Is Salmond Sincere, or a Product of His Own Spin?

Alex Salmond speaking in Hawick today

Alex Salmond speaking in Hawick today – photo taken by myself

In the absence of BBC’s flagship political “debate” programme giving a voice to right-wing blowhards, I find myself short of things to write about. Today however, I found out the Scottish Cabinet were on tour in my hometown. This fact had not been well reported in local news outlets, perhaps due to the fact our region’s “local” news is based in Carlisle and focuses on Cumbria and Northumberland, was more than likely to pass the newscaster by.

Upon walking into my high school’s assembly hall, I was struck by how much of a publicity opportunity this event was for the Scottish cabinet. There were cameras as I was signing my name in attendance, cameras as I was entering the hall, and a row of photographers in each of the aisles. The stage was set in bright lights, a saltire in lit up on the blue background.

As is to be expected with politicians, the public meeting was scheduled to start at 12:45 and the cabinet did not take their seats until just before 1pm. A short introduction from the leader of Scottish Borders Council leader – David Parker – the wait for Alex Salmond’s appearance was over.

It has been well reported in the media that Salmond is an engaging speaker. Having never heard him speak publicly whilst I was in the audience before, I was certainly sceptical of this reputation. However, quickly it became clear just how Salmond is able to ingratiate himself into people’s hearts and minds. I am no great fan of the man himself but have no issue separating him from the independence debate (something I’ve seen many of the people who have already decided they’re voting no seem unable to do).

Salmond made an obvious attempt to appeal to the people of Hawick by quoting (but fatally mispronouncing) the title of our Common Riding song Teribus [Tear-ee-bus] with his eye on the final verse of the song which appeals to his cause:

Peace be thy portion, Hawick forever,

Thine arts, thy commerce flourish ever,

Down to the latest age they send it,

Hawick was ever independent

From this he made links to the fact next year’s independence referendum comes 500 years after the Battle of Hornshole which gave birth to the song quoted above. His final point was about Hawick’s supposed independence (even though our seat of local government is in Melrose) has never stopped ties being formed far and wide, and if this is true, why can’t that be expanded to Scotland?

Once Salmond had dispensed with this routine which slightly rang with insincerity, he then launched into the sort of speech you would expect: how an independent Scotland would fare in Europe and worldwide; attacked the self-titled Project Fear; and Scotland’s fundamental incompatibility with Westminster’s increasingly insular ideas.

He has already begun talking about the legacy of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games next year, promising that the region would not be forgotten about (in fact he’s already had a photo op with a group of Hawick, all male, children to highlight the opening of all-weather tennis courts in the town).

In a wise move for his audience, Salmond stayed away from the topic of the Borders Railway as from people I have spoken to locally it is largely useless to those who do not drive. For example, if I were travelling to Edinburgh, I would either be paying the £5 fare for a bus to Galashiels and then paying some extortionate rate to continue on to Edinburgh or continuing to use the bus service and pay one fare of around £7.

Salmond also made an attempt to appeal to the 5th and 6th year pupils who were in the audience, setting himself apart from “Daily Mail-esque comments” and congratulated the young people on their excellent results for another year. He also used Scotland’s young people as another stick to beat the union with, as the UK government has been opposed to an EU proposition to introduce a target for youth employment. In terms of EU membership, he also made the point that to change the UK’s relationship with Europe David Cameron cannot keep throwing his toys from the pram and threatening to leave. Change must come from within.

The whole focus of his speech was on independence and interdependence. Bringing Scotland its autonomy back and providing a voice which has been quietened to a whimper. An independent Scotland is on-par size and population wise with 12 current members of the EU. The interdependence with Europe was also made clear on a local level: the Border brewery has been funded by money from the European Union; in terms of export 170 jobs at Barrie Knitwear in the town were secured when the factory was bought by Chanel, who bought it because they had been using the products from Barrie for over a quarter of a century. He also debunked a good number of Project Fear/Better Together’s myths they have been busy perpetuating.

Whether you like the man or not, he puts forward a compelling case for Scotland’s independence. In a debate which so far has been full of hot air from both sides, it is hard to see where the truth lies – however if you take a step back from partisan politics you can see where Scotland and England are fundamentally incompatible politically. From my point of view things will only get worse – the men currently vying for control of Westminster are so hard to tell apart any man could be leading any of the three main parties, the tabloid media are so bloodthirsty for revenge that the brand of social justice the Yes campaign are aiming for cannot be possible in the current climate.

This post is one of two I will be writing from today’s public cabinet meeting which took place as part of the Scottish Government’s tour of Scotland. The next post will contain information from the question and answer session, followed by conversations I had with the cabinet members themselves.

