Category Archives: Biosphere

Ice cream, you scream, we all scream

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 11th April 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network. Any flaws in formatting are due to WordPress now requiring all bloggers to use their dreadful “Block” editor, which they call Gutenberg to indicate that they have taken us back 650 years in functionality.

While Boris Johnson claims blandly to have been invited to Prince Philip’s private family funeral but to have turned down the invite because only 30 people could attend and he felt he should step aside for a member of the family, he appears to have been weekending in Cornwall. On “business“, obviously.

No one is rioting in Cornwall, after all, and the official position of the UK government is that policing is devolved and they hope that this can all be settled internally.

The adult Loyalist instigators of the firebombing rioters apparently instructed their crews that a short break to show respect for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral would be appropriate. But the riots will start again, and it’s been reported that three houses where Catholic families are living have been targeted in order to “move them out” by the UVF – the Ulster Volunteer Force.

This has been simmering under the surface since England voted for Brexit in June 2016, and both the Tory and Labour leadership declared themselves for Brexit. The Northern Ireland unionists supported Brexit – the DUP MPs voted for it – because tney believed that withdrawing the UK from the EU must mean separating Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement had extremely broad support in Northern Ireland, and still does, but the extreme unionists didn’t like it because the GFA allows everyone in Northern Ireland to be either as Irish or as British as they want to be – and the point of beng a Loyalist is the belief that being British is the right of being from Northern Ireland – that it’s wrong, traitorous, and probably Catholic to want to be Irish. The unionists were of the view that Brexit would help their side – however the UK government managed the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, a border there would be.

When the UK has negotiated with Ireland in the past – any time in the past – it has always been from a position of massive military, political, and economic superiority. The Irish Free State was declared independent because the UK could not afford to continue a civil war in the 1920s. It was the clear presumption of most English Conservatives and Brexiters in 2016 and for some time thereafter that all they had to do was to instruct the Irish Republic of their preferred decision about how to deal with Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement, and that would be that. Perhaps due to this assumption, and perhaps because it was the easiest thing for him to do, Boris Johnson lied and went on lying about no customs-checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – even while he was binding the UK to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which indeed did require customs-checks for all goods crossing the Irish Sea.

But when Brexit actually fell, the unionists discovered, to their indignation and betrayal and rage, that the UK government had decided to have the effects of Brexit benefit the nationalists. (A recent major drugs bust in Northern Ireland has led people to argue that the other reason for sudden Loyalist rage is that the criminal Loyalist gangs had a nice little drugs trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and the increased checks at the Irish Sea ports have picked up what used to pass undetected.)

The unionists have always felt superior to the nationalists in Ireland. C. S. Lewis, that stout Belfast Protestant, depicted a sectarian view of Irish Catholics in his fictional Dufflepuds: and Lewis was nice enough to allow that the Dufflepuds might become better if they were properly taught and governed. When the superior caste feels themselves to lose face and privilege in favour of a group they regard as their inferiors – well, backlash happens.

How long this can go on while Boris Johnson happily buys ice-creams in Cornwall and sends junior ministers over to tell the Northern Irish to sort themselves out, I do not know. But apparently the Tories are still polling ahead of Labour in England, so Tory MPs will continue to keep their corrupt and useless leader as Prime Minister. Why not, if he isn’t losing them votes?

Meantime, this weekend, another long boil came to ahead and burst.

The Alba Party Women’s Conference was this weekend – initially planned to be 6pm Satiurday, changed on Friday afternoon to be six hours earlier, they still got about 400 women in a Zoom call, and various speakers, including Alba candidate for Central Scotland, Margaret Lynch.

Margaret Lynch had been the victim of a nasty trap set up for her by a series of distortions on the 2020 Feminist Declaration by the Women’s Rights Caucus. You can read about the trajectory of how a declaration for global gender equality turned into an assertion that Stonewall are campaigning to have the age of consent reduced to 10, in “The Trajectory of an anti-LGBT Conspiracy Theory” by Mallory Moore, and please do, because it is fascinating, in a QAnon pizza kind of way.

(To be clear, I describe Margaret Lynch as a victim of a trap, because I think she likely honestly believed in the lies she had been fed: but I also think that bigotry tends to fog your critical thinking skills and make you unable to see through the ridiculous lies.)

But, not being familiar with any of this background, I became aware of this when a lot of Alba Party supporters started tweeting angrily about how Stonewall was funded by the SNP (Stonewall Scotland does receive Scottish Government funding) and it had signed up to ILGA and ILGA were campaigning to reduce the age of consent to 10. None of this was true, obviously, and initially, it just looked like a weird flourish of homophobia from a party already known for its transphobia. Sometime on Saturday the official Alba Women Twitter account was suspended, I presume because it tweeted Margaret Lynch’s defamatory declaration about Stonewall in its reporting of the Alba Women conference, and was them multiply-reported for doing so.

