Scoville Units Unite

22 May

Reread: The Anvil of Ice – Winter of the World Part 1

The Anvil of Ice is the first book in a 6 book series by Michael Scott Rohan

Anvil of Ice Cover

I had some spare time to read so grabbed this book for the first ever re-read of it. I had picked up the first 3 parts in a charity shop years ago on a whim and raced through them. I then found the last 3 on ebay, paying I seem to remember more than cover price for the final part as it was pretty hard to find at the time. I had enjoyed it, and it was around the period I had heard of some Song of Ice and Fire series. Couldn’t find that anywhere though and wasn’t paying the, what seemed to be extortionate fees to get it second hand/via ebay.

I remember speaking about the book series years later to someone at work and us both discussing one particular scene which was pretty horrifying/distressing. He said he had felt similarly. His brother upon reaching the paragraph hurled the book across the room. I look forward to reaching that part again.

But enough set up. The book starts off as a standard fantasy fare. Orphan boy in a town beset by Viking like raiders. It evolves into a coming of age and almost heroes quest along the way. As well as taking the usual fantasy tropes of monsters in the woods and his take on elves and dwarves.

Just this description alone does not do it justice. This isn’t some fantasy paint by numbers, or drek of the level of a D&D novel or Magic storyline. Nor is it someone just trying to re-tell Tolkien. It’s more like someone trying to write in the manner of Tolkien. Trying to tell a tale that has been written far in our past. Although the small snippet you see in book 1 makes you think it is somewhere near the the UK/Ireland with maybe Vikings raiding, from the appendix though it reads as if it is the Western seaboard of the US with the raiders being from Siberia. This isn’t clear from the book alone though so I may clarify after reading it all again. Creating a whole world and mythology. Sprinkling elements of lost languages and lore. The threat from the coming ice, years before GRRM finished his first book.

But the most important part and detail is the central storyline of Alv (later Elof) learning magesmithing. Detail is given of his journey as an apprentice and later journeyman smith. Of mixing blacksmithing with magery. Weaving spells into the objects he creates and the power imbued, drawing on at the time unknown skills and abilities he hasn’t fully unleashed or understood.

The book ends on a solid note, with the set up clear for the next. You understand the main characters journey is far from over and the world building and mythology of his story desperately leaves you pining for the next volume. I remember on my first read I was finding myself up until 2-3 am reading just unable to put it down. I think I raced through those first 3 books with a speed I only matched later on my first read through of A Song of Ice and Fire.

On the first internet trawl in years I notice his website is still as woefully out of date as I remember it. One bizarre note is that a company is saying they have the licence to work on an RPG of the series. This post though is a year old and appears to be the last public communication from the company on their site. They do appear to have released a sneak peak at it though.

05 Jan

The Glasgow Effect Effect

Social Media has been in uproar over the Glasgow Effect.

An artist has been given a £15K grant to test the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the ‘successful’ artist / academic..

There are a number of issues with it, mainly that it is named the Glasgow Effect, which clashes with a phenomenon related to poverty in Glasgow, so it rankles a fair bit.

I think the biggest issue that caused the controversy though is that is labelled an art project.

If £15K was given to a sociologist to interview people in Glasgow, artists and others to see how limited travelling and income to enable travelling limits your income prospects creating a negative feedback loop that would be seen as fine. As it is a topic of sociological study.

Most people fail to recognise living in Glasgow for a year as art. So either everyone is completely ignorant of art, or those who consider this art have failed to sell their justification to the public. Given the disdain for the Turner prize winners every year and general hostility to the Tate Modern it’s fair to say there’s a segment of the art world that only appeal to artists and their general milieu.

All it appears to be though to the general public is a stunt. The equivalent of sitting in a tub of baked beans to raise some money for your local charity and then seeing someone win the Turner prize for doing the same. A general reaction of I do that every day. It’s not art doesn’t seem to register with the Luvvie echo chamber.

There’s a giant Venn diagram which has music, painting, drawing, dance, theatre and many other activities in a bucket labelled Art and then another which has Modern Art and it is only recognised as belonging in the Art bucket by a very small group.

Over the past few years from Scottish Arts Council to Creative Scotland and various other public bodies distributing public funds there have been huge changes to where funding goes. From the cutting of funds to small projects (like 7:84) to concentrate on larger ones to the massive unavailability of Lottery funds as they were siphoned off to support Olympic related projects. Ordinary people have seen projects they see daily whither whilst public funds still appear (whether factually or not) to flow towards art only appreciated by a very small privileged minority.

I remember getting into a discussion on a message board a number of years ago, and a fan of the Modern Art movement basically justified it by saying if you read the thesis around the work you’d understand its context.

I disagreed then and I disagree now. If I buy a canvas and paint a small square on it in the centre it’s shit. Not a piece of high quality art. One artist though did just that, with their essay explaining it they sold it for a six figure sum. For the general public, art is experienced as art. If you see something and don’t think it’s art, being told that you just need to read a long document about the context of it just sounds pretentious. People don’t need an essay when they see Mona Lisa to understand it is art. Or hear Mozart. Or watch a play. Or see a film. Or any number of other artistic mediums.

