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Tories crush SNP in glorious victory – BBC News

Yes, ladies and gents, if there is one thing to be learnt from the most recent council elections it’s that you shouldn’t trust the BBC with arithmetic. In the follow up from the election the BBC and the other mainstream media outlets took it upon themselves to announce that the Conservatives had scored a stunning victory in Scotland and beat the SNP into submission by coming in a blistering second place… behind the SNP. Good heavens.

On their website, the BBC put the SNP at -7 seats, on the news it was first -14 which was, itself, an advance on “a handful” of seats lost. The Guardian managed to confuse things further by stating in their graphic that the SNP were up 31 seats, but later on in the article said that they were actually down 31 seats. In fact, at the last council election, the SNP took 425 seats; in this election they took 431. That is an increase of six, please do check for yourselves on your pocket calculators.

The SNP had just over 56% more seats than their Conservatives, who came in second by 155 seats. The SNP increased their share of the vote on the last election, became the largest party in 19 councils (up by 10 on last time) and ousted Labour in Glasgow for the first time in about 40 years.

The Tories, meanwhile, came in second place – and a weaker second place than Labour who were runners up last time. Did Ruth Davidson concede defeat then? Of course not. She proclaimed her party the victors, the true winners of the election and the champions of Scotland. No, my dear Ruth, you came in second. In order to win, you must come in first, that’s how it generally works. That is, unless this is one of those school sports days, in which case, we’re all winners.

David Mundell even tweeted “@ScotTories have second most Councillors in Scotland. There is only one winner today.” Yep, Dave, it was the SNP. They came in first.

But, naturally, the mainstream media jumped on this too to portray the Tories as the sole victors in the local elections, the SNP have been trounced! Everywhere you looked it was the same, Tories triumph, SNP on the decline.

I hate to use terms like “mainstream media” sometimes as I feel it makes me sound like one of those conspiracy theorists with a wardrobe of tinfoil headgear and matching suits. But this result acts as further proof that our country’s media are showing blatant political bias. The newspapers, they can post what they like, that’s fine, but television and radio broadcasters have a legal obligation to remain politically neutral and impartial in the UK. By using their broadcasting power to favour one political party over another, they are not only abusing their power, but they are breaking the law, plain and simple.

Over and over again, the SNP and the wider pro-Independence movement, have been demonised by the British media outlets. If you wonder why the Tories are doing so well, it’s because the BBC is telling us that they are; they tell us Labour are inept and the SNP are vile separatists and only ‘Theresa May’s Party’ can put an end to their foolish game-playing.

Don’t get me wrong, the BBC are the only one’s at it; ITV, Channel Four are all at it too, but the Beeb, by virtue of being the largest broadcaster is also the largest culprit. Hence, they get the majority of my spite here.

I feel bad here because the BBC is a great service and does so much right, the likes of Just a Minute and Test Match Special… basically all of Radio Four… but this kind of nonsense if quite unacceptable. With so large a viewer and listener base, taking sides is a colossal abuse of power. Notably, when it comes to the entangling of national and local affairs.

At this point, I will turn my fire away from the BBC and back to the Tories and much of the printed media (though the odd bit of this will be quite relevant for our friends in Television Centre or wherever they currently reside). They painted this election out to be a battle between independence and the union…

They are fucking council elections you thick bastards!

This was not a question of independence, it was a question of who do you want to organise bins and fix the roads. Christ, it’s not like Motherwell is going to declare independence any time soon (though it may considerably increase the UK average life expectancy). The election was for local matters, to choose the folks we wanted to keep our towns and cities running at the most basic level for the next five years.

We keep hearing that the SNP are obsessed with independence. In my humble view there is only really one party with such an obsession at the moment and it’s Ruth Davidson’s Tories. While the SNP’s candidates in Glasgow spoke about the state of education, social care and the roads all we heard from the Tories was “save the union”.

The Tories have made this whole episode about Independence while the SNP have been getting on with the day job; yet as far as the media are concerned, the SNP are obsessing over IndyRef2 while the Tories tackle the real issues. Try to understand why I am so enraged when I read the “news”.

However, the Conservatives have obsessed over independence and come in second… strange how things work out, eh? I suppose you won’t mind then, Ruth, if we tell you to get over it and respect the result for what it is? And perhaps you should eat your cereal too, while you’re at it.

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An Open Letter from a Call Centre Worker

To All Who Have Ever Shouted Down a Sales Call,

We all know the misery of receiving a Tele-Sales call; rushing to the ringing phone, picking it up only to be met with silence broken by chatter and finally a delayed “Hello, Mr./Mrs. Such-and-such?” Then the sales pitch for something you don’t need, don’t want, didn’t ask for and, quite possibly, haven’t heard of. It’s nothing short of frustrating, especially when you’re waiting on that important call from the doctor or just on your way out the door.

However, spare a though for the poor bugger on the other end of the line, who receives a maelstrom of abuse, rejections, sarcasm and deaf pensioners who simply repeat the word “what” at increasing volumes down their handsets. As it happens, I am currently one of the unfortunate souls on the other end of that line and, in a five hour shift this week, I took 353 calls, one of which ended successfully.

