Tag Archives: Patrick Harvie

BBC Question Time: why you should complain

Tonight at 10:35 the BBC will broadcast a very special edition of Question Time, from Edinburgh’s Cornmarket.

It’s special on two counts, one overshadowed by the other. Firstly, because the audience will all be 16 and 17 years old – the age range who will be able to vote for the first time on 18th September 2014. (Properly speaking it should have been an audience of kids with birthdays between September 1998 and September 1996, since anyone 17 today would have been able to vote in September 2014 anyway.) But, this means an audience of interested politically aware youngsters will be able to put questions to politicians directly concerned with the independence debate.

Except no.
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Let prisoners have the vote: yes or no?

By Friday 23rd November, MPs will have to decide whether the UK should be in defiance of an ECHR ruling or David Cameron.

David Cameron says:

“no-one should be in any doubt: prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.”

Prisoners votingLord Lester of Herne Hill, a QC who sits on the Commission on a Bill of Rights, said

offering a ban was merely political posturing, and it was inevitable prisoners would get the right to vote.

Asked if the Government would have to the vote to prisoners in some form, he told The Daily Telegraph: “Of course – either that or we are in the same position as in Greece under junta. Greece had to leave the Council of Europe.

Please note that it’s not even a question that “all prisoners must have the vote” – it’s perfectly legitimate to ban some prisoners from voting. Continue reading

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Filed under Elections, Feng Shui Kitten Fixes Stuff, Human Rights

Tell @BBCQuestionTime who @BBCExtraGuest should be

David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Easterhouse in Glasgow. Panellists include:

And then there’s the new BBC Extra Guest. Last time was Toby Young, and very dull he was. Who should be the Extra Guest this time?
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They have run out of ideas

Willie Beck, aged 79, who plays the bagpipes to newlyweds at the Gretna House Hotel (the original marriage hotel built in 1710):

“We’ve been doing gay marriages in Gretna since it became legal. Gay marriages or marriages between a man and a woman – they’re all the same. It isn’t a big deal for us. It’s just another wedding. I’m open-minded about it. I just play the pipes the same whether it’s a man and a woman getting married or two men or two women. When they want a picture with the piper, the guys cuddle up to me as much as the lassies.”

The process of legislation in the Scottish Parliament isn’t speedy, even though there is no second chamber. This autumn the Scottish Government will produce a draft Bill legalising same-sex marriage. There will be a consultation on the draft Bill. In 2013, the legislation will be put before the Scottish Parliament, be read by Committees, and Westminster will be requested to make a change to the Equality Act to make sure any religious celebrant who doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage can refuse to conduct one. Because marriage is a complicated set of legislation, though the Act itself will likely have passed by 2014, the Scottish Government have said they are not likely to make the Act law until early 2015.

But there is really nothing much the Catholic Church in Scotland can do to stop gay marriage now. They shot their bolt when in 2011 they had 200,000 postcards pre-printed with anti gay marriage messages and sent them out to all the 200,000 Mass-going Catholics across Scotland’s 500 parishes… and then only got 28,000 of them back.

Lynda Denton owns Gretna Green’s Blacksmith’s Shop, which conducts more than 1000 weddings a year, and the Smith’s Hotel.
She said:

“If gay couples want to be married by a minister, we’ll be pleased to provide the service. Since 1754, when young couples first began running away from England to get married in Scotland, we have been all-embracing and we always will be all-embracing. People love the romanticism and the heritage of the place. It’s a lovely place to get married.”
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Scottish, British, European

Today Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed is being deported, if a campaign to let him stay does not succeed. I was tweeted this link by an independence supporter who argued (she didn’t have to argue with me it would be wrong to deport Ahmed, of course it would!) that Ahmed would not be deported from an independence Scotland. Well, I hope he wouldn’t be: he has been a refugee from Somalia for 20 years, he has lived in Britain for 7 years, he has a sister who has the right to remain in the UK – he should not have to go. (Action today!)

But I haven’t yet seen a definite policy committment from the supporters of an independent Scotland that would ensure refugees and asylum seekers who needed to stay in Scotland would be treated decently and helped to stay. For this to be more than “the sun will shine more often!” happy thoughts, independence needs a constitutional convention, and needs it long before autumn 2014.

Ed Miliband said:

“People can be Scottish and British, it’s OK. And if they feel primarily Scottish that’s fine too. But if they leave the UK they won’t be British any more: it stands to reason.”

There’s a general lesson there. Any time you find yourself ending a statement with “It stands to reason!” you are probably wrong. It often doesn’t.
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A new claim of right for Scotland

Repeatedly in discussions on Twitter, which admittedly is not the place for subtlety, pro-independence Scots have told me that the thing that matters is winning the Yes vote – “Everything else” can get worked out post-indy.

This is indescribably foolish.

One, because presumably they are attempting to convince me to vote Yes, and I’ll vote for status-quo devolution if they’ve got nothing more in the pot to offer but “We want you to vote yes!” Telling me that this is the “wrong attitude” to take to the independence referendum? Well, fine, but it’s my attitude: you can’t convince me to vote yes by refusing to engage with me.

Two, because realistically: I understand that the proposed timescale for independence is two years after a “yes” vote wins. Assuming that the Yes vote does win, that means four or so years from today, Scotland would be an independent nation.

That is none too much time to begin the Constitutional Convention to discuss what form and structure the new nation should have.

I wrote about the work of the Constitutional Convention in the 1990s Continue reading

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Let Labour Be Labour

I used to vote Labour consistently. I’ve never voted SNP. I believe in devolution, not independence.

I wrote a detailed takedown of one particular Labour MP, Douglas Alexander, who quite evidently has more loyalty to his party than to any left-wing principles, but this is a general complaint: where are the Labour MPs who are willing to show they stand for something other than just the status of being an MP?