This weekend has, I think, been quite disastrous for the Alba Party. They were polling at 3% (Ipsos Mori and Survation both got the same result) and to have any chance at all of winning at least one list seat, they needed to be polling at six or seven percent. The Alba Party was, I presume, hoping that the Women’s Conference would give them a boost, some positive publicity. So it might have done – if all of the candidates had stayed away from controversial topics.
But for that to happen, the party’s candidates would need to be briefed (and vetted) beforehand. I very much doubt Alex Salmond vetted any of his 31 candidates – he needed four per Region too much.

It is a truism among anti-trans activists that all women support them, and that not being transphobic towards trans women means a party will lose votes because they’re being “anti-women”. Most of the women standing for the Alba Party seem to subscribe to that idea. (None of them, of course, are willing to speak out aganst their leader the disgraced former First Minister sex pest Salmond.)

A spokesperson for Alba, when queried by the Times, claimed that Margaret Lynch’s assertions that “proponents of queer theory want to lower the age of consent” were based in fact. This is a problem for Alba, because none of this is true, and it is easily provable that none of this is true, and Stonewall is perfectly capable of demanding with legal authority that Alba issue a retraction and Margaret Lynch apologise.

To win seats on 6th May, the Alba Party needs to convince at least twice as many independence supporters as they did in the first week that it would be a good idea to vote for the Alba Party on the list and for the SNP constituency candidate. For Alba Party candidates and supporters to be running riot on Twitter falsely accusing the SNP and Stonewall of wanting to legalise paedophila, doesn’t make the Alba Party look like a trustworthy place for SNP supporters to lend their list vote.

Mhairi Hunter (a SNP councillor for Glasgow) noted on Twitter this evening:

“I find it hard to believe Alex Salmond actively wants his supporters to be rampaging across social media falsely accusing Stonewall and the SNP of wanting to reduce the age of consent to 10. It begins to look more and more that he is not in control of the party he founded.”

I don’t think Alex Salmond is in control of the Alba Party supporters – or, really, of the candidates. He can’t de-list any of the candidates – they’ll be on the ballot on 6th May as Alba Party candidates, because the deadline is passed. What supporters he gained from the SNP, were for the most part, people who left the SNP because they perceived the SNP as too “progressive” – too supportive of LGBT rights, too strong against transphobia, too keen on ridiculous things like “baby boxes”. He cannot now turn round and tell the people who supported him because they thought they had found a political home where they could be as transphobic as they wanted, that they should wheesht now,all of this anti-LGBT stuff makes Alba look bad.

There are people who believe strongly that being anti-trans is a vote-winner. They’re not going to shut up about it just because Alex Salmond says so.

Assuming that he wants to.

I truly hope that when the Alba Party fails to gain a single seat in the May elections, Alex Salmond loses interest and moves on: because it occurs to me looking at the angry tweets of people who were instantly ready to believe homophobic lies about Stonewall, that Alex Salmond has a nice little nest of fascism here. Salmond must realise he is very unlikely to win seats in Holyrood this year – but if he is planning for the long term, what about 2026? True, Salmond will then be 71 – but Donald Trump became President when he was 70.

Iain Macwhirter, an anti-independence Herald journalist, wrote a column this week explaining that the riots in Belfast are Scotland’s future if we vote for independence. In that Brexit is itself our warning of what can happen if Scottish independence as badly managed, he has a point: for the rest, the riots in Belfast are the long result of decades of Loyalist versus Republican, and the current result of Loyalists sure that somehow unfairly the nationalist side *won* and must therefore be punished for it.

To avoid riots, we need a peaceful and democratic path to independence. This is just what Salmond’s Alba Party do not want, and why I hope they become ridiculous in April and sink into oblivion forever in May.

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Nicola Sturgeon: Eight Hours

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on  3rd March 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Nicola Sturgeon has spent all day today at the Scottish Parliament in the large committee room, giving her evidence to the committee investigating the harassment process.

Nicola SturgeonThe committee meeting began at 9am. They stopped for a mid-morning break, a lunchtime break that lasted less than an hour, and a mid-afternoon break. The Convenor very strongly suggesed the committee should be through by 5pm.
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The Alex Salmond of Despair

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 24th February 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

TW: sexual harassment at work.

Let me see if I can very briefly bring light to this. In some ways, it seems entirely unimportant – the last-ditch struggle of an ambitious man who sees his political legacy disappearing – and in other ways, it could affect Scottish politics for years to come.
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A Portpatrick-Larne Tunnel, Hurrah

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 13th February 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

On a Saturday where 43 Republican Senators decided that it didn’t matter how much Donald Trump was obviously guilty of inciting armed insurrectionists to storm the Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power for which the US used to be famous, it may seem inappropriately banal to talk about Boris Johnson’s tunnel vision.