From my short, but rather full on, experience in outbound tele-sales -selling those new gas boilers you’ve probably heard so much about by now – I have realised that a large amount of the abuse and negativity experienced by those with the headsets is down to a fundamental lack of understanding of what exactly is going on. So allow me to attempt to explain things as best as I can.

The biggest complaint from people is that they are on the Telephone Preference Service (or another similar scheme) and hence should not be receiving sales calls. Well yes and no. The TPS essentially prevents companies obtaining your number without permission. However, when you fill out any kind of form for something like your Tesco Club Card, a customer survey, etc., there are generally little small print boxes that you require to tick to prevent the company being able to sell your data on. If these boxes aren’t ticked you essentially give your permission for your data to be sold on to other companies.

It’s sneaky and underhand, but unfortunately it means you have, in a legal sense, given your permission for your details to be distributed. The Telephone Preference Service, and indeed all other similar services, is not some kind of magic wand that can be waved about to stop you receiving calls altogether. So, contrary to what you might believe, when you tell that unfortunate soul on the other end that they’re breaking the law by calling you, they’re most likely not.

Secondly, one must also note that we don’t control the data, we don’t choose who we call, hell, we on the floor don’t even have access to the data. Most companies will have a slightly different way of doing things but the basic principle is the same: A large computer file exists on a server with all the names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. of the people we will call at some point, the dialler software phones multiple numbers at once and, as they pick up, punts the calls onto individual ‘agents’ who are then able to see the customers details for the duration of the call.

Nobody on the floor actually makes a call, we don’t simply sit with a list of numbers and pick one at random. So when you ask me why I have called you, I haven’t, the dialler did. At no point, unless a callback to the same or different number is requested by a customer, will any agent actually make a concious decision to call a certain number.

This brings me onto another point which is, admittedly, one of the most annoying – the silence. I have received sales calls before and the silence is truly frustrating, repeatedly shouting “hello” into your handset in desperate search of a response. However, as I mentioned before, the dialler dials several numbers at once and punts you onto one of the agents after you’ve picked up, hence the delay. Again, the fault of the dialler, not the individual agent.

It should also be noted that sometimes there is a bit of a delay between us saying something and you saying it due to the volume of calls going through one phone line at once. This may make it sound like we’re trying to talk over you, we’re really not, it’s just that the equipment is a little crap.

Incorrect details also irk people, and rightly so, however it doesn’t help to start screaming over it. It’s often the case that people, especially in social housing, move homes and the names of the occupiers change. Sometimes this isn’t picked up in the data because it was obtained before the move happened. If this is the case, the most helpful thing from both our points of view is to simply correct me, in that case I simply change the record, mark your number as already having been called and move on. Screaming at the top of your voice into my ear that “THIS IS NOT MRS. BLOODY MOHAMMED!” is not going to help either of us in the slightest.

Finally, my personal favourite; “You people have already called me.” No, we haven’t. It’s more than likely you receive a number of sales calls in the space of a week and, especially with the current government incentives to make your homes more green, more and more companies are springing up with similar sounding names – there are only so many ways to put ‘Green’ and ‘Energy’ together into a company name.

This means that you may get a lot of calls with people citing very similar company names, some of which may even be very nearly the same. However, by and large you will not be called by the same company twice, especially if you inform them that you are not interested or you already have the product. In this case you will most likely be marked as a “Not Interested” or “Doesn’t Qualify” or similar, removed from the hopper of numbers and left alone by that particular company.

In general, your number will likely only be called again either if you have asked to be called back or if the company has moved to a new campaign – which typically go on for months at a time. It is there for quite unlikely that you will be phoned by the same people twice, least of all in the space of a few weeks.

I just want to say this: I know it’s annoying and downright frustrating for you, but frankly working in a call centre is no picnic either, in fact, it’s quite soul destroying at times. My message therefore is this: Remember that we are having a worse time than you are – maybe even take some pleasure in that -, we’ll try to be as civil and courteous down the phone as possible, please do try and reciprocate (I know it’s hard sometimes).

Finally, if you really don’t want this call all you need to do is to tell us so in a calm and polite fashion; let us know that you’re not interested, calmly ask us to remove your number from our data and we will. Simple as that. A shouting match will only finish with both parties being thoroughly miserable at the end of it, and neither of us want that. Just remember you’re still speaking to a person at the other end and we’ll get through this.

Sincerely,

A Student Trying to Pay the Rent Through Summer.

 

P.S.

But those calls with the recorded messages? Yeah, fuck ’em!

Happy Birthday to James Clerk Maxwell!

On this day in 1831, Scottish Physicist and Mathematician, James Clerk Maxwell, was born in Edinburgh.

It seems that this blog has been about nought but politics and the Independence Referendum, so I thought that I’d shake things up a bit. After all, I am a Socialist, Physicist, and Idealistic Numpty.

Maxwell, who studied Physics and Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh and then at the University of Cambridge was a stunningly bright chap who revolutionised much of physics and mathematics as we know it. He was among the earliest physicists to look into the relationship between electricity and magnetism and brought about the idea that light was made up of a modulating electric field component and a perpendicular magnetic field component, both oscillating as sinusoidal waves out of phase by precisely 90°.