The public aren’t ignorant of art, or dislike it. Weekly I see people sharing pictures of what new clothing has been put on the penguins in Dundee City Centre. How many millions of people have Instagram accounts where they post photo diaries of their lives and the interesting things they see and do. How many gigs happen daily, weekly in and around you where people go to discover new bands. The Blue/Gold dress discussion on social media centred around context and lighting and everyones individual perception of an object.

The lack of posting by the artist has probably led to more negative feedback unjustifiably going their way rather than towards Creative Scotland.

The reaction to the Glasgow Effect wasn’t ignorant people complaining about public funds being wasted. It was them screaming The Emperor has no clothes.

21 Jul

The “Centrism” of the Mainstream

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a trend in articles using the term centrist, it’s often used in commentary on the Labour leadership election for example.

So what is meant by Centrist?


In the traditional political spectrum there is a left, a right and the centre. Unfortunately this model is flawed. If you are in the UK and discussing with an American for example these terms, alongside Liberal, Conservative etc all have different interpretations.

The reason for this is obvious, if you look at the spectrum in the UK and compare to the US, an American discussing what they see as left is discussing political ideas which may be on the far right in the UK.

So it’s clear that left, right and centre are not absolute terms but based on where the commentator is standing or the political ideas they are most familiar with.

So when the Guardian discusses Liz Kendall and says

Liz Kendall, the centrist leadership candidate, has warned

What do they actually mean?

In absolute terms, is she centrist? No, she appears to be on the right wing of the Labour Party, who themselves are on the right wing.

In relative terms compared to the other candidates? Well Jeremy Corbyn is clearly the leftest of the candidates. If Kendall is the Centrist then who is further Right? Can’t really see any so that doesn’t work.

On the Spectrum of the UK? Well that would put her to the left of Labour, again, clearly not.

The only way it works as an accurate term is to say she is Centrist if Labour is Left and Tories are Right.

But what then does it actually mean? Why not say the most right wing, closest to Tories, right of Labour. These are all accurate descriptions. It’s as if the media want to promote the most right wing candidate, because they are right wing, without wanting to say they are right wing.

It’s the language of the Liberal Democrats, who describe themselves as being of the centre ground and fantasise about pulling the Tories to the left.

Last night was the vote on the Welfare Bill. Let’s look at the headline from the Guardian

Labour Party sees massive revolt but welfare bill that will cut £12bn from spending is passed in parliament

The Tories are the sole party of Government. The Labour party are the official opposition. Reading that headline alone you would assume that some Labour MPs voted for the Government Bill. Wrong. They voted against it. For the Labour Party today, voting against the Government is revolting against their leadership.


This is the consequence of triangulation and the move to the centre ground. A Tory Party in power and a Tory Party in opposition. They may as well merge or failing that form a coalition for all the difference it will make.

13 Mar

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015

One day I’ll be dead and THEN you’ll all be sorry.

Terry Pratchett was not only a fantastic writer but down to earth enough to communicate with his fans on the internet before the web existed.

When I was in around first year at High School I was introduced to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Adams via the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which I read every year until his untimely death and then had to take a break from it.

Terry Pratchett was via the graphic novels of Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic. I was already a voracious reader – going through about 2 books a week when in primary school, so to discover 2 new authors with loads of books was amazing, later Robert Rankin and Spike Milligan joined the list of humourous writers whose work I burned through as well as Tolkien.

At the time I preferred Adams as the first two Discworld books seemed good but not amazing. As I caught up on his books though I realised that his first couple of books were satirising fantasy but later books were satirising humanity. Taking the human condition and pointing out the absurdity of it.

In 2000, he visited a bookshop in Dundee for a signing of The Truth. This became the first and only time I met the man himself but was also the first time I saw the size of the fandom I had previously known of through newsgroups and the Discworld newsletter.


As the Discworld expanded there were a number of different storylines. These could be read chronologically or as each separate storyline – I quite often recommended the Witches books as a starter. The core starting one about Rincewind was probably most disconnected from the rest, and continued to parody beaten-to-a-dead-horse fantasy tropes.

The witches storyline was one of my favourites, from parodies of Shakespeare to just demolishing patriarchy it was just delightful. The Bechdel test was probably passed on every page of these books.

The Books about religion were one of my early favourites. Small Gods and Pyramids are both brilliant satires of religion and religious belief. Pyramids also prompted fans to give him the nickname PTerry.

The storylines about death didn’t just anthropomorphise Death but made him more human than most of us. Mort quickly became by favourite book and stayed for quite a while.

The books focusing on the City Watch and Vimes were fantastic, showing the growth of a public service and the changes in society around them with the main character not just going from black and white but massive shades of grey in between.

As well as all this there were computer games and childrens books.

Outside Discworld there were collaborations, most recently with Stephen Baxter on the Long series of books. I didn’t find these as appealing, but that’s mainly because PTerrys influence seemed to lessen with each book.

Nation was a stand alone book which also stood out. I had recently finished Red Strangers by Elspeth Huxley when I picked this up and found a number of themes between them which added to my enjoyment.

