Ending On A High Note

These memes just keep getting more and more apocalyptic.

Jings, it’s been a year, hasn’t it?

It’s been a quiet year in the Wilderness, but there were still some fond memories and popular enough posts. I aim to do better next year, as always. For now, I’ll take a look back on the most popular blog posts of each month from the year that was.

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Scotland and the Apocalypse

Do you think Paris is still standing?
– Anna, being particularly timely despite being filmed years ago

I feel like Anna and the Apocalypse personally set out to antagonise me. It’s an apocalyptic film that assaults the eyes & ears with Glee-esque musical numbers; it’s a film shot in Scotland (several places in my home area of Inverclyde, even!) with posh English folk and a Yank in the lead roles; all the characters I actually liked die before the final act while the ones I actively disliked survived to the end; it’s set largely in a school. I’m certain this is actually part of the film’s appeal, as well as its strength – to blend genres (the Intolerably Twee High School Full of Melodramatic Desperados Musical with the Interminable Zombie Apocalypse That Will Never Die Just Like The Titular Monsters Movie along with the Permanently Hamstrung By The Nature of Western Calenders Christmas Film) which are seemingly completely at odds with one another, and shine a light up to them all.

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Who Decides?

Our membership of the European Union is a decision we take as the United Kingdom, and that’s why, in the referendum, every vote counts the same. We don’t count them in constituencies, we don’t count them in districts, every vote’s the same whether it’s in Stornoway or St. Ives. It’s a decision for all the people of the United Kingdom, and we should take it on the merits of the European Union Debate.
Liam Fox

I grappled with this question when I was Environment Secretary. I would talk to my opposite number, Richard Lochhead, and he would sometimes come to Brussels and we would discuss the matter in question beforehand. However, the position always was, and remains to this day, that it is the United Kingdom as one country that is negotiating.
Hilary Benn

We must leave the EU as one country not just because it preserves the Union but because it is the best option for jobs, businesses and trade across the UK.
Stephen Kerr

So did London vote to Remain but that is irrelevant as it was a national UK decision in which the majority voted for Brexit
Lord John Kilcoony

We voted in the referendum as one country, and we need to respect it as one country.
Dominic Raab

We entered the EU as one country and we will leave as one country, whatever the European Commission might desire.
Jacob Rees-Mogg

That is a very good point, we voted as one country.
Kwasi Kwarteng

It is important that we now move forward together as one country, very clear in what we want to see in our future relationship with the European Union, and that we go into the negotiations with that confidence.
Theresa May

“The UK voted as one county, the UK will leave as one country.”

This is a common refrain we hear – usually, but not exclusively, from those advocating to leave – when one brings up the fact that no less than two of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom voted to remain. This is simply because the huge population difference between England and the other three means that even a mere 53% vote in favour of leaving in one nation completely overruled the 55% and 62% votes in favour of remaining in the other two.

But who, exactly, decided that this should be the case?

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William Blain, The Comics Wizard from Gourock

Image taken from This Was The Wizard, courtesy of Down The Tubes

Eventually Willie Blain became Managing Editor of all of the Thomson line of comics, originating their girls’ comics with Bunty (1958), their boys’ adventure comics with Victor in 1961 and such famous titles as Jackie (1964). Although he rarely gets a credit, a poll of the most important figures in the history of British comics would almost certainly have to include Willie Blain in the top five.
Steve Holland

Today would have been the 115th birthday of William Blain. You may not immediately recognise the name, but many a child who grew up in Scotland in the 20th Century will be very familiar with his works.