His work in electromagnetism lead to a series of equations, the bane of every physics student’s life, the Maxwell Equations. These equations, Gauss’s Law for Electric Fields, Gauss’s Law for Magnetic Fields, Faraday’s Law of Induction, and the Ampére-Maxwell Law. These all come in their differential and integral forms too; that all need to be memorised.

He also stuck his nose into statistical mechanics, which really is as fun as it sounds. To give you a flavour of just what he was wading into, D. L. Goodstein’s book “States of Matter” opens with the following, heart-warming words; “Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics died in 1906 by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics…”

He gave to statistical mechanics a set of relations, dubbed “Maxwell Relations”, that relate the second derivatives of the thermodynamic potentials; the internal energy, enthalpy, Helmholtz free energy, and the Gibbs free energy in terms of pressure, temperature, volume, and entropy.

As well as his work in electromagnetism and thermodynamics, he also delved into the world of optics. He developed a theory that the human eye would perceive a composite image take in separate red, green and blue channels as being a full colour image. His theories surrounding the perception of colour are what underpins all of colour photography and imaging. Even now, looking at this screen, you are only looking at a collection of red, blue and green lights which your eye chooses to perceive as being in colour.

It really is the mark of a great mind that his ideas are being taught, used and developed even so long after he is gone. Clerk Maxwell was indeed such a mind.

So, Happy Birthday to James Clerk Maxwell. Definitely one of the greatest minds in modern times

#IndyRef Myths Dispelled: Papers Please!

Papers Please! Better Together warns of fences, flags, passport offices and tight border controls into the Union of Scottish Socialist Republics.

Papers Please! Passports and Soviet Style Borders Predicted

It’s 2017, The Scottish Union has been independent for a year now, very few people are ever allowed to pass into the dark, secretive state; you are one of them. You rattle in up the road towards the Gretna border station in your Transit van, the vital supplies of Twining’s tea and Bombay Sapphire gin in the back. You reach the wall, a seventy mile stretch of concrete, topped with barbed wire and with Saltire sporting watch towers dotted along. You roll up to the checkpoint, men in dark uniforms take you into an office to question you and browse your papers, dog handlers search the van outside. It’s all okay though, they can see by your passport that you pass through here often with vital goods for the Motherland. You are sent on your way. Another is not so lucky; as you drive out the other side you see a tourist being taken away – an unregistered camera and incorrect papers. Arrested for spying. But this is all routine for you, you look straight ahead, switch to the right hand side of the road, and continue onwards to Salmondgrad.

 I’m sorry, I may have got a touch carried away there, but you can see how ridiculous this sounds – if a little embellished. But this is the kind of fear that the Better Together campaign thrives on, and one of its big stories of the debate. Granted, we might not be talking about the Union of Scottish Socialist Republics or deliveries to Salmondgrad, but the border is definitely something they’d have you believe in.

It is the belief of the Better Together campaign (at least in public) that an official border would have to be erected between England and Scotland should Scotland decide to vote for independence. This border would likely have checkpoints, fences, passport control, customs, make you switch to the other side of the road, etc. Just like those ones all across the continent. Oh wait…

Dutch-Belgian border with its imposing fences

It’s not an unknown fact that in Europe, we have something called the Schengen agreement, according to which, people, goods and labour can flow freely between signatory states. In other words, no borders. In fact, I could walk from Portugal’s west coast to the Black Sea coast of Romania and never be required to show my passport.

How has this panned out for Europe then? Badly, I assume? Nope. It’s been a rather good success, actually. People can travel all over Europe as tourists, only needing to show their passport once if their from outside the EU, spending money, taking in culture, trying desperately to speak the local language, etc. People can also live in one country and trade in another; the amount of trading that EU member states can now do with each other, from the wee chappy delivering some quality German Pilsner to a pub in France to multinational corporations opening up across Europe, is huge. This flow of people and trade ultimately means the flow of money and jobs. It also makes for much better holidays!

But then, Britain is an island, so we’re different, as we’ve so often been told by Westminster. Although that hasn’t stopped Iceland signing up to the Schengen area, despite not even being in the EU or using the Euro.

But what about the UK’s land border? Yeah, you know, with the Republic of Ireland. You’ll  note that on a journey from Belfast to Dublin, you won’t be stopped at Dromad and be required to show your passport. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is, in fact, quite open. Even if I wanted to sail into Ireland or fly into Ireland, I would not be required to show a passport (although passengers flying in may be asked for identification or proof of nationality for security reasons).

So why is this? Well, because there’s too much trade that flows between the two states to justify putting up a border. Putting up restrictions would stifle the flow of trade between both countries and invariably hurt both economies to some extent. Secondly, a large number of people work across these borders, visit family across them, or simply travel through them on a daily basis. Apart from hurting the economy, it would invariably piss a few people off.

This is all down to something called the “Common Travel Area”. It’s essentially a mini Schengen area within the British Isles, comprising Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey.

So, if Scotland decided to become an independent state, it would automatically be excluded from the CTA, would it? Well, whilst Project Fear would have you believe that, it’s most unlikely to work. Scotland, as I discussed in last week’s post, is England’s second biggest trade partner and England is Scotland’s biggest trade partner. Setting up a border between the two would damage this trade quite substantially and hurt, not only the national economies, but local economies close to the border that rely on a great deal of cross-border activity.