For the future it looks like his daughter Rhianna will carry on writing Discworld books, at his request.

Here’s hoping you had your potato with you so you could go somewhere better.



Catching up on a thread of his work on a forum and came across an open letter he had written called A Little Advice For Life

I know first hand that Fate can be cruel and unusual at times, but she is hardly ever deliberately malicious: she just suffers from bad timing in the main, so use your gifts and your talents to greatest possible effect while you can. Spread joy whenever possible. Laugh at jokes. Tell jokes. Make puns and bugger the embuggerances. Read books. Read my books. You might like them. You might find something else you like even more than them. Look for these things in life.

Question authority. Champion good causes. Speak out against injustice. Do not tolerate bullies or bigots or racists or anti-intellectuals or the narrow minded. Use your education to challenge them. Broaden their perspectives. Make the world you interface with a happier place.

These are your choices. Choices you have been fortunate enough to have been given, so don’t waste them while you have them. Don’t look back in years to come and wish you had grasped a fleeting opportunity. Grasp it now with both hands. Live. Strive. Love.

04 Feb

Labour could be finished in Dundee West

Lord Ashcroft has released his constituency breakdown polls and it looks like Jim McGovern could be finished in Dundee West.

I was born in Dundee West and have spent my entire life here.

For a large chunk of my life, my MP was Ernie Ross, before becoming Jim McGovern.

I always despised Ernie Ross, a snivelling shit of a man. My signature quote on a local music forum used to be this with links to the local paper:

‘I’m not a rent-a-quote MP’ – Ernie Ross 10th September
Ernie Ross being a rent-a-quote MP; – 23rd July

A Yes-man who eagerly supported bombing children in Iraq. When I saw him the day after the first Scottish servicemen died, he claimed that because someone else (Tony Blair) may have lied about WMD (he did) and Ernie repeated the lie (he did), if they (Tony) thought they were telling the truth (they didn’t) then it wasn’t really telling a lie, or him re-telling a lie. Amazing logic.

When he finally retired, I hoped that whoever replaced him would at least be mildly competent. Jim McGovern has had his snout in the trough, being caught up in the expenses scandal.

We went from having a rent-a-quote MP to having a rent-a-vote MP who barely dares to deviate from the party line. He hasn’t bothered turning up to vote against the Bedroom Tax or nuclear weapons. He does manage to send out emails that say things like

We will end the exploitation of 0-hour contracts

You may wish to contrast that with the actual meaningful

We will end the exploitation of 0-hour contracts

To have the SNP sitting at 59% and Labour at 24% is simply earth shattering. Even the Guardian have picked up on it.

Labour appear to have ducked their head under the sand and are spreading FUD about the real ramifications of these polls. McGovern has not yet confirmed if he is standing again or not, no mention on the local Labour groups etc. Perhaps this poll will finally push him over the cliff to retirement.

If Cameron panicked at being the Prime Minister who could lose the UK, just think of the pressure these Labour goons are under, who assumed they now had a fiefdom for life.

Labour took a decision 20 years ago to sell out their heartlands and appeal to the middle class in marginal constituencies whilst sticking the boot into the poor and vulnerable. Hopefully a wipeout will be a long delayed boot back.

14 Nov

Warped Playlist – 7th November 2014

Gavin and I were djing Warped on 7th November, although I was feeling pretty ill. Here’s the fabby do stuff we played.

Jerry Built – Receivers
Jetplane Landing – Summer Ends
AFI – Of Greetings & Goodbyes
Cake – Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps
Alkaline Trio – Armageddon

American HiFi – The Art of Losing

Idlewild – A Film for the Future

Alexisonfire – Accidents
Bonehouse – Summer Jams
Fat Goth – Creepy Lounge
Sink Alaska – Dolphins used to live on land
Beauty School Dropout – Schizo Girl
Cold – Go Away

Slipknot – the Devil and I

Bring me the Horizon – Crucify Me
A Day to Remember – Plot to bomb the panhandle
New Found Glory – Its been a summer


3 Colours Red – Beautiful Day

Taking Back Sunday – Decade under the influence
Head Automica – Beating Heart Baby
Hot Water Music – Trusty Chords
Kings Blues – Lets hand the landlord
I am the Avalanche – Holy Fuck

Rancid – Roots Radicals

CKY – 96 Quite Bitter Beings
Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
Clash – Should I stay or should I go?
Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Green Day – Welcome to Paradise

Offspring – Self Esteem
Feeder – Insomniac
Descendents – I’m the One

Rocket From the Crypt – On a Rope

1 AM

Movielife – Up to Me
Allister – Somewhere On Fullerton
Rise Against – Anyway you want it
student rick – heaven is a place on earth
Ataris – Boys of Summer

A Day to Remember – Since you’ve been gone

No Doubt – Just a Girl
Paramore – Misery Business
Blink 182 – Feeling this
Green Day – Minority
Sum41 – In Too Deep
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
Less Than Jake – All my best friends are metalheads
Reel Big Fish – Beer

Madness – One Step Beyond

Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
Sugarcult – Bouncing off the walls
Zebrahead – Anthem

Good Charlotte – Lifestyles of the rich and the famous

Lustra – Scotty Doesnt Know
Fountains of Wayne – Staceys Mom

2 AM

Fall out boy – Sugar we’re going down
Offpsring – Why don’t you get a job
Blink 182- What’s my age again?

