A Few Thoughts On What In Blazes Is Going On

In fierce anguish & quenchless flames
To the desarts and rocks He ran raging
To hide, but He could not: combining
He dug mountains & hills in vast strength,
He piled them in incessant labour,
In howlings & pangs & fierce madness
Long periods in burning fires labouring
Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,
In despair and the shadows of death.
– William Blake, depicting post-Brexit Britain (probably) in The Book of Urizen

You know what? Forget my worries about being a Cassandra. I’m just going to call it like I see it. World’s mad enough as it is.

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STV for Gamers

There have been several excellent explanations of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system used in local elections recently: the catchphrase “Vote Till You Boak” has gained ground. One of the most concise comes courtesy of Dr. Morag Kerr:

However, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a metaphor that we can employ to explain this more visually. Video games do it all the time: behind every pixel and polygon is reams of code, algorithm, and calculations. The average player doesn’t have to have deep knowledge of coding to know how to play the game, but there’s an implicit understanding that there is a logic behind everything that happens in the game, and that the game won’t break those rules to create an unfair advantage against the players (unless you’re Capcom, Namco, or SNK, the cheap scoundrels).

So, for the purposes of illustration, what if we treat the local elections system as if it was a video game?

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The Monstrous Regiments

Something that’s been bothering me lately is the despondence regarding the proportions of women in Scottish politics, specifically the news that only 30% of local election candidates are women. As someone who supports the 50/50 initiative and is perfectly happy to see gender parity in Scottish Government, I do think it’s regrettable that we clearly haven’t reached that stage. 30% female candidates compared to 51% of the female population of a country is a significant deficit of representation compared to, say, NHS workers (77.1% women), third sector workers (67%), public sector workers (64%), secondary school teachers (63%), high achieving school leavers (65.9%), and higher education students (54%), among other walks of life.

However, I’ve found that there’s little acknowledgement of the long strides we have made towards that goal.

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Mind Over Manners

If you get rid of the midden of power control, special pleading, social engineering, fevered dreaming, spiritual zeal, do-goodery, vanity and dumb-thuggery, then, right at the bottom of politics, you’ll find its original idea, the founding purpose of governance: it’s to feed people, or perhaps to allow folk to eat their dinner in peace. It doesn’t need a manifesto or speeches or plebiscite or subcommunities or baby-kissing or flesh-pressing to understand politics, it’s just about breakfast.
– A.A. Gill

I don’t respond well to ultimatums. If I was ever in a situation where someone said “it’s me or the dog,” I’d pick the dog, precisely because the dog would never demand I make a choice like that. “My way or the highway” – the highway doesn’t insist I follow it. So when someone tells me “don’t donate/support/follow this individual, or you’ll hurt the cause of independence,” how do you think I’m going to respond to that?

This wasn’t No campaigners or champions of the British Establishment, by the way: it was other independence supporters, saying that I shouldn’t give my support, my time, or my money to another independence supporter, on the basis of their personal statements. Now, here’s the thing: I’ve made a point of being as welcoming as possible to all independence supporters, knowing fully well that people are going to disagree with each other – sometimes vociferously, as is their right and prerogative. I think every major pro-independence blog, site, magazine, or paper has said something I either disagree with, or find personally offensive, whether it’s specifically related to independence or not. Yet I still list them on my links on this site; I’ll still read, retweet, and support good articles; I’ll still congratulate them on work well done. I’m used to this in other areas of my life, be it Robert E. Howard scholarship, anti-sectarian work, or even something as broad as art & illustration.

I’m not going to shut out an independence supporter because I disagree with them, or because I find their opinions or actions offensive. I’m not going to suggest that anyone should adopt my approach, either: it’s up to you to determine who you interact with & support. All I can say is that my personal view is that I take great pride in the Scottish Independence movement being an open, inclusive, welcoming movement: ostracising or rejecting individuals or groups, even those who challenge your most fundamental beliefs and ideals, is not something I can get behind. As long as someone acts within the law, they are welcome – to be challenged, as well as accepted.

Those who know me well would be aware that I don’t tend towards using aggressive language, and that I rarely swear (except board game nights, naturally, then anything goes). I’m polite to a fault, and hate confrontation, which is why I find politics so frustratingly difficult to engage in – because in my experience, being polite and well-mannered tells you absolutely nothing about a person’s character.

And this is something that reaches far beyond the matter of Scottish Independence.

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The Other Leg of Time

Talk about the Butterfly Effect

You might have wondered why I didn’t mark yesterday: what could have been the first anniversary of an Independent Scotland’s reappearance after three centuries of union. We could dream about a Scotland that didn’t suffer the indignities of yet another government they didn’t vote for, a Smith Commission where the party of Scottish Government’s proposals were rejected, a Scotland Bill without a single amendment from a Scottish MP, a European Union referendum they didn’t want, and a forced exit from a European Union they didn’t want to leave. We could imagine a Scotland finding its feet, facing the challenges, and working to overcome the obstacles which any nation braves willingly as the responsibility of a sovereign state. We could fantasise about the books finally being laid open, the vindication of Scotland’s real finances, and see how the EU really would treat a “new” pro-EU nation, which already adhered to EU legislation for 40 years, that wanted to remain.

Yet we’ll never truly know, will we? A Yes vote would have changed everything. Nothing would be the same. Would David Cameron have stuck it out until the General Election? In the event he resigned, would Theresa May have succeeded him – would she even put herself in the running? What would have happened in the 2015 election – would Scottish constituencies even put forward candidates for a Parliament that would no longer rule them? Would there even be an election that year, given the upheaval the breaking of the Treaty of Union would have undoubtedly wrought? Even if there was a General Election, could we be so sure the party which lost Scotland could have succeeded in gaining a majority? And even if that majority was gained, would a European Union Referendum even take place – “Now is not the time” for another referendum being a popular refrain in this timeline? If so, what guarantee is there that Leave would be victorious in the aftermath of Scottish Independence?

Such is the nature of the Butterfly Effect, where one decision – one that might seem small, like a cross in a ballot box – can have far-reaching consequences.

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