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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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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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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Where We Are, And Where We’re Going

bettertogethereu-1

“So that’s it, then? We’re leaving the EU, the single market, the customs union, all that.”

“That’s right.”

“But Scotland voted Remain.”

“No, the UK voted Leave. Scotland voted No, therefore, chose to abide by UK-wide decisions – including the EU referendum.”

“Voting to stay in the UK doesn’t mean voting for Scotland to be treated as a region, and have its democratic mandate ignored.”

“Well, you should’ve voted Yes then, shouldn’t you?”

“But you told us that voting Yes meant we would be leaving the EU.”

“That’s right.”

“So if we wanted to stay in the EU, we were to vote No.”

“Yup.”

“So we voted No, but ended up being taken out of the EU anyway.”

“Aye.”

“So if we voted Yes, we’d be out of the EU. If we voted No, we’d be out of the EU. So you’re basically saying that Scotland has no way of staying in the EU, even though we voted 62% to Remain?”

“Correct.”

“Even though dozens of EU ministers, officials, and politicians have outright stated that if Scotland wanted to stay, it could stay?”

“Ah, but Spain and Belgium-“

“If Spain, Belgium, or any of the 27 countries were serious about preventing Scotland from retaining or regaining EU membership, then why are so many EU politicians, ministers, and officials saying Scotland could stay? Why would they say Scotland could stay if there was a possibility we could not?

“Ah, but the deficit-“

“The same applies. If the deficit was a barrier to Scotland retaining or regaining EU membership, then why are so many EU politicians, ministers, and officials saying Scotland could stay?

“But, but, all the separatist movements”

“Everything you say – anything you say – does not address that simple question. If Scotland could not retain or regain EU membership – whether it’s because of vetoes, deficits, or fears of separatist movements – then why are so many EU politicians, ministers, and officials saying Scotland can stay?

“Why don’t you respect democracy? The UK voted to leave the EU, and you don’t want to: Scotland voted to stay in the UK, and you want to Leave!”

“If England & Wales want to leave the EU based on a vote compromised by a gerrymandered franchise, that’s their business – just as if Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar want to Remain in that same vote. The people of Scotland voted for a party with an explicit manifesto commitment to hold a second independence referendum in these exact circumstances.”

“But we were voting as Britain, not England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland!”

“That’s not what you told us during the independence referendum: it was all about being a Partnership of Equals; of Scotland leading, not leaving, the UK; of solidarity with the people of England and Wales without sacrificing our distinct Scottish identity. By saying we’re voting as if Britain is one nation, you’re refuting your own arguments about this “family of nations.””

“So you’d just swap London rule for Brussels rule?”

“The EU doesn’t pretend to be a country. The UK didn’t have to get permission to hold a referendum. Brussels didn’t control the UK’s media coverage through the entirety of the campaign. Stop trying to pretend the UK and the EU are the same – otherwise, why would you favour one and not the other?”

“Why are you so against British independence, you hypocrite?”

The UK has never been anything but independent. Don’t confuse empire and dominion with sovereignty and self-determination.”

“Och, why don’t you just get on with it and hold indyref2 already?”

“Don’t mind if we do. You’re welcome to join us.”