Goodbye Alex Salmond

Alex SalmondThere are two things I will always remember about Alex Salmond, who has just announced that he’s stepping down as leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland.

One of them is that on 20th May 2008, as MP for Banff and Buchan, he paid one of his rare visits to the Commons to vote for forcing women who need abortions after 20 weeks to have to leave the UK by making abortion illegal for them to access in the UK.

Most abortions after 20 weeks are either for medical reasons (read personal stories from women in Ireland who were in that situation) or because a young woman delayed getting help out of confusion, ignorance, fear – or sometimes malice on the part of prolife medical personnel: or because it took them so much time to save up the fare from Ireland and the cost of an abortion here.

When asked to explain his position on abortion as an MP by a Banff and Buchan constituent, Alex Salmond wrote back to her on First Minister notepaper to say that abortion was a reserved issue.

Alex Salmond and a teacakeThe other thing I shall always remember about Alex Salmond is that he routinely claimed £400 a month for food on MP expenses – the maximum amount an MP can claim for food without having to show receipts. He claimed £400 for food essential to do his duties as an MP, even during the two months when Westminster was in recess.

Between March 2007 and 1st April 2008, the Banff and Buchan MP voted on only six days in the House of Commons – but he claimed £1751.50 for food. In total that financial year, Salmond claimed £116,000 for his “expenses” – the majority of it for staffing his Westminster office, £31,336 for his own personal expenses, or just over £5000 per vote.

So that’s what I’ll always remember about Alex Salmond.

You can donate here to the Abortion Support Network, which helps women in Ireland out of the situation Alex Salmond voted to establish in the UK.

As if deciding to have an abortion wasn't enough of a journey

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It isn’t Christmas in September

Christmas in SeptemberScotland decided: it’s a No, by a decisive 10% majority and a record-breaking 86% turnout. Scotland decided.

Yesterday morning, sitting waiting for a meeting to begin that had been unexpectedly delayed, we talked about the referendum: I had already voted, my colleague was planning to vote when she went home. She was planning to vote Yes, I had already voted No. She said, thoughtfully, “you make a very good case for No” (but I doubt if I changed her vote).

“It’s really a campaign of idealists against pragmatists,” she said, and I agreed: any proposal for independence, to win majority support in Scotland, will have to appeal to the pragmatic voter.
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What shall we do today?

Keep Calm and Vote1. Vote.

97% of those eligible to vote have registered, including many first-time voters. In principle, there could be 4.28 million votes cast today. Anything above 3,424,000 votes cast is record-breaking: that’s over 80%, highest turnout in Scotland in five decades.

Vote Yes: vote No: if you can’t make up your mind go to your polling station and write “Undecided” or “Team Scotland” or “A plague on both your houses” on your ballot. But go to the booth, stare at your ballot, see if you can’t make up your mind for one or the other: and if you can, then make your vote, and no repining.

If you want your vote counted, best to use the pencil provided in the voting booth to make a clear X in the box next to your choice. (Yes, you can use a pen if you want, but the Electoral Commission provides pencils because they make a thick black line that is very difficult to erase and won’t run or blur if the ballot paper gets wet.)

Make no other mark anywhere on the ballot paper. If you do, your vote may not be counted.

Do not take a photo of your ballot paper and publish it on Facebook or Twitter. You will make the Electoral Commission quite unhappy with you.

2. Polling stations are open 7am-10pm. You have to go to the polling place where they have you registered – if you don’t know which one it is, contact the Elections Office and ask. If you get to the polling station before 10pm and you are eligible to vote, you must be issued with a ballot paper and allowed to vote. (If this means there’s a queue, wait in the queue and follow the instructions you’re given by polling station staff: they’ll need to close the doors of the polling station at 10pm, and this may mean rearranging the queue.)

3. Once the voting’s done, the count begins. There are 32 local authority areas in Scotland and once the counting is done for each of them, the result will be returned – earliest results expected about 2am, last results – Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Borders by 5am, Aberdeen by 6am.

4. If there’s a clear win for Yes or for No – if there are simply not enough uncounted votes left to affect the final result – that can be announced immediately it’s known. That’s not likely to happen before 5am, and it might not happen til 7am. So, if you’re of a calm disposition, you might as well have an early night, set your alarm for 6am, and find out the result with your morning cuppa.