Avril Lavigne – Sk8er Boy

Busted – What I go to school for

Taking Back Sunday – Cute without the E

Used – Taste of Ink
Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
Sum41 – Fat Lip

McBusted – Build me up buttercup

23 Oct

Warped Playlist September 12th 2014

I made a playlist of what Iain and I played at Warped on the 12th September and intend to make one up the list each night.

So on my blog I’ll put a link to each track if I can, this may be to a live version or similar, not necessarily the one played.

Jetplane Landing – This Is Not Revolution Rock
Elway – Dear Colorado
Carson Wells – Don’t forget the Super8
Engage – What will it take?
Kaddish – But a beat from your bones
Onsind – Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped
Uniforms – This is not a joke
Arliss Nancy – 40s
Robot Doctors – For the Taken (this was a genuine request, honest)
Murderburgers – Unemployment here I come
Maxwells Dead – Money falls down the drain
can’t read my terrible writing (apparently my scrawl was too much of a scrawl)
The Hijacks – Slowdown

Billy Liar – Ghosts of Punk Rock

Franz Nicolay – The hearts of Boston

Bonehouse – Summer jam
Fat Goth – Creepy Lounge

Foo Fighters – White Limo
3 Colours Red – Age of Madness
Idlewild – Satan Polaroid

Elway – Whispers in the shot glass
New Found Glory – Failure’s Not Flattering
Gaslight Anthem – Old White Lincoln
Rancid – Vanilla sex
Glassjaw – Cosmopolitan Blood Loss
Alexisonfire – This could be anywhere in the world
At the Drive In – One Armed Scissor
Refused – New Noise
Biffy Clyro – Saturday Superstar

Sum41 – Hell Song
Rocket from the crypt – On a rope
Capdown – Ska wars
Selector – Too much pressure
Misfits – Skulls
Dropkick Murphys – Gauntlet
Anti-flag – Turncoat
Bad Religion – Sorrow

Pennywise – Fuck Authority
Allister – Somewhere on fullerton
Bouncing Souls – Manthem
Rage Against the Machine – Guerilla Radio

* can’t read my terrible writing of another song
Fall out Boy – Grand Theft Autumn
Less than Jake – Gainseville Rock City
NOFX – Dinosaurs will die
No Doubt – Just a Girl

Paramore – Misery Business
Killswitch Engage – My last serenade
Marilyn Manson – Fight song
Papa Roach – Infest
Rise Against – Anyway you want it
Reel Big Fish – Beer

Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
Blink 182 – What’s my age again?
American Hi-fi – Flavour of the week
Fenix TX – Threesome
Fountain of Wayne – Stacy’s mom
* can’t read my terrible writing

Lit – My Own Worst Enemy
All American rejects – Dirty Little secret

R Kelly – Ignition
Cee-Lo Green – Fuck you
Outkast – Hey Ya

Lonely Island – I’m on a boat
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
Taylor Swift – Never Getting Back Together
Backstreet Boys – Everybody
Huey Lewis – Power of Love

24 Sep

Failure, #the45 and the future

A friend told me they went to vote wearing a Firefly t-shirt as they didn’t have a Yes t-shirt. At the time I was amused but then on the Friday it became even more meaningful.

Firefly is a series set in the aftermath of a civil war from some of those sympathetic to the rebellious side. The cause was the grievances of those far away from the centre of political power feeling left out, ignored and opposing centralisation.

In one scene of the show, Captain Reynolds is challenged

Commander Harken: Seems odd you’d name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.

Captain Reynolds: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.

And that seems to be the view of the supporters of the Yes campaign. We’ve failed, dust ourselves off and keep fighting.



Social Media almost immediately spread around memes to do with #the45. A replacement for your I’m voting yes twibbons etc. I was pretty uneasy and became more concerned the more it spread.


I’m one of the 45 has a number of messages.

I’m proud I voted Yes

Seems reasonable enough. Much better than scurrying to take down your yes posters and so on.

I’m part of the 45 group

Seems a bit more worrying. If we want to win over the 55% who voted No, then creating an in-group isn’t a positive way to do it.

Any kind of movement which comes out of the real, mass, grassroots campaign for yes, must try to reach out to those who voted yes, or didn’t vote. By creating the 45 ingroup you create the 55 outgroup too. This hasn’t been positive, phrases like traitor flying around Twitter won’t win over those who voted No.

If someone was to vote No, be convinced it was a mistake and come over to the other side could they describe themselves as #the45? No. Clearly not. So it fails it first hurdle – can you call over your opponents from yesterday over to you today?

There are also connotations to the other 45 which are best avoided.

45+ isn’t much better, it sounds like some kind of middle aged dating site. I don’t know what’s better, during discussion I commented that I’d vote Yes tomorrow is better as bland as it is, but I know that #the45 isn’t right.

