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.

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.

A True Dichotomy: I Am An Organised Mess.

Credit: nerdyknitter.wordpress.com

Credit: nerdyknitter.wordpress.com

The first book which I have finished in 2012, Jon Richardson’s not-an-autobiography-but-about-his-current-situation cleverly entitled It’s Not Me, It’s You! Impossible perfectionist, 27, seeks very very very tidy woman, has made me feel a little introspection is in order.

One of the first distinctions he makes between people is those who are “putters” and those who are “leavers”. Ask yourself the question – where are your keys? If you answered “Where I put them, in the *insert where the keys live here*”, then you are part of the former. If you answered “Uhm, where I left them”, then you are a leaver. Richardson makes the mistake in assuming that all people who are leavers lead chaotic lives. I am the opposite – I am a chaotic putter. I know where my keys, bag, phone and glasses are (I put them in the same place each night/when I come home). But I, like most people, misplace things like TV remotes, hair ties and socks. It actually drives me mad being this woefully inept at putting things where they belong.

As I read on, I had the realisation that I am an utter dichotomy. The very definition of an organised mess. My room at my parents’ house is tiny, yet I can’t keep it tidy. However, the books I have on the shelf above my bed are separated into fiction and non-fiction, then sorted by alphabetical order. I even took a few hours to sort my boyfriend’s mammoth CD collection into alphabetical order, and they’re kept hidden from view! I am organised, but I am lazy.

My compulsion to keep things tidy actually extends to updating this blog. If I have ideas, they are jotted in the back of one notebook, to later be copied out into the “draft” notebook. I write in pen, yet hate making mistakes. I am not above tearing out a full page after making a mistake on the second line.

If only my opening my bedroom door would look like this every day.

If only my opening my bedroom door would look like this every day.

I cannot abide people who are constantly late or are unreliable to get in contact with – Jon Richardson agrees with me on this. Perhaps it’s my own fear of being left behind by the normal people who turn up on time. It’s like the concept of time just passed some people by completely, like being an inconvenience to people in cinemas by turning up after the previews have started. Totally inconsiderate.

Richardson also talks about having breakfast in what he sees as being the right way, always leaving the best parts until last. I am quite sure my habit of eating food in a logical way stems from my disordered eating which still plagues me to this day. People talk of the joy of a roast dinner being eating everything together. No. It’s always vegetables, then potatoes, yorkshire pudding followed by the main event – the roast meat. This causes me to eat slower than most people – but there’s little more enjoyable than finishing a perfect plate of food. Yes, I am that easily pleased.

If my bed wasn’t so comfortable, and if I weren’t so damned lazy, my life would be a wonderful, organised place.

I really enjoyed this book, and even if you are not in the same type of mindset as myself (those content with keeping things unordered). This is a man who has a successful career as a stand-up comic in the UK and lives his life with what he believes to be Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. He can still live his life normally, but little things can really irritate him. It’s an interesting insight into his mind, and a very engaging read.

Out of the Swing of Things

I need to start getting back into the swing of writing on here again. Since I posted about the potential risk to a woman’s right to choose which took more than a month to prepare, I am totally stumped with what to write about. I am now no longer working (proof that hard work is no guarantee of a permanent position in Christmas temp work) and have more time on my hands – so where are my ideas?

Over the last couple of days, when I have had access to the laptop I am writing this on, I’ve written four drafts, all of which have been defeated. This blog was meant to be for me getting out what I need to, and I’m not managing to get that done because it’s not engaging or entertaining enough. It’s not like many people read this, let alone comment.

I have been exploring wordpress over the last few days, engaging with people who have been writing on topics I have already dealt with and don’t really want to rehash. But it has been interesting, hearing another person’s viewpoint. Why do people not connect with me here? Is this my hidden corner of cyberspace with over 40 followers who’re meant to be reading little pieces of literary brilliance from myself?

Can someone in the news not just be an arsehole so I can get angry again? It would really make getting back in the habit easier.

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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Theresa May – The Ex-Equalities Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in Equality for Women

Oh, Theresa May. How you were ever named the equalities minister is beyond me, given you don’t believe in there being equality between men and women. This is shocking for a woman so far ahead in UK politics to do something so anti-feminist. I felt I had to write to her.

Theresa May, the UK home secretary, has come out in support of Jeremy Hunt limiting the time period abortions would be available. In my post from just a few minutes ago, you can see the email I sent which is mentioned fairly often in this email.