5. If you fancy staying up to watch, eight pubs have late licences to watch the results coming in.

6. Pubs open til 3am:

At any of those pubs you’ll probably be able to watch the returns from North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, East Lothian, Moray, Inverclyde, Eilean Siar, Orkney, and Clackmannanshire – 16% of the total vote. If they all return in timely fashion, you might also be able to watch returns from South Lanarkshire, Aberdeenshire, Renfrewshire, Falkirk, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, Angus, East Renfrewshire, Stirling, or West Dunbartonshire – another 29% of the vote.

Only if you go to The Radical Road, on the A1 heading out to Duddingston (229 Willowbrae Road) will you be able to stay til 5am – another 24% of the vote (West Lothian, South Aryshire, East Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, Midlothian. Shetland, Fife, Highland, and North Ayrshire should all have returned by then) and wait on the three due in at five in the morning: Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the Borders, 22.4% of the vote.

After that, the last due is Aberdeen at 6am – 4.4% of the vote. And then we’ll know.

7. Probably.

Indyref results timing

8. Both Yes Scotland and Better Together have agreed not to call for a country-wide recount. Once the last result is in from the last local authority area, it’s done.

9. The Forest Cafe at Tollcross is holding a breakfast party from 6am: all welcome.

We have no idea what’s going to happen.

All we can do is invite you to find out with us, surrounded by dragon murals, 9-foot mice and people who really care about community, creativity and freedom.

10. The Scottish Poetry Library is holding a Referendum Poetry Read-Round and Breakfast from 11am. (£3/£2: book via Eventbrite.)

11. After that, you should probably go home and get some sleep.

12. “What are you thinking about?” – “Tomorrow.”

13. Edwin Morgan:

When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not
wholly the power, not yet wholly the power, but a good
sense of what was once in the honour of your grasp.
All right. Forget, or don’t forget, the past. Trumpets and
robes are fine, but in the present and the future you will need something more.
What is it? We, the people, cannot tell you yet, but you will know about it when we do tell you.
We give you our consent to govern, don’t pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don’t say we have no mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building, don’t let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.

So now begin. Yes or No – Open the doors and begin.

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Unrepresented by media

Scotland's FutureLike most bloggers, I started because I felt I had something to say that wasn’t being said in the mainstream media.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist: I respect and admire his writing in general.

But with regard to Scottish independence? I wish he’d shut up.

There’s nothing personal about this. I wish all of the politicians, columnists, and other People Paid To Have An Opinion would get their know-nothing nebs out of our referendum.

Should Scotland be an independent country?
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Too close to call?

The highest turnout for a national election in Scotland in the past fifty years seems to have been the February 1974 General Election, where over 78% of registered voters voted.

Glasgow Herald 1979The turnout for the devolution referendum in March 1979 was 63.72%: 51.62% of those voted Yes to a Scottish Assembly, 48.38% voted No, a majority for Yes of 3.24%. But, according to the terms of that referendum, set down in 1978, the Assembly had to get over 40% of the electorate – there were 3,747,112 registered voters, so they needed at least 267,908 more votes for Yes to be allowed to win. 1,359,540 people were registered to vote and didn’t – the turnout was 63.72%, with only 0.13% rejected ballots.

The UK General Election in May 1979 got a turnout of 76.84% – that is, 532,198 more registered voters turned out to vote three months later than in the Assembly referendum. To win an Assembly under the 40% rule, the campaign would have had to get a higher turnout than average for 70s General Elections, and maintain its 51.62% share of the vote.
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No, Scotland isn’t in a currency union

A currency union is when two states use the same currency.

The UK is a single state, that uses a single currency: the pound sterling.

James Meadway, who describes himself on his twitter profile as “Senior economist at The New Economics”, asserted on Twitter:

“You’re already *in* a currency union. Who in Scotland elects the Bank of England?”
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Cheap food at Tesco’s

Recently, there was a kerfuffle in the Better Together / Yes Scotland camps about would prices rise at Tesco in the event of Scottish independence. Better Together had published a leaflet saying they would: Tesco’s bounced in to say prices would stay the same: Yes Scotland publicised this triumphantly.

How do prices stay cheap in the big supermarkets while maximising their profits?
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