Here is a more academic critique of #the45.

The Future

My first concern was that those on the losing side would lose heart and drop out of any kind of political activity. I’ve seen it happen before, but never when 1.6million other people were also on the losing side.

On the 19th I tweeted Don’t be despondent, be active. Join the @The_SSP_ @scotgp snp or whoevers vision you agreed with most and work to make it happen.

I checked later on and I hadn’t been the only one, loads were saying similar. By the time of starting this post the SNP had claimed over 30,000 new members making them the third largest party in the whole UK. The Greens claimed 3000, the SSP 1900. The Radical Independence Conference 2014 has almost 7000 saying on Facebook they are going. People are also claiming to have joined Scottish CND and other progressive campaigns too.

The energy and enthusiasm will hopefully not be lost immediately then.

There is a downside to this of course. The Labour party became the horrible organisation they are due to a massive monopoly of electoral politics in Scotland. The SNP having more members than all other political parties in Scotland combined is not a healthy situation!


There have been rumblings of some kind of pro-Yes coalition/alliance standing in the future, including from some SNP MSPs (paywall).

There are some immediate appeals of this. For Westminster, your vote is essentially wasted no matter who you vote for. In the last General Election I think I voted SNP in Dundee West. Not because I support SNP but to try and unseat Jim McGovern, who as awful as he is is not as useless as Ernie I’m not a rent a quote MP Ross the rent-a-quote former MP for the constituency.

But is this something I’d do next time? I don’t know. The candidate is likely to be some local SNP councillor, one who no doubt voted to give the V&A contract to a blacklisting company. If so I could not see myself voting for them. Could I advocate others voting for them? Not if I couldn’t myself. I’d probably spoil my ballot if it was anti-choice Labour vs a pro-blacklisting SNP candidate with no progressive on the ballot, but I’ll decide closer to the time.

But let’s pretend for a second that some pro-Yes alliance was formed. Who would be it’s candidates. The SNP are the dominant force, do you think they’d let RIC, the SSP or Greens have a candidate in Dundee East and they’d have the SNP candidates in the seats the SNP are far behind in? I doubt it. It would be stitched up so the SNP candidates were most likely to be elected by that mechanism. But even if that’s not the case. Let’s say not 59 but even 30 of the candidates elected are pro-Yes Alliance. Then what? The whole Labour electoral strategy in the 80s was send their MPs to Westminster to protect Scotland and it failed. The only purpose would be to keep independence on the agenda, perhaps as part of a wider strategy to either get another referendum or to universally declare independence (these MPs declaring themselves Holyroods second chamber or the like). You would also essentially be voting for a single issue MP. It all seems a bit back of a fag packet and needs to be well thought out.

For Holyrood it might be different. Again, I heard suggestions of a pro-Yes slate everywhere. But let’s look at it tactically, if the point is to break Labour and the Unionists hold at Holyrood then having pro-Yes in seats and the lists is not the best way to do it. If we want to use the Holyrood elections as a way to boot them out then we should hammer at the weaknesses in the d’Hondt electoral system used in the lists.

This is a form of proportional representation which tops up list seats to make up for coming second in lots of first past the post constituencies. If one party comes first and a second party comes second in all the constituencies then the party who comes second will win more list seats making the MSPs each have more consistent with the % of support each receive.

The weakness in the system is if a party stands in the list but not constituency then they are at an advantage when the seats are calculated. This is the strategy the Greens use – ignoring the constituency vote. If however the SNP stood in the constituencies and the pro-Yes Alliance stood in the regions then they would not be penalised for having SNP winning constituencies when the list votes are calculated.

In the North East last time for example, the SNP won all 10 constituencies. When the votes are calculated for the list the SNP had 140,749 list votes and gained 1 MSP. Labour had 43,893 and gained 3. This is because for the first MSP the SNP vote is divided by the number of MSPs they had elected +1. Labours likewise. So the SNP have 12,795 proportional votes, Labour have 43,893. Labour get 3 elected from the list before the SNP get their first. A pro-Yes list would have gained 3 MSPs before Labour got their first though! This would result in a massive swing to the pro-Yes parties.

The second advantage is, should this become a serious possibility what would Labour do? Create a similar list? For the referendum they were happy to campaign alongside Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP and the National Front. I seriously doubt they would promote tactically voting for one of these in an election though!

What this would take though is a massive effort at co-ordination and compromise. Again, the SNP would probably pressure to have their people at the top of the lists.

16 Sep

The reasons to vote yes

After having discussions with a number of people about it I thought I would detail what convinced me to vote yes and then list the other reasons which have solidified that position since.

The clincher

The clincher for me was the White Paper promising a written constitution, and an admittedly non-detailed way for that being created. A written constitution isn’t a panacea but the lack of having one is one of the many democratic failings of the UK state.

A written consitution is one of the basic building blocks of a modern democratic state. Only 6 states in the world don’t have a single written constitutional document: Canada, Israel, New Zealand, San Marino, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Makes the Better Together sneering about Panama seem a bit weird in context right?

