To The Typing Bald Mammals at The Sunday Herald

Sunday Herald_Labour Dinosaurs

Dear Male/Female of your wretched insignificant species (delete as applicable),

I am the Mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. Perhaps you have heard of me, as upon my debut to the pitiful public of bipedal prey, the estimable New York Times deigned to deem me, among other things, “the royal man-eater of the jungle,” “the most formidable fighting animal of which there is any record whatever,” “king of all kings in the domain of animal life,” “the absolute warlord of the earth,” “the prize fighter of antiquity,” and, most notably, the “Last of the Great Reptiles and the King of Them All.” The insignificant creature who discovered me proclaimed me “the ne plus ultra of the evolution of the large carnivorous dinosaurs.” As such, I’m sure you shall consider my humble and subtle opinion to be superlative in the dominion of life on this planet.

I am therefore writing to you – no mean feat, given the skill and precision required in typing with non-pronated arms with but two digits upon your minuscule typewriters – to register my savage and primordial disgust at the comparison your newpaper makes between my mighty clade, and that of your puny political party known erroneously as the UK Labour Party.

First of all, the headline, “Inside the Jurassic Party.” While it would be obvious to point out that we Terrible Lizards reigned for far longer than the mere 56 million years of the Jurassic Period, what I would have thought even more obvious would be to choose a dinosaur from said period for illustrative purposes. Flattered as I may be to be chosen as representative of the Dinosauria clade, even one of your imperceptible in-utero hatchlings would note the discrepancy in choosing an animal from the glorious Cretaceous period to represent the “Jurassic” party. I’m sure Oxfordshire’s own Megalosaurus, the first of our grand tribe to be formally named by your impudent rabble of supposed “scientists,” would have been thrilled. Have we learned nothing from Michael Crichton’s blockbuster?

Secondly, and more irritatingly, is the perpetuation of the insidious correlation of dinosaurs to anything which is a) very old; b) has very old-fashioned views; c)  is not willing to change and adapt. This usage is deeply and gravely offensive to me and my kind. It is a cruel reminder of a very dark and bleak part of our history, when dinosaurs’ perceived failure to survive an extinction which wiped out three quarters of all life on earth was used to “prove” our clades’ evolutionary “inferiority,” to suggest that it was our inability to change which caused our doom. We dinosaurs were viewed as evolutionary failures, too slow, too stubborn, too stupid, and too primitive to survive. While such descriptions may apply perfectly appropriately to the New Labour Party, it cannot be applied to what is actually one of the most successful and dynamic clades in the prehistory of the planet Earth.

For every year of the 135 million we dinosaurs ruled the Earth, we evolved and changed with the times, into myriad new forms and roles in the ecosystem. We survived the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, the Toarcian Turnover, the Aptian Extinction, and the Bonarelli Event. Far from slowing to a halt, our diversity only increased as the Cretaceous period came to a close. We ranged from the size of tiny birds to the largest creatures known to shake the ground. I’m sure the New Labour Party would love to claim equivalent feats, but it is difficult to convince when the greatest morphological (and political) variance within their members ranges from Jim Murphy to John Prescott.

YOU MONKEYS ARE ALL THE SAME TO THE MIGHTY TYRANNOSAURUS

YOU MONKEYS ARE ALL THE SAME TO THE MIGHTY TYRANNOSAURUS

In future, I hope that the thousand apes scrambling over your typewriters will learn to better distinguish between the two groups. One group is an obsolete failure whose halcyon days are long gone, known by their dominance by withered geriatric ectothermic elders, their propensity for tearing each other apart to the point of mutual destruction, their complete lack of self-awareness and higher mental functions, and their woeful inadequacy and resistance to adapt in a changing world.

The other group are dinosaurs.

I trust this has been educational.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

The Mighty Tyrannosaurus rex

What I Wrote To The Smith Commission

Dear Lord Smith,

As you are aware, 1,617,989 Scots voted for independence on the 18th of September 2014. I am confident in saying that, in the event of a No vote, each one of those voters would demand as many powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament as possible, by virtue of their support for complete sovereignty from Westminster. If they voted to have all powers, then I cannot see that position changing in the event of Scotland remaining in the UK.