On Saturday the 13th, Boris Johnson leaked to the Telegraph that he seriously plans a tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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Article 16: EU vaccine panic

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 29th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

The 2021 news is going to be about vaccine supply.

All governments want as many of their people as possible to get vaccinated, as fast as reasonably possible. The UK got vaccine approval pushed through early, before we lost the emergency provisions available to us through the EU: the EU countries were able to move at more leisure, but without any delay.

The total population of the EU is about 450 million. In August, the EU signed a deal with AstraZeneca for 300 million doses, with an option for 100 million more – that is, enough vaccine to fully-immunise almost half of the EU population. This vaccine would be produced at the UK-Swedish multinational’s plants in the Netherlands and Belgium. Those plants have reported production delays: their CEO says production at those plants is “basically two months behind where we wanted to be” and a EU official is quoted as saying that instead of receiving 100 million doses in the next two months, the EU is now expecting only 25 million by the end of March.
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Brexit has no benefits

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 20th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Brexit has no benefits.

Two days ago, a fleet of lorries, employed in the pre-Brexit days to transport live shellfish from Scotland to buyers in the EU, travelled to London to protest the effects of Brexit on the fishing industry. Brexiters had told the fishing industry that leaving the EU would mean an end to Brussels “red tape” about catching fish, people employed in the fishing industry had believed them and voted for Brexit, – of course what it meant was, that live shellfish, needing to be transported fast in refrigerated lorries to their overseas markets, were being held up too long by the terms of the trade deal, to be worth buying.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson only just won a government vote on a Lords amendment to the Trade Bill – the amendment passed, by a majority of only 11 votes. Given the Tories have a majority of 80 MPs, how did this happen?
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Writing about coronavirus and presenteeism

The first reported case of coronavirus outside China was on 13th January. It was in Thailand, and the patient had come to Thailand from Wuhan Province, in China.

Coronavirus is a virus that originated in an animal – almost certainly one sold live to be killed at home for food – that mutated so that it didn’t just transmit animal-to-human, it could also transmit human-to-human. Its proper name is 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease: coronavirus is a name for a type of virus to which this belongs.
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Writing About Brexit: first PMQs after Brexit Day

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 5th February 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

I am not a fan of PMQs.

The format, which alternates grovelling questions from Tories inviting self-praise from the PM, with questions from Labour and from the SNP, isn’t really conductive to anything except letting the Tory PM self-praise and spout BS.

(I am not arguing that Blair or Brown’s PMQs were any better, but the last time I listened to a Labour PM at PMQs was at least a decade ago.)

I listened today because it’s the first PMQs after Brexit, and Boris Johnson was taking them himself instead of squirrelling off somewhere else and handing the job to one of his minions.
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When the last bee died

Foodie Festival BloggerOn 7th August, I went to the first day of the Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park.

If you haven’t been, you should: it was a fantastic day out “celebrating its 10th anniversary in Edinburgh with a three-day showcase of Scotland’s finest culinary talents and regional produce”. (To be clear upfront, my free ticket was provided by Lanyard Media, but I got no instructions from them what to say or what to blog about.)

Foodies Festival Inverleith ParkEdinburgh is full of festivals, but I unashamedly love this one: so much good food and drink to celebrate and share.

One of the free lectures for Friday was on urban beekeeping, by Brian Pool, a third-generation professional beekeeper, who teaches beekeeping at the Secret Herb Garden and is Beekeeper in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo (where they’re having a Bee Festival on 29th August, free to anyone who visits the Zoo that day).

I learned that the British black honey-bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) is more aggressive and more inclined to sting if provoked than the mellower Italian honey-bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) which Brian Pool attributes to the Italian bee expecting to find honey all year round, breeding to huge numbers within the hive and therefore needing to be fed by the beekeeper: whereas British bees (“hardier and have smaller populations going into winter, so they need less food to survive, and they also have fewer mouths to feed during a cold spring snap” says Terry Clare, president of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association) are better at saving honey for a rainy day.
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Leaning towards No

Scotland's FutureI am undecided between devolution and independence.

But I am leaning towards a No vote on 18th September, because the SNP are pushing currency union. And currency union is not independence. Currency union means that key decisions about the Scottish economy will be made by the Bank of England in the City of London.

The SNP are fond of asking, how many countries which have become independent have ever wanted to go back? But if they asked instead “How many countries which have given up control of their economy to a bank in another country have regretted this?” they’d get a much different answer. And that’s what the SNP are offering.
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