The pusher

At the start of the referendum I discussed the referendum with people and some of us had reservations, positions taken included Yes, but and Not if. All of those people are now strong Yes. I had said I had an open mind and could be convinced either way. After the appalling AV referendum I said I was likely to either vote Yes or spoil my ballot but realistically couldn’t see a positive campaign by No so didn’t think I’d be swayed in that direction. I’m like a prophet or something.

The No Better Together campaign (see what I did there) has been truly awful. Constant attacks on the SNP, Alex Salmond and Nationalists ignoring those who support none of those. I remember early in the campaign looking at their Positive Case for the Union and being thoroughly underwhelmed. Although rare, any time in Yes City I’ve met a no voter whilst discussing the referendum I’ve asked for the positive case and been given zero answers.

Top tip: saying things will/might/could be worse under independence is not a positive case for your own position. If the No campaign fails it will be due to it’s inability to form a coherent argument for it’s own position.

The make up of either side

Firstly let’s look at the registered supporters for each side:


  • 1001 Campaign – Jim Sillars
  • Business for Scotland
  • Christians for Independence
  • English Democrats – bit dodgy, include some BNP activists, are anti-immigration and want to cut down on asylum
  • Farmers 4 Yes
  • Generation Yes – a youth campaign for independence
  • Labour for Independence
  • National Collective – artists and creatives for indepenence
  • Radical Independence Campaign – grassroots campaign for radicals. Have organised speakers to go to events in other parts of the UK
  • Sarah-Louise Bailey-Kelly – no idea
  • Scottish CND
  • Scottish Green Party
  • Scottish Independence Convention – cross party group initiated by the SSP to campaign for independence. You can see an amusing evaluation of this by the CWI here (who are supporting Yes)
  • SNP
  • SSP
  • Spirit of Independence – seems to be set up to fund a campaign bus
  • Tommy Sheppard – a former Labour councillor
  • Wealthy Nation – seems to be tories for yes
  • Wings Over Scotland
  • Women for Independence
  • Yes Scotland

So a fair spread of people but including the SSP, and Greens. The two parties I would probably agree with most out of all involved in the campaigns (interesting to not see Solidarity or any of their member orgs registered). The National Collective, Generation Yes and Women for Independence are really inspiring groups. Scottish CND realise independence is the best way to boot out trident. The only groups I would consider dodgy are English Democrats, who as far as I can tell haven’t done any campaigning, and the Wealthy Nation, who again I have seen nothing from.


  • Alistair McConnachie – someone kicked out of UKIP for denying the holocaust. Let that sink in.
  • Angus MacDonald – no idea, but he has the same name as an SNP MSP which is amusing
  • Better Together – Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, Labour set up their own group. UKIP, BNP etc weren’t allowed to join.
  • Better for Scotland – can’t find info
  • Brittanica – people who left the BNP, their organiser was lifted whilst campaigning with Better Together material for kicking a woman in the stomach
  • Communication Workers Union – so in bed with Labour they are out campaigning to keep the Tories and Lib Dems in power after they privatised the Post Office.
  • Conservative Party
  • Cumbria Broadband Rural and Community Projects – no idea what their reasoning is, assume one of the individuals supporting No owns them.
  • GMB – affiliated to Labour
  • Ghill Donald – funded Galloway the rape apologists talking tours
  • Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland – sectarian bigots who organised a march through Edinburgh waving banners for Scottish Protestant Action declaring No Popery whilst illegally wearing paramilitary uniforms.
  • Labour Party
  • Let’s Stay Together – English celebrities for the union. They seem to have organised the second largest No event after the Orange Order
  • Liberal Democrats
  • No Borders Campaign – started the trend of appalling adverts for No
  • Scottish Jacobite Party – a bizarre micro-organisation who are pro-independence but seem to have registered no. I tried reading their blog to see why and it says things like better together in an independent Scotland. Nope, no idea either.
  • Strirlingshire for No Thanks – some businessman with a trail of closed businesses, and this is based in Glasgow
  • Scottish Research Society – a biased organisation collecting data for academic research. Bit weird.
  • Tony George Stevenson – no idea
  • USDAW – Labour affiliate, who from speaking to members, pretty much use their political fund to send out Labour propaganda and nowt else
  • WFS2014 (company owned by Ghill Donald)

A group of random individuals, the Unionist Party, Sectarian bigots and fascists. Supported by the Daily Mail and the other reactionary rags.

The CBI registered for No then insisted it was an accident. For some reason the BBC haven’t registered for No, although anyone watching it would be confused by that. Assume Galloway is putting his talks through the guy funding him. Mid way through this list I found this one which goes into detail too.

It’s also worth noting that Radical Independence organised a massive voter registration drive. I am unaware of anything similar by anyone on the No side. Better Together have disgracefully said if you don’t know, don’t vote. Probably adding on eat your cereal

So it all comes down to the question: Which side are you on?

The first hints

The first hints that I was being pushed more toward yes was statements by George Robertson about how Scotland leaving would weaken the UK, risk it’s position in NATO, as America’s no#1 poodle and permanent seat on the security council.


