoral support in Scotland), but the Scottish Greens have plainly come off worse, only having appeared on Question Time once in 14 years of continual representation in the Scottish Parliament.

Although Question Time’s for a UK-wide audience, on the relatively rare occasions when it’s recorded in Scotland I think it has a responsibility to accurately reflect Scottish politics to the rest of the nation as well as to Scotland itself, and I don’t believe that was done on this occasion.

Here’s the text of my complaint. I could have said more, but after writing this and précising a bit to fit more in, I only had about five characters space left.

The selection of panellists, although the programme made a feature of the independence debate and took place a week before a by-election, did not appropriately represent political viewpoints within Scotland.

Two parties with significant electoral support and representation at Scottish Parliamentary level (the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green Party) were excluded in favour of politicians whose parties have neither (Respect and UKIP).

I recognise that Question Time is intended for a UK-wide audience, but it does that audience no favours to misrepresent the politics of Scotland; particularly when this appears to form part of a pattern of under-representing the Scottish Green Party, who have appeared on Question Time only once in 14 years of Holyrood representation.

I have listened to suggestions from the BBC and David Dimbleby that (a) this was not an independence special requiring a reflective panel and (b) "Question Time does not follow by-elections and never has". They do not stand up and I do not accept them. On independence, the audience was selected with a particular feature of the referendum in mind, and split evenly in terms of opinion; and more than half the programme spent on an independence question when the independence debate was not particularly prominent in the week's news. Functionally, it's clear this was an independence special; and Question Time has clearly responded to a by-election as recently as February (live from Eastleigh).

If you want to watch the programme and judge for yourself, you can find it on the iPlayer for the next 12 months. There are only three questions covered in the programme, and the independence one is second. In an hour long programme, it runs from roughly 17:25 to 50:25, so about 33 minutes. Oh, and the "particular feature of the referendum" that I mentioned was age; the audience was made up of 16 and 17 year olds, because people of that age will be able vote in the referendum.

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