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Lost Histories

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you…

It doesn’t walk in saying,
“Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”
– Michael Rosen, “I Sometimes Fear…

I volunteer with a local heritage & arts group in Gourock: a wee forum where people who are interested in our Burgh of Barony’s past can discuss our history, culture, and future. This can range from the not-too-distant past of the 20th Century, all the way back to prehistoric times, and even the geological composition of the very rocks. Little stories abound, from the innovation of the original Red Herring, to the diabolical warlock Auld Dunrod, and the thing buried under St. Ninian’s football pitch featured on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

There are stories that aren’t quite so delightful: the death of Mary Lamont and others in the “witch-mania of Scotland”; the sectarian violence which cropped up again and again; the expulsion of Rev. Macrae by the Synod. One of the many hazards historians must navigate in the sea of history is that dark side of humanity: no town is without its sorrows, its hatreds, its evils. It can be very easy to repurpose shame or horror from your past into denial and outrage towards others.

I was struck by this facet of the events in Charlottesville: it’s illustrative in showing how easy it is for things to go wrong.

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I Wish I Could Understand It

I wish I could understand pro-independence folk voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s party. Really, I do. I know more than a few people personally who staunchly support independence, but who wanted to support the last great hope of the British Left – and so, voted for his candidate. I even remember this back in the 2015 General Election campaign, where folk I know who were deeply involved in RIC, the SSP, and non-party initiatives told me they would’ve voted for a socialist candidate with a red rosette.

I’ve thought about it for months, now. I still don’t get it. Put aside the fundamental issue of independence (or even respecting the mandate of the Scottish Parliament to even hold a referendum, let alone the notion of independence itself) for me, and there are still so many dealbreakers. The party is committed to renewal of nuclear weapons – dealbreaker. The party is committed to a complete UK-wide withdrawal from the European Union despite Scotland, Northern Ireland, & Gibraltar voting to stay – dealbreaker. The party refuses to adopt even the extreme compromise of Single Market Membership & retention of Free Movement – dealbreaker. And that’s not even considering the fact Corbyn’s party will stop at nothing to destroy the SNP, even if it costs them a shot at government.

I mean, look at this. For God’s sake.

Wings provided a very short and concise piece of advice for Mr Corbyn, but there’s one problem: Mr Corbyn’s party are 3rd in all 13 Scottish seats currently under occupation by Theresa May’s party. Of those 13 seats, a paltry 3 of them appear in the 150 best shots for a Corbyn gain:

Renfrewshire East, Scotland: 7,150 majority, 6.65% swing to win

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, Scotland: 7,526 majority, 10.28% swing to win

Aberdeen South, Scotland: 9,603 majority, 10.91% swing to win

All but two of the UK Government Party-held seats in Scotland require a greater than 10% swing to win. Mr Corbyn’s party needs 325 MPs to vote for him to become Prime Minister. As Wings says, even if you replace every single SNP MP with one from Mr Corbyn’s party, his net gain is 0. Unlike David Cameron’s party devouring their erstwhile coalition partners, Corbyn taking SNP seats cannot provide him with a majority, be it the 18 marginals, or even all 35. Even taking every single seat in Scotland would not be enough for an overall majority, and would rely upon a pact with the decidedly unreliable Coalition Party – which neither side is remotely interested in.

Is there anywhere – anywhere at all – that Mr Corbyn could find more seats?

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Absent Without Leaving

I took a complete break from social media over the past two weeks. Part of this is because of my personal response to the 2017 Local Elections – in particular the Inverclyde result, which I still take very personally – and the aftermath. As of this post, there is still no new administration, and all we have to go on is hearsay. So, until the new administration is in place, I won’t comment on the election, the upcoming General Election, or anything overtly constitutional or political.

However, there was another, much more serious reason. It was a problem which was developing for months before the election, and came to a head in the last few weeks. As a resident of the area this problem affects, as well as a Community Councillor, I did a lot of work behind the scenes with others to find a peaceful resolution to a very tense and volatile situation. Several agencies, including Inverclyde Council, River Clyde Homes, and Police Scotland, were involved: I cannot thank them enough for their hard work and diligence in this very difficult situation. I am beyond relieved that this crisis looks to be over, and hope that all concerned can learn from this experience.

I hope I’ll be able to explain more fully in the future, though that may not be possible. Suffice to say, life was extremely interesting.