Of course the man has form for arguing his case, as can be seen from this early debate at Abertay.

The democratic Deficit

It’s been used as a phrase for years but here it is in visual form

The Democratic Deficit

The Democratic Deficit

Historical Scottish Election Results

Historical Scottish Election Results

In essence, it is extremely rare for Scotland to affect the UK wide results but is extremely common for Scotland to not get a national government reflecting the countries vote.

I would add a small caveat that the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party branding of the UK Tories in Scotland only existed after 1964. Before that Unionist and National Liberal politicians took the Tory whip at Westminster the same way the Ulster Unionists do today.

Reasons for vote No?

Having repeatedly asked for one I have not been given any which convince me. I have heard how the SNP are shit (yep they are), how Alex Salmond is fat (relevant), Nicola Sturgeon looks like Wee Jimmy Krankie (snore) and Plannnnnnn BBBBBbbbbbbbbbb. But no actual positive case. Most people’s reasons for being No have been under a number of categories, none of which have convinced me to their side.

The Tories will lose the election and Labour will run the country

Sorry is that supposed to fill me with hope? The Party who introduced the Bedroom Tax, bombed the shit out of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stopped the Grant and introduced Tuition fees. Need I go on? And even if them coming in was positive so what, in a few years the Tories will be back in again.

But it’s not positive even if they do get in. Labour are going to carry on austerity. They will continue privatising every public service they can.

And they probably won’t get in anyway. We are likely to be foisted with the Tories again, and given Middle Englands obsession with the Little Englander racist, troughing, fraudsters UKIP guess who is likely to be the junior coalition partner.


What about our relationship with the rest of the world?

Well, we might actually have one. I have been active on eBay for years and trade stuff all the time online. The number of parcels I’ve had addressed to Dundee, Scotland, England is quite high. Some actual acknowledgement of our countries existence might be good. Which also covers passports – the UK doesn’t require you to renounce your existing nationality if you wish to have, and qualify for duel citizenship.

We will also be able to apply for, or be members of many international organisations, from the EU, to the UN.

What about my pension?

Well, as you can currently retire to Spain and collect your UK pension, why would Scotland being a different country from the UK make a difference? Also it’s been confirmed that’s then case. Perhaps the only reason it keeps getting mentioned is because the elderly are more likely to vote. Sounds like FUD.

But I’m proud of being British, I don’t want it to change

As someone who isn’t a nationalist, having this argument made isn’t convincing for me at all. Oh you hate nationalism and want to stay British. Can’t see that makes you a British nationalist huh? What are you proud of exactly? That your mother gave birth to you within these borders or whilst a passport holder? What is it you are proud of then? You didn’t achieve anything. I’m sure there are some this is convincing for, as well as some it is a dog whistle for, but for me, I take pride in things I have done, not things that happened to me at birth which I had no control over.

But we have built so much together!

This is the argument made from the left as their excuse to vote No. This comes from a devotion to the post war consensus. The same camp that says they vote Labour cos their granny did. Their granny voted Labour because they built the NHS and ended means testing. Labour is privatising every public service they can and want to reintroduce means testing. But let’s ignore the present and hark back to the past. Small-c conservatism and totally reactionary using the language of the left as cover to defend the privatisation agenda.

So vote yes

And finally, the cultural work around independence has been amazing. You should look at what National Collective have been doing. The artists, from Lady Alba to Loki have been making great music.

Stanley Odd’s contribution is the best though:

15 Sep

Patrick Harvie @ Five Million Questions

Having previously attended a talk at Dundee Uni organised by 5 Million Questions with Nicola Sturgeon I had a look to see if any more were coming up.

There was a Patrick Harvie one coming up, although I was dissapointed that I had missed out on more that hadn’t been advertised widely.

His Twitter Bio describes himself as:

Patrick Harvie

Patrick Harvie

Green MSP for Glasgow. Called in the Daily Mail ‘voice of the irresponsible left-led anti-family anti-christian gay whales against the bomb coalition’

Which explains why he’s always been my favourite public figure of the Greens.

So, similarly to the post about Sturgeon, I made notes but as it was quite conversational I may be paraphrasing or mixing up a question, supplementary etc. All errors my own, and all that but I should have captured the general points anyway. Also it was over a week ago.

The room was full to a similar capacity with a good spread of people of all ages and genders. I noticed a few local Greens including my former MSP Shiona Baird

They started off with a discussion of the polls, with Yes in the lead and then the next one showing a 6 point lead for no. Patrick, in typical fashion, said the important thing about the result was for there to be no triumphalism by the winning side.

As a slight aside, annoyingly David Torrance didn’t seem to realise the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Green Party are two different parties, in the way that the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour pretend they actually are to the electorate.

A probing question was whether this was a great opportunity for the Greens. Of course it is but that’s not the motivation to take part in the Yes campaign. If politics just had two voices it would be boring. Harvie captured the mood of the audience by saying that if it was just Darling vs Salmond he would spoil his ballot to the first applause of the night. The Yes campaign is way beyond being just about Salmond, the SNP and Nationalists.