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Bieber Visits Anne Frank Museum, Educators Have a Meltdown

Many young people only recognise one of the people pictured – which one? Source: radiolive.co.nz

I must confess, I have never visited the Anne Frank museum, mainly as I have never visited Amsterdam. There is an eerie fascination with what happened to those oppressed by German occupation, especially in regards to Jewish families such as the Franks.

I have seen photos from inside the secret annexe, there’s even a virtual tour you can take online, showing you how small the annexe was. Her shared bedroom was tiny, and decorated with pictures to brighten it up a little (the same way Beliebers have pictures of Justin blu-tacked to their walls?), they shared a wash room which only had a sink. She spent her days with her family, stuck in one small room. If I was cooped up for that long with my family, some of us would not have survived long enough to be caught by Nazis. It must have been terrifying.

If I had the chance to visit the museum, Anne Frank’s choice of music had she been a teenager today would be the furthest thing from my mind. Can you even begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been, the slightest noise potentially sentencing yourself and your entire family to certain death in concentration camps?

Yesterday, “news” surfaced that Justin Bieber had visited the museum in Amsterdam. This would not usually have made it into national newspapers – it would have just been a young man wanting to discover history. What made the story, though, was his staggering sense of self-importance. Instead of writing about his experience opening his eyes to her plight in the 1940’s – he wrote: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Wow.

This, however, was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to uneducated teenagers and tweenies. “Beliebers” everywhere provided a staggering indictment of their respective education systems. Let me provide you with a few examples:

Want more? Greg Hyatt on tumblr retweeted a few more.

Recently, the history curriculum in England and Wales has come up for discussion. I had no idea that they were potentially discussing putting Anne Frank and her diary back into the teaching of World War 2. Or are these kids too obsessed by the coiffed little boy to pay attention to the teaching of fundamental historical knowledge?

I remember on at least 3 separate occasions, being taught the story of Anne Frank. I think myself incredibly lucky that my parents encouraged me to read her diary when I came home from school and said we were learning about her.

Now, however, even the BBC’s childrens’ news (Newsbeat) had to explain who Anne Frank was – to avoid another outbreak on twitter of “Who even was she?”

Her story is a fundamental part of forming empathy for the literally millions of victims of the German Nazi regime at this time. It’s truly, deeply worrying that so many young people are ignorant of her story.

For the sake of your own mental health, when you see young people being this ignorant on your timeline – do not go digging for more examples. It’s incredibly disheartening.

Too Young to Comment on Thatcher?

Since when was a politician’s only effects felt when they were in office? When Winston Churchill was no longer prime minister, did the UK go back to war with Germany? When Tony Blair was replaced by Gordon Brown did we automatically pull out of Iraq? The policies and ideologies which Margaret Thatcher implemented during her period as prime minister are largely still with us today, so why can’t I comment on the life of a woman who has affected the world I was born into and have grown up in – just because I wasn’t around when she was in office?

It really is tiring to justify yourself and your opinion to people older than you – so often you are given a patronising pat on the head like “Well done for trying, but you’re too young to understand.” I understand just fine, thank you. Child poverty during Thatcher’s government was the worst in the developed world at the time (the current Conservative government are doing their damnedest to surpass those levels, though – what a goal!). This surely was helped by her government putting countless working class people out of work by closing shipyards and coal mines, to name just two examples.

The fact she was the UK’s first and only female prime minister meant almost nothing for women of her gender – she actively despised feminism and what it stood for, believing that the women’s liberation movement had gone far enough (in the 80s, really?). She actually proclaimed feminism to be “poison”, surrounded herself with powerful men – and certain publications have been trying to portray her as a feminist icon. Give me a break.

Thatcher became an archetypal Conservative by her striving towards privatisation (aside from the NHS and National Rail, which have since been at least partially privatised by different Tory governments). She is the woman who is behind the massive electricity and gas bills you have received in the last few months, hiding it under the banner that prices will go down due to competition.

Her political ideology has been picked up by Southern republican politicians over in the USA, and surely that can’t be seen by a positive thing. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all claim to have been influenced by her politics, further clarifying that all three have been cut from the same cloth – making all three of them unelectable, at least to me.

Thatcherism is still alive and well today, it serves as a driving factor to widen the gap between the richest and poorest in this country. Frankly, it’s disgusting. Surely the only right thing for the current government to do is to provide Thatcher with a funeral/cremation, funded by the private sector. It’s what she would have wanted.

I am bycotting all news sites and TV news until the woman is buried on 17th April. Good riddance to her, it’s just a shame her politics didn’t die with her.

Hello, Again.

I reckon this is plenty long enough to have procrastinated blogging, and I need to get writing on this again.
Hi everyone, I hope you’ve all been keeping well.