As such, I would argue that the obvious goal for the Smith Commission is to devolve every power possible to the Scottish Parliament, and ensure that those powers currently devolved, remain devolved. Rather than arguing a case for why any particular power should be devolved, the argument must instead be why any particular power should remain reserved to Westminster. Such powers include, but are not limited to:

  • Full Fiscal Autonomy
  • Income tax
  • Corporation tax
  • Currency
  • Pensions
  • Economics
  • Oil & gas revenues
  • Mining & Fracking
  • Energy Regulation
  • Renewable Energy
  • Human Rights
  • Education
  • Law
  • Health
  • Welfare
  • Charities
  • Proceeds of Crime (“Cashback for Communities”)
  • VAT
  • Defence
  • Nuclear Deterrent
  • Foreign policy
  • Trade & industry
  • Agriculture
  • Fisheries & Dairy
  • Food & Drink
  • Transport
  • Energy regulation
  • Constitution
  • Crown Estates & Affairs
  • Civil service
  • National security
  • Immigration
  • Media
  • Broadcasting
  • Resources
  • Coastguard and Maritime Affairs
  • Internal Affairs
  • Insolvency powers
  • Time powers
  • Land
  • Presence in Europe
  • Presence in NATO
  • Space exploration
  • Science & Technology

If the Smith Commission concludes a power should remain reserved to Westminster, then the Commission must provide a full and detailed explanation as to why that power should remain in the hands of the UK Government, rather than the Scottish Government.

While the people of Scotland had no say in your appointment, in the interests of good faith and confidence, we hope that you use your influence as a Lord to gain the best possible outcome for the people of Scotland.

I am at your disposal to answer any questions you may have in regards to these matters.

Sincerely,

Al Harron

The Devo Files

OK, this wasn't fair - there's no way the Vow's out there.

The truth is out there…

Before I embark upon a more in-depth appraisal of each Scottish MP’s record since 2010, I thought it expedient to simply list every vote they made in regards to further devolution to Scotland. Included are 58 MPs’ votes on the 13 discussions in regards to further devolution. Because I might be a bit biased in my interpretation of the votes, I also included Public Whip’s Agree/Disagree percentage system, as I feel it still gives the jist. The only difference, I feel, is that it interprets one vote (the rejection of the second reading) as a pro-devolution vote, whereas I feel it’s arguable: similarly, at least two amendments are for greater responsibilities, not greater powers. Yet even with those issues, the amount of Scottish MPs who are as likely to vote against further devolution as for it is illustrative of my central problem – that we cannot rely on these individuals to fight for more powers.

I invite readers to place bets now when considering how many MPs voted over 50% in favour of more devolution for Scotland – excluding the MPs that couldn’t be bothered voting on more than a handful of votes, thus presenting an entirely skewed perspective on their voting record – and to predict the gulf between the average pro-devo and anti-devo vote. Special points if you can name the three MPs who didn’t vote on a single issue.

Here we go.

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The Guarantors of Devolution

Midvale School for the Gifted

Part of the problem with a Yes vote is that we’d still have to be working with people who campaigned for a No vote. Barring extenuating circumstances, Danny Alexander would still be Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Alistair Carmichael would still be Secretary of State for Scotland; Alistair Darling would still be the MP for Edinburgh South West. All 53 New Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Conservative Members of Parliament would still be doing their job for at least half a year into the interregnum period before independence. And today’s debate alone should show exactly why this is a big problem.

A big song and dance was made about their commitment to more devolution, to fighting for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. But does that hold up? I’ve gone through each one of the 59 MPs’ voting records to see if they actually have practised what they preached. Since 2010, there have been 13 votes in the House of Commons relating to devolving more powers to Holyrood, all in relation to the Scotland Act 2012. You’d think, then, that for most of these Parties of Devolution, the majority of those 13 votes would be votes in favour of granting more powers, right? You’d think that the Liberal Democrats, as the Party of Federalism, would have a stronger record than One Nation Labour? You’d think that New Labour, The Party Which Brought You The Scottish Parliament In The First Place (and who’ll never let you forget it), would generally vote in favour of more devolution?

At the risk of belabouring the point, the result is no surprise whatsoever to anyone who’s actually paid attention to the parties over the past few years.

This is a work in process, and I don’t doubt there are probably more than a few mistakes. Hopefully not too many. As such, I’ll happily make amendments to any errors I’ve made.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy

Inverclyde_Vote_Result

Two weeks on. This may be the last post I make for a while. I cannot say how long it will be until I return: I still need a few days to collect myself after all that’s happened over the past two years of my life. It’s been the proverbial roller-coaster of ups and downs. I think I’ll be taking a break from life in general. Read some books. Draw. Finish Bannockburn - lord knows if anything needs finished, it’s that. Play video games. I can’t remember the last time I played Skyrim.