The first audience questions were about Green policy – How does a new state help reduce CO2 emissions? and How can you support independence if it requires maximising oil extraction?.

The answer was quite detailed and I think it’s probably a question he’s had before – in favour of maximising in the short term for the energy and money to invest in clean energy production to massively reduce in future. A number of points throughout the night he pointed out how our fossil fuel use is unsustainable etc and kept returning, convincingly to the case for phasing out their use for non-essential fuel use. I interpreted this to be, don’t burn for electricity for homes or waste on polythene bags and plastic bottles for water etc. In other words where oil, coal and gas usage can be replaced it should be replaced. Later he referred to this as maximising usage over 10-15 years instead of 30-40.

This veered into points about the economy and he said Lamont stole my usage of ‘Scandinavian public services, American Taxes’. Lamont stole it? queried Torrance? Great minds think alike, beat, maybe not to chuckles from the crowd.

His entire tone during the talk was even more informal than Nicola Sturgeon. A great contrast with the media set pieces from the Westminster party leaders who have taken a jaunt up here and seem afraid to actually engage with the general public.

Neo-liberalism is already crumbling, and it could be that privileged power becomes entrenched or is challenged and overturned.

There was a question about how LGBTI people are spread between No and Yes voters. Patrick pointed out it would be more bizarre if all LGBTI people had a more consistent position on any political policy than a party like the Greens. He said that this community has nothing to fear from Human Rights legislation being passed to Holyrood – a body which has never once legislated against us. A point more valid with right wing forces in Westminster wanting to abolish the Human Rights Act.

This led to a query about a different political character in Scotland. He tried better than most to describe this – it does have a distinctive one but if you tried to nail it to the door it will wriggle away so becomes hard to define in concrete terms.

He made a point I hadn’t grasped before, Scotland has constantly been voting for change since the mid-90s. The vote to set up parliament, the minority of rainbow groups, Labour being seen as bad but not terrible, then SNP minority, majority and then referendum. Seems a good contrast to the conservatism of Westminster where parties stay in power for multiple terms.

Post-Yes there is then a decision to make about a second chamber or a way to share power with the people. Some second chamber which does share power with the people seems reasonable to me. He noted the bizarre situation where the Queen will be head of state but not eligible to be a citizen. The discussion lead to her role as initial head of state. The difference between a ceremonial or a legislative/executive role and the different levels of accountability required for the two differing roles.

I can’t read my scribbled notes as to what he said about the Crown Estate but he does make the point, stressed again later a number of times, for more community and publically owned energy companies and land. This was in relation to landowners getting subsidies for wind farms etc. He put forward the idea that a better use of these subsidies would be for each local authority using local land to erect turbines and have local energy companies in each council area.

One phrase which he said, was one I am used to hearing from SSP and other progressives in Parliament

People like me should pay more tax.

If only others involved in the Referendum campaign would. I’m looking at you Vodafone who support the existing UK and oppose change by not paying any tax.

He discussed the Green policy of replacing Council Tax and Business Rates with a Land Value Tax. Something I’ve not been convinced by. I don’t think it addresses those land owners who register their estates in the British supported tax havens to avoid existing tax and the land which should be used in a way which is socially beneficial. He did mention that he would love to see a socialist utopia though during this section though so ho hum.

There was a question about the Greens internal discussion on being Yes or No and Robin Harper being in favour of No. This led to detail of the Greens internal democracy which sounds quite healthy and how their no-whip system worked at Holyrood.

This diverted into a discussion of his political history. He was a Green as a kid, helping his mum with community recycling projects. How strange it is for me to remember these campaigns which were small and grew to be more recognised now be seen as normal. He dropped out, got active during the campaign against Section 28/2A, a disgusting piece of legislation supported by the Tories and the SNPs bigoted funder Brian Souter.

After this he joined the now Scottish Green Party and was surprised how much in favour of Yes they were. The general consensus was that there was more opportunity than risk and they were 4/1 in favour of Yes. the important thing is post-Yes to work on interdependence and internationalism.

There was a question about fracking and he said it was very concering as it requires a massive amount of water and energy and then releases even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The current set up is complex as Westminster issues licences and Holyrood deals with planning.

An interesting question was why he was in favour of the EU but not the UK when the UK is more local and democratic.

There were three aspects to his answer and he went into some detail. The first was about democracy. The UK structures have long been captured by corporate interests. The EU is not very good on this either but the UK institutions are inherently conservative and opposed to radical change. The second was about decentralisation. Apart from devolution, Westminster tries to centralise everything. The third was the character of the Green Parties in Europe. They were born in the era of European Integration.

David Torrance then said he had the final and most important question. As a fellow Whovian, what did he think of Peter Capaldi? Cue laughter and claps from the audience. He’s what they need, an older doctor, too many 2000 year old Doctors look like teenagers. There was then a couple of points about the Scottish Doctors voting intentions and the note that an episode quoted Scotland as having went their own way years ago.

It was a really interesting talk, I just wish there were more undecided at talks like this. As I’m sure his open manner and eloquent reasoning would have helped win them over to the coalition of progressives.

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