You see, it’s not only the big corporations working across the border, but it’s small businesses and communities that profit from an open border too. This can be from a local decorators’ company in Carlisle getting a call out to a job in Langholm just over the border, to a farmer in Clappers popping up the road to Foulden to buy a Scottish plain loaf and Lorne sausage for his breakfast. Not only are there Scots working down south, but there are English people working up north too, and some Welsh, but they seem not to make so much of a fuss.

Again, many people have family on either side of the border, setting up a great wall would likely upset them too. After all, why should the Frenchman be able to visit his uncle in Finland without having to show his passport, but the lady from Manchester should have to go through strict border controls to visit her granny in Glasgow?

As far as some of the Better Together arguments go, this is by far the weakest. A border in the sense of checkpoints, searches, papers, and questioning between Scotland and rUK really is quite out of the question. Guys, you can leave off the frantic searches for your passports just now.

#IndyRef Myth Number Two: Busted

The ‘Unbiased’ Mainstream Media

For anyone who holds any political views even remotely left of centre, supports Scottish Independence or thinks that UKIP are, indeed, a waste of space and air, it’s quite apparent that the mainstream media is quite useless. The idea that the main broadcasters should be impartial seems almost far fetched and the idea that there should be any kind of political balance is nought but a fantasy.

It sounds awful, but it’s sadly true. Let’s look at the past few weeks and this will be quite apparent. In the run up to the European elections in May we didn’t stop hearing about Nigel Farage and UKIP. They were plastered all over the BBC; the SNP, the governing party in Scotland, didn’t get anywhere near the coverage that UKIP got on the BBC. We were told that UKIP was the next big thing, that they had the radical new ideas and that they were destined to gain seats at the next elections (purely because you were told that they would).

Similarly small third parties, with sane views, like the Green Party were sidelined on the BBC’s coverage and, as a result, were unheard of by most people come polling day. UKIP, bolstered by the BBC and their new cheerleader, Nick Robinson, swanned into victory across much of the UK, gaining their first ever elected position in Scotland. It should be noted that none of UKIP’s policies around scrapping paid maternity leave, carrying on NHS privatisation, etc, was discussed.

Now, I’m sure that there’s something that the Greens and SNP have in common… Oh yes, they both endorse Scottish Independence. Let’s see, Labour and the Tories with their standard mass coverage don’t support independence, and UKIP, with their utterly disproportionate coverage, they don’t either. But maybe I’m just seeing patterns where there aren’t any.

Let’s now look to fairly recently. In the past couple of weeks, a protest was held outside the BBC’s Scottish HQ in Springfield Quay, Glasgow. Supporters of independence stood outside the building in large numbers, waving flags, banners and chanting slogans. What were they protesting? The BBC’s utterly one-sided take on the independence debate. Because it’s not just the European elections that bugs people, although that did admittedly finally tip things over the edge, but it’s a whole host of things that have been building up over the past weeks, months and years.

There is never anything positive to be said for independence. Anyone who comes onto a show in favour of it is systematically attacked, thrown trick questions and bullied into a corner. And those brave souls who come on to stand up for Britain are given the easiest interviews one could dream of.

But to go back to the protest. If any of you heard about it at all, I could almost place money on it not being on the BBC. Not a peep came from any of the Beeb’s shows that day regarding the protest. Just another bunch of daft nats waving their flags and shouting their insignificant opinions.

And it’s not just the BBC, many of our other broadcasting companies and newspapers will either shout down the nats or keep their mouths obediently shut. It speaks volumes that people were so taken aback when the Sunday Herald came out in favour of independence, the idea that an established broadsheet newspaper should support the cause of a country actually getting to govern itself was something that many of us were unprepared for.

The fact is that the media is not unbiased, it is not impartial and it is completely unbalanced. And the mainstream media has the greatest power over people, greater than that of any other politician. It can tell people what to think, what to say, what to do, and, most crucially, how to vote. Think about it, if UKIP had received the same level of media attention and support that any other party its size generally received, can you honestly say they would have done as well as they did at the Euros? If the Greens, say, had received that kind of attention, we may have been looking at twenty odd Green MEPs and only one or two UKIP fellows.

So why does the media use this kind of power to influence the people in the ways it wants, in our case towards a no vote? The answer is very simple; it’s in the best interests of the chaps at the top. If Scotland declares independence, that’s 10% of the population no longer paying TV licence fees, that’s a bit of a drop in pocket money for the BBC. If Scotland becomes independent, the paper companies (a.k.a. Rupert Murdoch) will have to work with a new government and work with new politics, maybe even print another paper instead. There may even be some shadier dealings going on, but I’ll not wade into that shit-pool, I’ll leave it to the politicians who know what they’re doing there.

But here we have it, the public opinion is being swayed wildly because those at the top of the media corporations have decided that it suits them better. I hate to sound like one of those conspiracy theorist nutters, and I won’t bring the Illuminati into this just yet, but it’s true. And it’s a sad day when we can no longer rely on the mainstream media to bring us the facts. Why do you think so much of the Yes campaigns support lies on small, independent blogs like “Wings Over Scotland” or “Bella Caledonia” and there exists very little such material on the No side? It’s because the No side already have the BBC and the rest of the big media on their side.

