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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Slainte for Saltopus

Remember this post?

You might have heard of Saltopus if you’re my age or older: for the longest time, it was famous as the first dinosaur to be discovered in Scotland. In 1910, William Taylor found a tiny piece of jaw in the Lossiemouth West & East Quarry: the Württembergian palaeontologist Friedrich von Huene named it Saltopus elginensis (“Elgin’s jumping foot”).

Finally, we Scots had a dinosaur to call our own, to stand beside the many dinosaurs discovered, described and adopted by England! Scotland’s previous claim to fame beforehand was ammonites, trilobites, graptolites, stromatolites, fish, shrimps, sharks, sea scorpions, dicynodonts, “Devil’s toenails,”  missing links, googly-eyed eels, elks, and trees – but no dinosaurs to call their own. Every country should have at least one dinosaur. Even the Cetiosaurus bones found on Skye are just a northern branch of a species discovered in England. Alas, it was not to be: Saltopus was demoted to dinosauriform – a very dinosaur-like dinosauriform, but not a dinosaur itself.

Isn’t that just bloody typical? Scotland finds a dinosaur, and it gets reclassified. Still, there’s something poetic in Scotland’s “dinosaur” being a creature that’s nearly there, but not yet.

Well, Matthew G. Baron, David B. Norman, & Paul M. Barrett have published a paperA new hypothesis of dinosaur relationships and early dinosaur evolution. Pretty bold shake-up, but one of the coolest findings brings possible vindication for an old Scottish fossil!

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I Don’t Want Another Independence Referendum

There are wants and there are needs. This is a basic element of health, economics, and social structure. First there are wants: things which you might desire, but which are not essential to your life & livelihood – luxuries, frivolities, hobbies. Then there are needs: things which you might not desire, but which are essential to your life & livelihood – sustenance, shelter, warmth. There are wants which can provide some needs, and some needs which you might want. But at the end of the day, needs are essential: wants are not.

It is important to distinguish between the two.

Basis for Comparison Needs Wants
Meaning Needs refers to an individual’s basic requirement that must be fulfilled, in order to survive. Wants are described as the goods and services, which an individual like to have, as a part of his caprices.
Nature Limited Unlimited
What is it? Something you must have. Something you wish to have.
Represents Necessity Desire
Survival Essential Inessential
Change May remain constant over time. May change over time.
Non-fulfillment May result in onset of disease or even death. May result in disappointment.
I don’t want another Independence Referendum. The Scottish Government don’t want another Independence Referendum. And I don’t think the people of Scotland want another Independence Referendum.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

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Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Alex Salmond has been accused of attempting to rewrite history after he dismissed as a “collective myth” his promise before the 2014 independence referendum that there would not be a rerun for a generation or even a lifetime.
The former First Minister claimed he had not used the phrase “once in a lifetime” in a 2014 television interview to describe the vote and insisted he had instead said it was the “opportunity of a lifetime.”
However, footage and an official transcript of the interview showed he did use the “once in a lifetime” phrase when asked whether he would pledge not to “bring back another referendum” if the nationalists lost.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr on the Sunday before the September 2014 vote, Mr Salmond said: “In my view this is a once in a generation – perhaps even a once in a lifetime – opportunity.”
– The Telegraph, 19th March 2017

Alex Salmond said “In my view this is a once in a generation – perhaps even a once in a lifetime – opportunity.” Therefore, there should not be another Independence Referendum for a generation, “perhaps” even a lifetime. After all, Alex Salmond said it, therefore it was a “cast-iron promise” which must be upheld:

We already know the SNP is perfectly happy to break the vow to the people of Scotland that the 2014 result would stand for a generation.
But it’s another thing entirely for Mr Salmond to claim he did not actually make this cast-iron promise to voters. The people of Scotland will see through this latest bluster from a man who walked into the poorest communities in Scotland and sold them a lie about the economic case for independence.
Ian Murray, who has a cheek talking about another party breaking a “vow” to the people of Scotland

Why do people think this is an argument? It’s stupid. It’s utterly, utterly stupid.

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May, Be Just – For Sure

This week, the Scottish Parliament will debate a motion to request a Section 30 order from the UK Parliament. A good number of journalists & commentators seem convinced that the Prime Minister has outright blocked such an order even before a vote – though, as ever, what the PM actually said was no such thing.

There’s a very good reason I would be extremely surprised if the Prime Minister does, indeed, take measures to block a Scottish Independence Referendum outright – and it’s nothing to do with what the people of Scotland want.

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Mighty People of Independence

prof-dr-anna_macgillivray_macleodProfessor Anna MacGillivray Macleod of Kirkhill was the first female professor of Brewing and Biochemistry in the history of the world.

I attended the launch of The Mighty Women of Science, an alphabet picture book by Claire Forrest & Fiona Gordon, several months ago. I met Claire at the previous Glasgow Comic-Con, where she told me about the book. She wanted to publish an accessible, positive, informative book that celebrates and acknowledges the many contributions women made to the advancement of knowledge. I’m greatly supportive of such endeavours, and so I said I’d attend the launch.

The launch at Waterstones in Glasgow was very well-attended, and the talk was excellent. I’d like to share one anecdote in particular, which gave me much cause for reflection, and I think very relevant to what’s been going on recently in the world of Scottish politics.

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Watch Your Step, Cassandra: Hawthorne Is Watching

cassandra_the-stratford-gallery_henrietta-lee-palmer

An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.

The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you’d tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass… when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you’ve just been discovered, you’re all subjects of the Emperor now, he’s keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.

— Iain M. Banks, Excession

It is now 78 days until the Scottish Local Authority Election. Historically speaking, these are frequently the second-lowest attended elections in Scotland, which is understandable, given the prominence and perceived hierarchy of the UK Government: according to the Westminster hierarchy, the UK Parliament is at the top tier of government, with the Scottish Parliament next, and local authorities third. Here in Scotland, things are a bit different: in Scotland, the people are sovereign. As local authorities are the closest to the sovereign people, they are crucial to the political conversation. Is it any wonder, then, that the elite insist on putting Westminster first, Holyrood second, and local authorities last, when an argument could easily be made for the very reverse?

But that’s all by the by. I will once again be campaigning for my local SNP candidates in this election. Yesterday, several of them were approved by the Greenock & Inverclyde Branch & Constituency to go forward. There is still time for anyone else to throw their hat in the ring, but we don’t exactly have a surplus of that particular resource.

(Time, that is: we have plenty of hats)

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