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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Abortion Rights: Where Scotland’s MSP’s Stand

Would a woman’s right to choose be protected in an independent Scotland should the referendum result in us leaving the union?

After the comments from Conservative MP’s in England, namely Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May and Nadine Dorries (who’s since went off to Australia to eat kangaroo bollocks to “further politics in the UK”), I took matters into my own hands and contacted (mostly) female MSP’s to get an idea of where Scotland’s politicians stand on the current time limit.

This issue could really sell me on an independent Scotland, the knowledge that politicians in my home country are not looking to limit the choice I may at some point be forced to take should I fall into this unfortunate (for me) position.

My initial email went as follows:

Dear Ms _____,

As I am sure you will have read about, over the past weeks there have been a number of politicians both here in Scotland and from the Westminster Parliament who have come out in support of reducing the length of time a woman has to decide upon abortion. Obviously this is not an easy choice, although some politicians and religious figures in the media believe this to be so. Any woman who knows what abortion is like (through personal experience or otherwise) would easily be able to inform these people otherwise.

My reason for writing to yourself and the other female MP’s is that I would like some reassurance that in an open vote you would not vote to reduce your gender’s right to choose their own path. The current span of 24 weeks I find to be reasonable, given that women would have enough time to discover their pregnancy, and would be able to make an informed decision (given you can have the tests for possible genetic birth defects, etc) on whether to continue with the pregnancy.
Limiting this choice is not fair to women who do not find out about their pregancy early enough, and are thus forced into keeping a child they do not want and will ultimately resent. The woman who is forced to continue her pregnancy’s other option is to burden the already overladen care system.

I don’t understand why any woman would want to interfere with another woman’s choice. It is after all, a very personal choice. It is not for (mostly) male law makers to decide whether a woman can have that choice.

If I personally were to fall pregnant at this stage in my life, I could not keep the child. I am now in my early twenties, continuing my education and trying to earn a little money. I have never wanted children and do not see any reason for my mind to change at any point in the future. I would opt for an abortion, as it would be the only way to not literally ruin my life. I do not have the means to look after a child if it were forced onto me. I could not give up my child into the care system as I have friends who grew up, being passed around foster homes and never being adopted.

If the vote does come to pass, I ask you and your other female MSP’s that you remember the women of your constituency and beyond are not all in the same situation. Regardless of your own views, you should not use those to discriminate other women.

If this makes it to your desk, thank you for reading this, Hannah _____

I asked women as I do not feel as if a man can have the final say in a woman’s choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

I have organised the MSP’s responses by party, so you can get a fair picture of where specific parties stand on this issue.

Scottish National
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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?

Dear 13 Year Old Me

On another site I use, I came across someone’s blog post which contained a list of things I’d tell my 13 year old self, so I’m going to try and come up with a list.

  1. Stop hanging around with those people before your history teacher has to pull you up after you end up in detention. He’s right, you’re better than them and they’re just dragging you down.
  2. You won’t have your first proper kiss or a boyfriend until you’re 15, don’t worry about it.
  3. About your first boyfriend, he’s definitely not the sort of guy you think he’ll be. But you’re not the sort of person you’d ever imagine you’d be either. By the time you’re 15 you’re going through an emo/skater phase (and you don’t really grow out of much other than the clothes).
  4. Keep playing hockey, even though you’re frustrated at playing defense all the time. It becomes great fun further on in school.
  5. To merge points 3 and 4. Don’t let your boyfriend come to your hockey games, he resents you for it and cares even less. Once you get into 4th year and are going to gigs etc. on a Friday night, still go to games. The girls will mock you, don’t let it upset you, just mock them back.
  6. Stop caring about what people think of you. Your mental health will benefit from it.
  7. Science, languages and music are your thing – focus more on those, but please keep the sport up. You do really well later on in school with it, before your joints start ruining themselves.
  8. You’ll think you’re in love when you’re 16. You’re not. You’re kidding yourself because he’s nice to you. This doesn’t last. You properly fall in love with a guy in Edinburgh when you’re 20, and although things get hard, you’re going to marry that guy some day.
  9. You’re not going to be stuck in that town forever, I promise.
  10. Although you think it’s the right choice, Edinburgh uni isn’t the place for you. The way their courses are set up isn’t good for the way you learn. Try and find a course which has more emphasis on the practical aspect of biology.
  11. Your views on marriage will change when you meet Chris. Embrace it. Also, you really enjoy looking at wedding dresses.
  12. Visit the Botanical Gardens when you move to the city – you need to discover this sooner than I did.
  13. I’m not sure if this could be avoided, but please don’t start starving yourself. You’ll struggle inwardly much more than you’ll ever let most people know.
  14. Ashley isn’t going to be your friend forever, but don’t let her out of your life as much as I have. She’s a brilliant friend, and just who you need at really tough times.
  15. Be more careful with mobile phones – you lose 2 of them, although you manage to convince your parents the Samsung was stolen.