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.

Am I Seeing Through the Matrix?

You are now entering…England? Source:

As I have mentioned on here before, I am from a small town in the south of Scotland. As much as I complain about not being able to walk one length of the high street to the other without meeting someone you know, it’s actually pretty nice if you’ve been stuck in the house by yourself all day. People from the outside probably see it as being a bit backwards and more than a little quaint.

However, I’m not entirely sure this place actually exists outside of our own imaginations. The region I live in is called the Scottish Borders, and my hometown has the office of an MSP in it, so I am pretty sure this is Scotland. Yet somehow, it doesn’t seem like it when I turn on the TV, or read news online.

Scottish Television (STV) is not available here. In fact, my channel 3 is entitled “ITV Border” which means nothing of the sort. My “local” news is entirely focused upon Carlisle and Newcastle. When did I suddenly move across the border?

There’s not even a section for anywhere south of Midlothian on the STV news website.

There is however, one upside to this. I get to watch certain Champion’s League football games which are shown on English TV and not in Scotland.

I just find myself wondering – if Scotland votes for independence in 2014: will STV actually recognise us as part of this country?

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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Protect Yourself, There’s No Excuse

Supporters of Planned Parenthood

Supporters of Planned Parenthood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to make things clear from the outset here – I don’t want children. I don’t even want to be around the children my friends may or may not have in the future longer than I absolutely have to. They make me uncomfortable, and the thought of wrecking my body to bring a child into this world disturbs me. I won’t be having children.

Now, being of reasonable common sense, I know that to avoid falling pregnant, I must use protection when having sex. That seems more than obvious to me. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be obvious to everyone.

There are so many different methods of contraception available, hormonal and non-hormonal there really is no excuse you can give that washes. I’m glad I live in the UK, and can have free access to birth control (here in Scotland, they abolished prescription charges, so it’s completely free). In the USA, you have access to Planned Parenthood, which I’ve read gives out free condoms when you go to ask for advice (if I’m wrong, please feel free to correct me). Also at this point I’d like to add how absolutely insane it sounds that American people and politicians want to take all funding away from Planned Parenthood.

In my own experience, and I’ve been through the awkward buying of a packet of condoms as a teenager – I’d rather go through that a million times than be landed with a child. Having a child would ruin my life, so I’d do anything in my power to avoid it. When I was single, I “doubled up”, using both birth control and condoms to avoid both pregnancy and STD’s. And now I’m with someone and we’re both happy neither of us have anything sinister floating around in our stuff, I use the pill only.

Continuing on the point of doubling up as a single woman – you can’t just trust that the lucky guy is going to have a condom on him. You take him back to yours? Have a box hidden away in a drawer in your room. You go back to his? Have a condom or two in a little part of your bag.

There really is no excuse not to protect yourself properly. If you’re caught short one night, or the condom breaks, then there’s always the morning after/plan b pill, but you can’t use that as a viable means of stopping pregnancy. Those hormones kick your ass.

Look after your own interests, please.
If you’re not sure what sort of birth control would work for you – I found this brilliant thing to help you decide on the Planned Parenthood website.

I’m So Glad I’m Not American

Making the rounds on twitter today is this man, Mr Todd Akin. This man is running to be an elected member of the United States GOP Senate, and I honestly can’t believe he expects any female votes in the November election. Good luck!

As to why this man is such a loathsome piece of shit, he said in interview that victims of “legitimate rape” do not get pregnant because a woman’s body is capable of somehow shutting down her reproductive system. This is not true. Statistics from the US point to more than 5% of rape victims (though I’m not sure how many of these women count as victims of this “legitimate rape”) become pregnant after their ordeal. Surely no woman should have to live with a reminder of her attack.

This man is against abortion and even campaigned to take away access to the morning after/plan b pill, so any woman with the misfortune to get pregnant at all would HAVE to carry the baby to term.

Anyway, I’m blogging again tonight as I felt I just had to reply to this man. I wonder if I ever get a response, or if he has some more people to offend. Perhaps homosexuals, people of a different race to his own…who knows. It’s his prerogative.

Here’s what I sent.


Dear Mr Akin,
As I’m sure you may be aware now, you’ve made yourself a viral phenomenon. Some people say, like Oscar Wilde, that all press is good press. I don’t believe this is the case at all.
In fact, your interview in which you talked about “legitimate” rape (which I would like you to clarify in your email response, as I’m pretty sure that in ANY case where a woman says no, it’s rape) has made you come across as a misogynistic, twisted man who has no regards for a woman’s rights. Also, you appear to have no respect for actual scientific data. It can be easily found from reputable sources online that more than 32,000 women became pregnant as a result of rape.
This figure as a percentage is around 5%, which to you may appear to be small. But would those 5% of women really want to carry around and give birth to, even raise a child which would forever be a reminder of what happened to her?
A woman does not ask to be raped. It is never her fault (though a lot of members of your party including yourself believe this to be so).
So would you really remove any chance women in this situation in your state have to get over their abuse? I read you had petitioned to remove a woman’s right to the plan B pill also.
Here’s some news for you, Mr Akin. The pill is not 100% effective. Condoms aren’t 100% effective. Nothing is, apart from abstinence. So why should a woman who is raped and can do nothing about contraceptive use in that case be forced to keep a child she doesn’t want?
It said on your twitter profile that you have a wife. What if she were to be sexually abused in this way by another man and fell pregnant? Would you deny her an abortion? Would you raise the child fathered by a criminal?
And don’t use adoption as a legitimate option. From the millions of children in the adoption and foster care system of your country, only a tiny percentage actually make it into an adoptive home by the time they reach 18 and are left to make it on their own with very limited help.

I was shocked to hear such, honestly, woman-hating bile emanating from someone campaigning to be an elected member of the senate.
Surely you can’t hope to get any female votes at all in the upcoming election if your plan is to remove all of a woman’s rights?
Time to rethink, Mr. Akin.

Hannah Welsh

P.S. Right now, I’m so very glad to be living in Scotland. A country where if something this horrific were to happen to me, I would be able to receive the right help for it.

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?