Dear Ms. May,

As a fellow woman I find myself rather disconcerted that someone in a position of power such as yours does not appear to stand for women’s rights at all. When you colleague Mr Hunt came out to say he believes the time period in which a woman can have an abortion, you should have come out in defence of your gender. A man who does not have to make the decision about going through with a pregnancy should not be making decisions on behalf of women.
I have already emailed Mr Hunt’s office and the Department of Health this morning about this issue, but frankly, your position in support of him is more worrying than anything. Your personal religious views may make you unable to support abortion – this however does not mean that you should be restricting the rights of the rest of the women in this country. To say otherwise is just wrong, given we’re supposed to now live in a Britain which has thrived due to the separation of church and state.

I outlined in my email to Mr Hunt the time period of twelve weeks is impossibly short, given by the time the most regular woman in the world would be four weeks along by the time she missed her first period (that’s already a third of the window away).
What of the women who don’t have regular menstrual cycles, and assume the missed period is due to it just being another irregularity? If women like this missed the window, it would not be their own fault, there’s simply no way of telling.
Some women have regular menstrual periods throughout the entirety of their pregnancy (including one nursing student I know personally, who didn’t know she was pregnant until she went into labour in her own flat). What of those women?

To come out in support of Mr Hunt is anti-feminist. And I mean feminist in the purest sense in the world. You (despite being inexplicably named the equalities minister) clearly do not believe in equality between men and women. It’s honestly shocking to see someone in your position come out in support of something so restrictive towards your own gender.

I believe it’s my body, so the choices about what to do with it should belong to me. It’s obvious you don’t feel the same.

Yours,
Hannah Welsh.

Ah, Jeremy Hunt. You Utter, Utter Cunt.

Jeremy Hunt, Weymouth, 11 June 2010

Jeremy Hunt, Weymouth, 11 June 2010 (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

For those of you not in the UK and not up to date with the latest cabinet reshuffle. The man pictured above is Jeremy Hunt, who did such an awful job as culture secretary (yes, he’s the man who was more than close with Rupert Murdoch before all the allegations of phone hacking resulted in the Leveson enquiry), that our genius of a prime minister, David Cameron thought there was no-one better to be in charge of one of the most important departments of the UK Government. This man is in charge of our beloved NHS. This man also believes abortion time limits in the UK are too long and wants them to be halved.

Today, he told an interviewer that he believes the time limit placed on NHS abortion to be a miserly twelve weeks. A time period in which a large proportion of women are not aware they are pregnant.

Like I did with Rep. Todd Akin, I have written Mr Hunt an email (and have sent it to his constituency email and through the Department of Health’s website).

Dear Mr Hunt,
I’d like to take just a moment to congratulate you on one thing: the British public thought you couldn’t be any more loathsome. Today, you proved them wrong. Great job! It honestly makes the mind boggle that you gave such an opinion, having clearly avoided actual evidence from scientific studies or having actually talked to the women of your constituency and beyond.
On one hand, after everything you’ve done I’m pretty glad you and the rest of your privately educated brethren are in power because it assures me that you’ll not be voted in again. The entire Conservative/Liberal Democrat government has been an utter shambles.

Anyway, I am writing to you today to discuss your views on the abortion limit being too long at 24 weeks. Are you being serious?
I mean, really.

By the time a woman misses her period she is already technically 4 weeks along, and if a woman is not regular in her menstruation, this can easily be written off as just being a longer cycle. Some women continue to have periods throughout their entire pregnancy – how do you propose those women (who will notice literally no change in their body until the baby reaches a significant size enough to produce a bump) find out about their pregnancy within 3 months?
For one, the strain on the NHS you are in charge of will be increased by an unknown margin. Home pregnancy tests are unreliable and expensive, so where are all the women worried about missing this, frankly ridiculous, margin going to go? To their GP to be given a free pregnancy test!
And what about those women who miss your margin because they haven’t noticed any changes in their body? They have two options, really. To continue their unwanted pregnancy to term, for the unwanted child to either be resented by the mother, or be placed into the care system where it is unlikely to ever be adopted into a family. Think about the cost of these women’s antinatal care, all the extra hospital beds in bigger maternity wards which will be necessary to accommodate all these extra pregnant women giving birth.
Put simply, twelve weeks is far too short a period to give women to discover their pregnancy, then have an abortion if they do not want a family.

You, Mr Hunt will never have to go through pregnancy. You will never have to worry about the possibility of getting pregnant because a man can just walk away with no consequences. So why do you think you should have a say in what women do with their own bodies? Why are the rights of a non-sentient featus (which it is until the 24 weeks limit, by the way) deemed by you to be more important to you and other members of your party than the woman being forced to carry it?

Yours,
Hannah Welsh.

Theresa May has also come out in support of this frankly ludicrous opinion. Surely a woman wouldn’t want her own reproductive rights legislated against, so why does she support restricting other womens’ right to an abortion after discovering they were pregnant too late for this tiny margin? I sense another email coming.