Please do give the chaps at Bella Caledonia and Wings Over Scotland a visit and a read. They both carry links to other sites and organisations in support of independence as well as a tonne of great content of their own.

The great joke with the BBC was always that they’d have two opposing views, no matter how ridiculous, “the sake of balance”. Rather unfortunately, they need you to go and do the balance bit for yourself.

Anyway, rant over for today. Have a grand weekend, folks!

#IndyRef Myths Dispelled! Ye’s Cannae have the Pound!

As the referendum on Scottish Independence approaches fast I thought I’d best jump on board with the #IndyRef thing. My aim is, in addition to my other (somewhat sporadic) postings on this blog, to weekly put up a brief post dispelling one of the many Project Fear myths about an independent Scotland in terms most basic. I shall try my level best to avoid the maelstrom of figures and polls that fly about this debate all in seemingly different directions. I shall try to put the simple facts across in a manner that provides as little confusion as possible. In essence, I shall put across the layman’s common-sense answers to the Project Fear myths.

With any luck, I shall get sixteen such posts in before the Referendum leaving me a whole day to go to town before the polls open on Thursday morning. So without any further delay, let me dispel #Indyref myth number 1:

Ye’s Cannae Have the Pound!

Our Currency for 307 Years and Counting

This is the Treasury’s favourite so far, it would seem. Being told that an independent Scotland could not have the pound is something that, quite rightly, raises concerns for the average Scot; the currency in our pocket is something that we take for granted and is vital for many aspects of day to day life, brining the certainty of that into question brings into question everything from the weekly groceries shopping to the trading of goods internationally to the national budget.

It’s no surprise then, that when the Treasury decided to flat out tell us that an independent Scotland would not be able to use the pound, the ordinary people squirmed a little and begun to have second thoughts. Questions were raised and backup plans discussed such as a new Scottish currency, the strength of which could not be guaranteed, or, Gods forbid, the Euro. I will admit that even I was sceptical and wanted to know if there was a backup plan; I even wrote to my local MSP at the time, Johann Lamont, though that was simply a waste of good paper and ink.

However, there doesn’t need to be a backup plan at all. When Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP, whether you love or loathe them, tell us that “the Pound is as much Scotland’s as it is the rest of the United Kingdom’s”, they are quite right. Scotland at present trades in the Pound and even has three banks permitted to mint notes in Sterling. The previous currency of Scotland, the Pound Scots, was officially replaced in Scotland by the Pound Sterling by the Act of Union 1707 to become the currency of the Kingdom of Great Britain (later the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

The idea that the currency of the Pound Sterling belongs solely to HM Treasury and the Bank of England is laughable. Even should the idea of a formal currency union be rejected by London, which is also quite unlikely, there are still ways about it.

Scotland could quite easily do what the likes of the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey do – that is have a currency called the Pound, or some derivative thereof, and peg its value in some form to GBP. As a matter of fact this has been done quite recently; when Ireland declared its independence, it used an Irish Pound pegged to the Sterling’s value, this currency lasted Ireland well before it adopted the Euro. Scotland could quite easily do the same, although I shan’t speak of joining the Euro – that’s somewhat shakier ground, I fear.

But let’s focus on the main question of a formal currency union between rUK and an independent Scotland, after all, that’s what the SNP are banking on and, let’s face it, the best option and the one most would probably back following a “yes” vote. It’s also the one argument that the Treasury and George Osborne seem most desperate to avoid actually having.

Quite simply put, the idea of rUK rejecting a formal currency union flat out is ridiculous, for this we need only look at two arguments; cross border trade and oil.

Scotland and England, in case you haven’t noticed yet, share a land border and share a great deal of trade. England is Scotland’s biggest source of imported goods, whilst Scotland is England’s second biggest source of imports. In conjunction with this, a large number of companies trade and operate across the border on a daily basis, from things as big as companies trading goods en-masse to English folks popping over the border for a Scottish plain loaf.

The reason all of this flows so seamlessly is because at both ends the same currency is being used. People working between the two countries need only carry one set of bank notes, don’t need to worry about conversions and exchange rates. The Scottish Government have quite sensibly chosen to respect that and have vouched for a formal currency union with rUK, following a “yes” vote, to continue to facilitate this trade. The UK Treasury, however, has decided that this simply won’t do and would jeopardise trade, money, and jobs and likely causing massive damage to both economies, simply because it doesn’t like the idea. It’s a rather spectacular case of the UK government saying, “we don’t care if it kills us, as long as it hurts you too!” Not a terribly mature move, but what else can one expect from politicians.

But the biggest argument against the UK’s position on this is quite simple: Oil.

The currency of a nation is only as strong and valuable as the economy behind it. Currently North Sea Oil and Gas contributes a sizeable amount to our Treasury’s coffers each year and has done for the past few decades. The sheer volume of oil in the UK’s territorial possessions has been a major factor in the strength of the Pound compared to other global currencies, especially since the advent of the Euro, which fall all its failings, continues to remain a strong currency and has, in general, increased considerably in value over the past few decades.

Should Scotland become an independent nation, it’s territorial waters would give it 93% of the total North Sea Oil and Gas holdings currently under UK control. Should the UK reject a formal currency union with Scotland, Sterling would no longer have its large oil wealth behind it. The shock of such a sudden removal of so valuable a resource as oil would do a great deal of damage to Sterling. Meanwhile, should Scotland have all that oil to itself, what ever currency it should chose to take would benefit enormously.

