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 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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