But before I leave, I would like to impart my experiences of the 18th and the early hours of the 19th of September, 2014, as I saw them.

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For As Long As A Hundred Of Us Remain Alive

Yes InverclydeYou can’t put out all our candles.

If I had any regrets throughout this campaign, it’s that I was too openly optimistic. I do not regret believing that Yes would win, not for a single second – any second spent worrying about a No vote was a second wasted in misery and despair. So I put it out of my mind. But I do regret that I thought everybody had this exact same mindset. I truly believed that once galvanised with the belief in independence, every single Yes voters would be like me, and all the people I’ve come to truly love at Yes Inverclyde. I truly believed that it would be a Yes vote, because I couldn’t understand anyone who came into the shop not being willing to stand on their feet for close on 20 hours. I shouldn’t have simply trusted in that. At the end of the day, we needed boots on the ground. We simply didn’t have enough of them – if we had even a hundred of us at Yes Inverclyde, we could’ve soared.

I’m so sorry to all who’ve lost hope. But all I have to say is to look to Inverclyde. We are 1.5% of Scotland, which is amazingly close to the 1% Scotland is compared to the European Union – makes you feel a bit like Scotland in miniature. In our area, the 16-29 year old demographic is 16.6% of our population – 18.3% is the average for Scotland. The significance of this is a smaller amount of potential young voters who seem to have been more likely to vote Yes – and the Lord Ashdown post-referendum poll bears that out. Sadly, at the other end of the scale, the 60+ demographic are 25.6% of our population, while the rest of Scotland’s is 23.7% – and again, the Lord Ashdown post-referendum poll shows that the 60+ are much more likely to vote No. You’re looking at almost 5% of the vote. Or, in real terms, there are 20,000 60+ voters within the Inverclyde electorate, but we are lacking 3,000 16-29 within the electorate. So, we have about 2,000 extra older people compared to the Scottish average.

With these demographics, we were predicted to get 20% Yes. We have a higher than average elderly population, and lower than average young population. We were all told we weren’t going to take Inverclyde – we just had to do the best we could, get as many Yes voters as we could for the overall count. We’d have to steel ourselves with the reality that we’d lose the battle, but hope to win the war.

Final results? It was so close only 86 people decided the count. Out of 54,572, we got 27,243 – statistically a dead heat, to the point where we needed two recounts. Far from the “resounding” victory our soon-to-be-ex MPs and MSPs assert, Inverclyde’s No majority was a wafer-thin 0.2%. If we canvassed Kilmacolm and Quarriers’ Village (which were not included in our region, it was given to Renfrew – for some reason canvassing was done by Holyrood regions but the polling by Westminster, or maybe the reverse, I still haven’t slept much), I can practically guarantee Yes would’ve taken a substantial proportion of the No votes they returned. If you consider only the areas Yes Inverclyde did canvass, then Yes Inverclyde did win.

Yes Inverclyde tanned No’s hide, bloodied its nose, blackened its eyes, rattled its bones, fought to the absolute finish. We went the 15 rounds.  They came into this fight expecting to crush us, to sail to a comfortable 70% or 80%. They had the might of Westminster, every single daily newspaper in Scotland (including the Greenock Telegraph despite its protestations of “impartiality”), the entire British media, the wealth of billionaires, a campaign of despicable lies, and the substantial support of the Orange Order on their side. We had about 20 regular campaigners and another 30 grassroots, and a wee shop on Cathcart Street for the last few months. When all was said and done, Inverclyde went from a “2 out of 10″ in expectations for a Yes vote, into the 6th best percentage for the whole of Scotland. They could only scrape by with a mere 86 votes out of 54,572. 0.16%.

My heart goes out to all who’ve lost hope, whose candle of hope has been snuffed out, but mine hasn’t. Nor has the hope of any of my friends at Yes Inverclyde. But we’re not going to win based on the good intentions of sympathetic Yes voters, or moral support from outside observers. That is the lesson of the referendum for me, a variation on something Elbert Hubbard once said: “Those who say it cannot be done should stop interrupting those who are getting it done.” Far too many were interrupting us, and not nearly enough of us were getting it done. Let us learn from this lesson.

“As long as a hundred of us remain alive…”

There are a hell of a lot more than a hundred of us yet.