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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: (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: (Dark Wizard)

Today is World Porridge Day, which is being promoted by Mary’s Meals. Mary’s Meals provide a daily meal of maize porridge (likuni phala) to some of the world’s poorest children. It makes a bigger difference than you might think – for many children it’s the meal that allows them to attend school.

Insights, where I work,  supports Mary’s Meals, and today there are some themed activities and people were encouraged to wear tartan. You may remember Mary’s Meals was the charity supported by Martha Payne, who blogged about school dinners in Argyll a few years ago as NeverSeconds.

Wearing tartan with Fraser Paterson 
Wearing tartan with Fraser Paterson

Not sure I’ll actually be indulging in any porridge as I hate the stuff, but I’ll be seeing what else I can do.

Donate to Mary's Meals.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

The BBC used a photo of mine as one of “Your pictures of Scotland” this week. It was taken from the bus stop in Dundee on my way to work on Tuesday (sometime around 08:15), and is looking over the V&A construction site and across the Tay towards Fife. Here’s my approximation of the BBC’s crop (it was easier to reproduce it than try to steal my own picture from the BBC page):

Cranes at Sunrise (Approximation of the BBC crop)

Here’s the original:

Cranes at Sunrise (Original)

The crop gets rid of the crane on the left, which certainly makes for a better composition, but in going portrait I feel the breadth of the sunrise becomes a bit constrained.

Last time I submitted a photo to the BBC (some years ago) they just published photos “as is”, so it’s interesting to see how things have changed, and how a professional would choose to present my picture.

I generally leave my own photos untouched, unless they badly need something done or I need them for a specific purpose; they’re my memories more than art to me – and I’m not an artist, and have dodgy colour vision. Best leave well alone! However, if I were cropping it myself I would probably have gone for something like this:

Cranes at Sunrise (My own crop)

The BBC version is probably still better, because it focuses on the features of interest centre stage – I think my cropping choice suffers slightly from the additional street lights to left and right. If they weren’t there, I might prefer my version, but as it is they’re a slight distraction. Losing some of the hoarding around the V&A construction site also reduces the contrast in the photo and makes it appear a bit more washed out. I could easily have kept that by changing the proportions slightly, but I preferred to keep the original aspect ratio.

The crop is the only change made between these three versions of the picture.

I’d be interested to know which others prefer. For me, it’s probably the order in which they appear in this article, but it’s a slightly reluctant choice – I’m attached to my original with its flaws!

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)

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)

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:

Belle

Jun. 15th, 2014 01:15 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Good movie, go see it.

Expand for review... )
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. ;-)

Decade

Feb. 14th, 2014 11:52 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Mugshots a decade apartToday marks my (first?) decade on LiveJournal. Quite a few of the people who may read this will have been here a bit longer than that, but I thought it was worth marking anyway. It’s over two decades now since I set up my first web presence – a links site for Doctor Who, also called the Temporal Nexus. (There was a gap of several years in between.) The web’s been around so long now that people have grown up with it, and kids who weren’t around when I started this blog are now learning to code!

I originally set this blog up with the intention of writing more about software development, as we were starting on a significant project at the time. As it turned out, there wasn’t as much to write about on that front as I’d hoped, so I’ve touched on a variety of other things over the years. Hopefully they’ve mostly been of some interest!

LiveJournal’s popularity has dropped over the years, but I’m still here for two main reasons. I like to read blog entries of a decent size; and my friends are here. I don’t do Twitter much (though I am there @ggreig) because how much can you really say that’s worth saying in 140 characters? And I don’t do Facebook at all because I disapprove of their utter lack of concern for personal privacy; not so much for my own sake as for the way I feel they’re exploiting people’s ignorance. I’m sure my personal boycott’ll be bringing them to their knees any day now! LiveJournal has its limitations, but it’s good enough for me.

So if you’ve read me for all ten years, or for nearly as long – as I think most of you have – thank you. And if we’ve not been friends for quite that long, thanks to you too, for making me think I might have the occasional thing to say worth hearing!

Look forward to hearing you all from time to time, and hope you still enjoy hearing from me.

Cheers,
Gavin.

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)

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)

Channel 4 is doing an evening of programmes about psychopaths, and have a handy-dandy test where you can assess your own level of psychopathy.

Uninterestingly but perhaps reassuringly, it turns out I’m a teddy bear, scoring 21%:

You are warm and empathic with a heightened awareness of social responsibility and a strong sense of conscience. You like to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of a situation before you act and are generally averse to taking risks. You are very much a ‘people person’ and dislike conflict. ‘Do unto others…’ are your watchwords. But, although you avoid hurting others, those residing at the higher end of the psychopathic spectrum might not be as considerate, so stay vigilant to avoid being hurt unnecessarily.

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)

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.

ggreig: (I Need Dis)

…that the World Wide Web entered the public domain. I’m pretty sure I first used it later that year when I returned to university in Dundee (along with ever-more-occasional Gopher use).

By the time I was looking for a job three years later, the Web was so much of a part of how I worked as a developer that I dreaded the possibility of working for a company that wasn’t connected. Luckily, that didn’t happen, although all we had was a 28k modem – with a timer on the power socket so that it cut off outside working hours and therefore kept the phone bills down.

ggreig: (I Need Dis)

A Harvard University human motor systems test that attempts to guess your age knocked 16 years off me today!

The test is based on how quickly you can click on dots on the screen – it’s a bit like that eye-test where spots of light are shone on the inside of a hemisphere and you have to react to them. I wouldn’t say my reactions are particularly good, so why did I do so well?

I think it’s because I was using a trackball. The basic assumption of the test is that you’re using either a mouse or a trackpad, although it does provide an “other” option as part of a survey after the test’s completed.

I switched from mice to trackballs a number of years ago – not sure how many, but long enough to have had to replace one. People visiting my desk hate using the trackball (so much so that I have a “guest mouse” for when people come by), and adjusting to it was hard. In fact, for the first week, it was physically painful as I got accustomed to an entirely new set of movements. After that first week though, it was full speed ahead and I’ve never looked back. A trackball’s quicker and more accurate than a mouse, and my burgeoning RSI from dragging a mouse around went away.

My trackballs are thumb-driven ones from Logitech; for some reason finger trackballs seem to be more popular, but I wouldn’t have thought they can be so quick and efficient and surely must suffer from some of the problems of mice. The thumb’s a “spare” digit from a mousing point of view, but it’s great for driving a trackball; strong, and capable of fast, sharp and quite precise movements.

If you don’t believe me, give the test a go and see how you do!

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Tomorrow (Saturday 29th March) I'll be protesting against the Bedroom Tax in Edinburgh. In my opinion it’s worse than the Poll Tax. If the Poll Tax could be characterised as thoughtless with regard to those on low incomes, the Bedroom Tax by comparison would be vindictive, as it’s targeted on them, and is likely to have a cumulative effect with other benefit cuts.

There are many other locations throughout the UK where something’s happening tomorrow, listed onscreen at the end of this video. You can skip to 2:55 if the song isn't your thing. I hope you enjoy it, and consider coming along:

If you don't know the original version of the song, here it is:

School Days

Oct. 9th, 2012 09:45 pm
ggreig: (Default)

Looks like I’ve been tracked down by the Dunoon Grammar School Mafia! Hi to anyone reading this, long time no see. If you want to get in touch, you can leave a comment here or contact me via my iName (just click the link and follow the instructions).

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