Sixty-four years earlier Aneurin Bevan said:

Referring to Mr. Churchill’s “set-the-people-free” speech, Mr. Bevan said that the result of the free-for-all preferred by Churchill would have been cinemas, mansions, hotels, and theatres going up, but no houses for the poor. “in 1945 and 1946,” he said, “we were attacked on our housing policy by every spiv in the country – for what is Toryism, except organized spivery? They wanted to let the spivs loose.” As a result of controls, the well-to-do had not been able to build houses, but ordinary men and women were moving into their own homes. Progress could not be made without pain, and the important thing was to make the right people suffer the pain.

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Equal marriage: A long revolution

Equal marriage is the big revolution. Traditionally, the model of marriage was one where a woman was given to a man (or, very occasionally, to two or more men) to be his wife. He might in some cultures have the legal right to take another wife or more wives, but she didn’t. (Even in cultures where women can have two or more husbands, the power to pick and choose is not on the woman’s side: the convenience of having the same wife shared between two or more brothers is for the men who take long journeys to trade and see no reason to have more than one woman at home to bear their children and do the unpaid labour.)

Feminism changed that. Over two centuries ago, one of the basic reforms of the French revolution was to change marriage law so that either spouse could divorce the other and to change inheritance law so that all the children of the marriage inherited an equal share, daughters as well as sons. Less than two decades later, Jane Austen politely argues in Mansfield Park that Fanny Price, despite being a poor dependent with no special looks or sparkling charm to recommend her (nothing but a dogged courage in the face of adversity) has the right and indeed the obligation to stand firm against a marriage to a man she does not love and whose character isn’t admirable – no matter how rich he is. A few years later again, Charlotte Bronte passionately argues that Jane Eyre, who has walked away from a wealthy man offering to make her his mistress, and is contemplating immolating herself in a missionary life in India, will refuse a passionless marriage to a man who does not care for her: she has a right to care for herself, to refuse a man whom she knows does not love her as she deserves to be loved.

In the UK – indeed, in most of Europe, North America, Australia, and in many other countries – marriage law now gives both spouses identical and equal legal rights, responsibilities, and obligations to each other. At that point – when there is no legal difference between husband and wife – there is no reason for the state to deny legal marriage to same-sex couples, and, starting 22 years ago in Denmark, gradually the ban on same-sex couples marrying has been lifted – one by one in the first decade and then with a tidal rush in Europe as the ECHR ruled that EU states ought not to deny the tax and pension benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. (Poland is the only EU state that still persistently defies this court ruling, though not all EU states have lifted the ban on same-sex marriage nor provided a registered partnership equivalent to marriage.)

Many opponents of lifting the ban on same-sex couples marrying, argue that if there’s no ban on same-sex couples getting wed, there can be no ban on polygamy or incest. This is incorrect. The ban on incestuous marriage remains intact in every country: and a legal framework that supports same-sex couples marrying is one that will not support polygamous marriage.

The general form of polygamous marriage is one which is fundamentally unequal. The man has the right to add wives: no woman has the right to add husbands. (In the special case scenario in which a woman may be married to two or more men, she still does not have the right to add husbands of her own choice.) In this framework, a woman’s rights, obligations, and responsibilities towards her husband are fundamentally different from a man’s rights, obligations, and responsibilities towards each of his wives. You cannot take this kind of legal framework for marriage and open it up to same-sex couples: same-sex marriage can be instituted only where marriage law is equal.

Creating a polygamous marriage legislation that did not affect anyone in a monogamous and which gave equal rights to all marriage partners would be far more complex than even creating civil partnership legislation equal and separate from marriage (and the Civil Partnership Act of 2005 is the size and weight of a telephone directory). My first thoughts about how it would have to work entail each poly marriage being dissolved by divorce each time the participants want to add someone new – leaving each participant free to leave with their share of the community property and future family income if they so choose. That would protect stable long-term poly relationships but ensure that wealthy men could not simply keep adding new wives to their stable… which happens in the real world wherever equal marriage is not supported by law and social custom.

Sixty-one percent of Scots now agree that the ban on same-sex marriage should be lifted. (Scottish Social Attitudes Survey findings, 2010) When John Mason put forward an amendment against the idea that people would be “forced” into involvement with same-sex marriage (a common trope amongst campaigners against lifting the ban) he got three signatures, and thirty-seven MSPs from every party in the Scottish Parliament except the Tories signed Patrick Harvie’s amendment in celebration of Scotland’s move towards equality – and one of the signatories to Mason’s amendment was the openly-homophobic Andy Walker. We already have civil partnership, and we’ve had equal marriage for mixed-sex couples for over 35 years. Lifting the ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples won’t be a big revolution. But a worthwhile one.

  • Sign the Scottish Youth Parliament’s petition here: Love Equally
  • The UK government’s petition site is not particularly well organised – there are three separate petitions circulating now to lift the ban on same-sex marriage, and a good official petitions site would only permit one.  The one I think is best-worded is Equal Marriage Rights regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The one with the most signatures so far is Legalise Gay Marriage. The third (mentioned just for the sake of fairness) is Allow same-sex marriage in the UK. Since all three are effectively asking for the same thing, a sensible government would allow a debate in the House of Commons when the total signatures on all three got to a hundred thousand, but a cynical person might think they are exercising so little control over split petitions  in order to ensure that as few as possible hit the magic number.
  • And Peter Tatchell’s Equal Love campaign – seeking to overturn the ban on civil partnership for mixed-sex couples and civil marriage for same-sex couples – also has a petition you can sign.

Also, and perhaps more effectively than any online petition – write to your MP and your MSP.

 

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