To put it in as few words as possible, whilst outright rejection of a formal currency union would perhaps cause an upset in Scotland, it would likely be fairly small and short-lived. The effect on the rest of the United Kingdom, however, would not be so pleasant and would lead to a major economic crisis. A no to a currency union would definitely hurt rUK much more than it would Scotland.

In summary. The idea that Scotland could not have the Pound following independence is quite ridiculous and poorly thought through.

#IndyRef Number One: Busted.

The Simple Argument For Voting Yes

Image Credit - yesscotland.net

The Prize is a Better Country

Good evening readers! I know I said that this would likely be going up at the weekend, but as it happens, I have time now, so I might as well get on with another bit of Yes based rambling. The main reason for this is that, as I said in my last post, a number of cinemas across Scotland are now refusing to show Independence Referendum related campaign material following complaints from people watching the films. The number one reason for such complaints is that people are sick and tired of being bombarded with material from both sides, many of them are likely confused by the sheer volume of “facts” and “information” being thrown at them. Another reason was when I discovered just how many of my close friends intend to vote “no”. In response, I felt it would be a dashed good idea to put up a very simple reasoning behind why I am voting “yes” and why I believe that you should too.

If you’re undecided or a “no” voter, I beseech you read on. Show you have the strength of character to listen to the opposing view once in a while, show that you have the character lacked by our politicians.

So what is this very simple reasoning? Well, it was actually in the Sunday Herald a few weeks back – to quote them; “The Prize is a Better Country. It’s as Simple as That.” Frankly, the Sunday Herald said what most of us are thinking and very well too, it gave a sound and simply argument that the politicians, in all of their debates, questions and arguments, could not. This basic stance has been the reasoning behind my desire for Scottish Independence from the day the SNP got into government in 2007.

There are many fears about Independence that have been put about, most of which have some basis. For example, what currency would we use? This is a burning question that even I have wanted answers on. We were told point blank by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a currency union was out of the question, only to have his answer crumble to pieces under scrutiny from various financial lawyers and institutions. Secondly, the United Kingdom is quite powerless to stop Scotland continuing to use Sterling after independence outside of a formal currency union.

What about the European Union? From various polls, surveys and various elections, Scotland can be seen to be much more pro-Europe than England. We are told then that in 2017 we will be subject to an in-out referendum on Europe during which Scotland may well be dragged out of Europe unwillingly. Then we are told that Scotland, independent, would have to reapply for EU membership (i.e., get the boot upon Independence and have to renegotiate entry). This has been shot down by a number of legal experts and leading EU politicians. Scotland outside of the EU would cause more hassle than good given how much trade, money and resources flow between Scotland and the rest of Europe, there is also no real legal precedent for removing part of an existing member and forcing negotiations for re-entry.

My point is this, there have been many scare stories spun by Better Together, most of which unravel quite easily. This is not mentioning the lies cast out by No Borders and a certain Chief Secretary to the Treasury. That is not to say that an independent Scotland would have no worries, to say that would be callus and downright stupid. We will face uncertainty and dilemmas along the way, but these are nothing in comparison to what we face as part of the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is currently the 4th most unequal country in the developed world. Now, that might just sound like a slogan that someone with dreadlocks and a colourful tee-shirt came up with, but it’s rather sadly based on cold hard numbers. We just need to look at the recent news of the number of billionaires residing in London, the increasing wealth of our richest people; follow this with a quick glimpse at the inner city streets and high-rise blocks in Glasgow and Dundee – just quick glimpse, mind, wouldn’t want to make you feel too uncomfortable, would we?

For the decades since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas, Norway has been putting money into an oil fund to save for a rainy day. Currently this oil fund is valued at over 853 billion dollars. That’s $853’900’000’000 in the pocket of the Norwegian Government to provide for its people as and when the time demands it. The United Kingdom, after hiding the true projected size and values of the oil fields for fear that the Scots might actually want a piece of it, proceeded to set up no such oil fund and squandered the money away, with Scotland seeing not so much as a drop of it.

As for the Scots mooching off of the English, for each of the past 33 years, Scots have contributed more money per head in taxation to the United Kingdom treasury than any of the other constituent countries. A Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland report in November of 2011 showed that on average, Scots produced 9.9% of the total tax based income of the United Kingdom, this is despite Scotland only being home to 8.3% of the total population of the United Kingdom.

The fact is, that whilst the UK is currently the 4th most unequal country in the world, an independent Scotland – should it use its resources properly – would stand to be the 8th most wealthy country in the world. That’s not a bad wee leap, eh? I do apologise, enough numbers.

You look at Europe, in the UK, there’s uncertainty there. Wealth and income inequality, increasing austerity measures… well there’s almost certainty there, but not in a very reassuring manner. At best, remaining in the UK gives us the status-quo, which is not something I particularly like. At the worst, Scotland voting “no” could be seen as a mandate for the Westminster government to begin stripping powers from Holyrood and destroying much of what we have fought so hard for already.