Since I last posted (22nd June) – here’s a quick roundup of what’s happened in my life. It’s truly thrilling, hold on to your hats!

  • The Euro championships were on TV, so Chris and I spent the majority of our time at the end of June/start of July watching that. Still pleased Spain won – Viva España!
  • I turned 21. So I can now inbibe alcohol in every country I’d like to visit. It’s pretty bizarre though, given I feel far less independent than I was at 18.
  • The Olympics happened, and I was almost pathetically enraptured with the TV coverage from the BBC (which was unbelievable, much kudos to Clare Balding). Almost cried when Oscar Pistorius came out to run his first 400m heat. So many incredible athletes, and brilliant athletic moments. For those who didn’t pay much attention, please, enjoy.
  • I got a kindle from my wonderful boyfriend for my birthday, so instead of blogging whilst on buses, I’ve been reading. I’m currently working my way through The Scarlet Letter and am really enjoying it.
  • The last couple of weeks have been brilliantly sunny (mostly), so we’ve been out a fair bit, exploring nice parts of our cities. I very much enjoyed walking along the River Clyde, seeing the science centre and the beautiful buildings along the riverside. I kind of wish I had the picture Chris took of me across the river from the science centre to insert into this post.
  • I finally worked out how to get emails delivered to the new email account I’m using, so you guys all inspired/guilted me into posting again.

How has your summer been?

Friendship Friday – How Long is Too Long to Wait For a Reply?

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I come to you with a question: how long is too long to wait for a reply from someone who you consider a close friend? How long can you put up with a certain someone being difficult to get in touch with before you snap?

Let’s Talk About The Basics

I’ve known this girl since we were in primary school. We shared crisps and sweets at break time, sat together at lunch, I even used to ask out boys for her (I was always much too busy playing rugby/football with the guys to be interested in them). We’ve always been close from the first time I told a girl off for being mean to her as she was too weak to tell her herself.

When we went to high school, we weren’t in any of the same classes any more, but we still kept close, meeting up in the same place every day so we didn’t miss each other. We met up most evenings, including our special “ned  Wednesdays” where we used to dress up like chavs and either go running or wander to areas of town we’d never been before, usually ending up in being lost (which should be harder in a town with less than 20,000 residents). We started going to gigs together, started underage drinking around the same time, even went through the same sorts of “phases” at the same time (one example being the emo phase I had some nostalgia for here). We were inseparable. Well, until she got a proper boyfriend anyway.

Joys With Jay And Friends

During the aforementioned emo phase, we started hanging around with the boys who skated and listened to similar music to us. Lucy started going out with a boy called Jay, and they really got on very well….the first time. Being basically children but attempting to grow up much too fast, they spent all of their time together, separate from the rest of us. I’d try to keep up with what was going on in her life, but getting her to text or phone back was already becoming harder. I had no idea just how hard it was going to get.

Fights, “Friends” And Assorted Fun

I’ve always had a decent temper, but over time it does begin to fray. This friendship was dying, and because we’d been so close for so long, I was damned if I was going to let it go just because of some guy. I remember leaving multiple voicemails and texts for her but it was still one way traffic. She’d surrounded herself with a bunch of new “friends” who I could tell only wanted to hang around because her parents let her use the house for parties at the weekend.

I was proved right because when she broke up with Jay, they all disappeared and weren’t there to support her. Yet I patiently sat there, listening to her complain about the bunch of pricks she’d set up with. I bit my tongue, but it served her right.

And Now, I Just Fucking Give Up

Jumping forward a few years, we’re in the present day. I can’t actually remember the last time I saw Lucy since the good period back at the start of the year. Sure, I’ve been seeing a lot of Chris, but I’ve been texting her to ask what’s been going on and if she was free to hang about at some time. Average reply time is now sitting at around a week, unless she wants something.

I’m at my wits end, considering this past week I haven’t been able to text as my phone bill hasn’t been paid and I can’t afford to pay it myself, and now she decides she’s my friend again. Perhaps she’s had another falling out with Ashley or some other bellend I can’t stand to be around, but my sympathy is running thin with her. Why hang around with people she plainly doesn’t like? I refuse to see her if she’s going out with Ashley, as I just don’t like the girl.

After a barrage of texts (including a laughable one asking when my birthday is – the day and month are the same fucking number!), a facebook post and even a solitary tweet I finally replied, saying “Hey you, things are great here. How’s yourself? Cannae text back as bill’s no been paid! Miss you!” and as yet I’ve had no response. Any bets on how long it’s going to take?

I give up. No more effort is coming from this end until she bucks up her ideas.

 

Do you have similar issues with flaky friends? How do you deal with them? How long is too long to stand for this? I’d like to hear your input.