People tell me that they have concerns about independence and ask why should they vote for it if there is so much uncertainty. The truth is that there is more uncertainty on the side of Better Together than they’d let on. Independence comes with many questions, but one thing is certain with independence: We will have the chance to change our country for the better.

We will be given a chance to say no to nuclear weapons, no to foreign wars, no to further rightward leaning governments, no to austerity, no to increased privatisation of our essential services, no to increasing wage gaps and wealth inequality. We will be given the chance to say yes to free heath care, yes to the European Union, yes to a peaceful and prosperous Scotland.

What’s more, we will be saying no to a government where we, as a nation, are represented by less than 10% of the representatives, that sits hundreds of miles away in a city a world apart from our country. A government where, no matter how Scotland votes, England will always have an overwhelming majority with no kind of accountability to the Scottish People.

Instead we will be saying yes to a government based close by, in our land, where 100% of the representatives are voted for by our people. A government where all the representatives can be held to account by the Scottish People and that can be changed should we not like it.

It really is as simple as putting the future of Scotland into the hands of the People of Scotland. A Better Country, as Simple as that. In around 100 days, we shall be faced with the most important decision that we, as a country, will likely ever make, and I do sincerely hope that we do not shy away from the challenge through fear of the unknown.

I shall leave a link to the Sunday Herald’s editorial at the end as it argues this case to a far greater degreee of eloquence than that which I could ever hope to.

If you’ve read this far, especially if you’re undecided, wavering, BT, or even a Yes supporter, I thank you heartily and ask that you take a moment or two to share this article, comment your thoughts and generally make your opinion known. But once again, thank you my dear readers. Have a wonderful weekend.

[ Link to Sunday Herald Editorial, 04/May/2014; http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/sunday-herald-view/the-prize-is-a-better-country-it-is-as-simple-as-that-why-the-sunday-hera.24133829 ]

Making Soup and Watching Sharpe.

Hello again, I do hope you’ve all been having a splendid week, it would seem that Friday afternoon posts on the blog are actually becoming a regular occurrence. Perhaps we’ll be getting some regularity with the posts yet. It’s been an odd sort of week here, although the third time I have seen such a week; exams have finished, we’ve been curling in Stirling for the last time until the start of the new term and now everyone is saying their goodbyes before heading off home for summer; some only go down the road, others go half way across the world. It’s the same drill every year before summer. After all are parted we do different things; some travel, some study, some train, those who have left university for good often say their goodbyes for the last time, in our case (being Scots) somewhat drunkenly. Then there’s my category –  those who must pay rent over summer who scramble about looking for jobs. Rather unfortunately jobs are becoming scarce, especially for those with the intentions of going back to university after the summer. At present I am awaiting an email in response to a job I applied for, one for which I am quite qualified and, conveniently, is at the university. Things aren’t quite desperate yet, but unless something comes up in the next week or two they will be.

However, I have been making myself busy in between job hunting and another run of Sharpe. I do feel a certain affinity with Mr. Sharpe, born into a poor(ish) household and raised through the ranks of society, to the point where I’m not quite middle-class enough to fit in there, but no longer working class either. Thankfully (or perhaps not) the current state of things does mean that this is a position in which most now find themselves, so I do find myself in good company unlike the poor Colonel.

But, as I was saying, keeping busy! My flat mate, having decided to be healthy now, has taken a liking to making soup (or rather clearing off part way through the process to leave me to cook it!). It has, however, been interesting and is a damned good use of old meat or chicken carcasses that would otherwise be thrown away unused. The first occasion resulting in making far too much, I think we’ve got the volume right, now we just need to sort out the ingredients. Chicken broth seems to be the preferred soup at the moment due to its remarkable simplicity.

I also saw something that somewhat worried me the other day. Various cinemas across Scotland are now deciding to ban any adverts pertaining to the independence referendum that would otherwise be screened before films. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand the endless adverts and trailers before films, but I would much rather have something an independence referendum broadcast than another damned clip of some B-list celebrity flashing the latest i-Toaster or whatever it is around the place.

What irritates me about this is the fact that the cinemas are taking them down as people are complaining about them. For what? They aren’t offensive in anyway (although the BT ones are just dreadful). The main complaint is “it’s everywhere and we’re tired of seeing it!” I’m terribly sorry, I thought that the biggest decision that this country has made in three-hundred and seven years would be worth having a chat about, no?

Are people really so politically apathetic that this decision does not even move them. Fair enough, you might well be tired of seeing it, but the referendum is about a hundred days away and by god you’re going to be seeing a lot more of it in the coming weeks! My advice is, if you don’t want any more stuff like it ever again, buckle under, wait it out, and, on the 18th of September, vote “Yes”.

I’m hoping to do a wee piece at the weekend on voting Yes, but we all know how valuable such promises are from me! For now, I am going away to enjoy my soup, made with finest Scotch Broth Mix! Enjoy the rest of your Friday, folks and have a good weekend!

Elections, Fire Alarms, Exams and Pub!

Good evening chaps and chapettes! Thursday was indeed an eventful day; it saw my last exam of this, my third and penultimate, year of university during which the fire alarm went off, which was bloody annoying as I ended up having an hour less to spend in the pub! The scandal of it all! However, the exam was able to be finished and with its conclusion my third year of university drew to a close. To think that in a year’s time I will have a degree in Astrophysics is still somewhat daunting to me but exciting nonetheless. Naturally with the close of the exams came the obligatory trip to the pub, with copious amounts of alcohol, pool, table football and spamming the jukebox with hideous songs from the nineties and early naughties. I’m quite sure I made a fool of myself at more than one point, but frankly after the stress of this year’s exams, I think it was permitted.

Thursday did, of course, see something somewhat more noteworthy than my exams and binge drinking. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Jim, how could anything be more interesting than drunken shenanigans?” Well, it’s tough, but the European elections do come quite close to the mark and, as it would so happen, they were in fact happening that very same day. Now, whilst the elections may not be that exciting themselves; put a cross on a piece of paper and put the paper in a bucket, the run up to the election has been quite exciting itself.

In the weeks preceding the election I was quite undecided as to who I wanted to vote for. There was no shortage of campaign material going about, but I was quite upset with the media coverage. This is for one main reason; UKIP, the one’s I definitely knew I didn’t want to vote for, were being given no end of attention and were, in fact, given more attention that the main parties here. Now I am aware of quite a lot of UKIP’s appalling interviews and media gaffes galore, however, for a party like UKIP, any attention is good attention. People fed up with Labour, Conservative and that other one, see the shiny new party promising not to be like the others – whilst simultaneously being exactly like the others but worse – and think, “hey, I’ll vote for that lot.”

You then look to parties like the Greens, who, incidentally, I ended up voting for, who offer the protest against mainstream politics but who also have decent policies, aren’t racist, aren’t sexist, aren’t homophobic… (you see where I’m going with this) not getting anywhere near the media attention of UKIP and hence being forced into the sidelines. It’s somewhat worrying when you look at the fact that, if you take away party names and such, roughly 25% of the population would support the Greens, with Labour coming in just behind at 22%. When actually asked to give their opinions on various policies and policy areas the Greens come up trumps and UKIP is sitting way behind.

This data came from a recent YouGov poll published in the Telegraph, I believe, as part of their coverage of the EU and Local Elections. The fact is that people simply don’t agree with UKIP, but they don’t know it because UKIP doesn’t like to tell the people about its policies because then they’d get no votes. UKIP are quite simply playing on the charisma of their leader combined with the fear and uncertainty many people currently feel.

What’s more worrying is the rise of far right lunatic fringe groups such as Britain First (like the EDL but with branded jackets) and other racist headcases. However, the lunatic right is a subject for another post, perhaps this weekend.

But on a cheerier note, because I’m now free, I shall hopefully be posting more often on this blog throughout the summer and, who knows, maybe I’ll get the vlog up and going. But we’ll just have to wait and see; first thing’s first, I need a job to pay rent, so we’ll have to work it from there.

But that’s about all today. As usual, thanks for reading. Have a good weekend folks!

Two Train Wreck Interviews in One Day!

Hello once again, chaps and chapettes. Well, today has been interesting indeed, a Quantum Mechanics exam and a job interview for a job that I really should have been able to simply walk into. The day started off well enough, it was actually warm and sunny in Glasgow! This is quite unheard of, I can assure you. The exam, which was expected to be utterly brutal turned out to be quite nice. Again, quite unheard of, quantum mechanics is, by definition, not a friendly course. All seemed to be going well, however, at about lunch time, things went quite terribly tits-up…

I had a job interview for an events based marketing job, one for which I happen to be rather well qualified for (yes, I am aware of the irony of a socialist working in marketing). Over the phone, I made a reasonably good connection with the head of recruitment and on my way to the interview I was in quite good spirits, what with the nice weather and a jolly good Tesco sandwich in my bag waiting for me.

In the offices, I made friendly chat with another applicant and the head of recruitment and then I was called through for a short interview, first stage interview, nothing too formal; easy, right? Nope. I was asked questions to which I could give no reasonable answer and when I mentioned that I was still at university… that didn’t seem to sit well. Then came the worst question one can be asked (seriously, you shouldn’t even be allowed to ask this question!) “What is your best life achievement?” It’s so vague, it could mean anything and that’s never good; in the microseconds it took my brain to process that question and send the commands to open my mouth and commence speaking I managed to forget everything of note I have ever done… and I mean everything.

As I got up to leave the interview both of us knew that he wasn’t going to give me the job… not a good way to leave an interview. Still, could have been worse… I could be Nigel Farage.

Yes, upon getting home it did give me a little spark of joy to note that Mr. Farage had gone through an absolute disaster of an interview at roughly the same time as mine. He was on LBC being interviewed by James O’Brien. In the interview Mr. Farage who is campaigning as an MEP and the leader of UKIP was quizzed on a number of issues from UKIP racism and his own comments that were deemed racist, to expenses and party corruption and bigotry.

Now, I don’t like O’Brien’s particular… “sledge hammer” approach to interviews, but I really do detest UKIP and Nigel Farage, so the interview was quite entertaining for me. It really was quite a disaster, with many saying that this interview may go a long way to destroying much of UKIP’s chance at gaining ground. And anything that buggers UKIP is good by my books. In fact, it was so disastrous that Nigel Farage’s Director of Communications had to intervene and bring the interview to a close.

It’s really quite good fun to watch, so I’ll include the link for you down below.

Have a good weekend, folks!