Category Archives: Epetitions

Gay marriage: a question that expects the answer Yes

How students at a Minneapolis-St Paul Catholic high school reacted to a presentation against same-sex marriage only a couple of months ago:

“The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good,” said [Matt Bliss, senior student at DeLaSalle High School]. “They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn’t directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a ‘normal’ family is the best family.”

“When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset,” said Bliss. “You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom.”

Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, “I love my moms.”

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland
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Filed under Epetitions, LGBT Equality, Religion, Scottish Politics

Our constitution, July 2012: public scrutiny of legislation

“Public scrutiny of legislation; right of committees to conduct hearings, pre-legislative consultation; active petition system; guaranteed rights of opposition.”

You may ask, why do we need to make such a point of this? This is what we already do in Scotland. Why would we stop?

“There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make ’em: laws and sausages.” – Leo McGarry, The West Wing, “Five Votes Down”.

I haven’t heard from Better Together voters who don’t like the idea of a constitution for Scotland.

But Yes Scotland voters who don’t like the idea of drafting a constitution for Scotland prior to the referendum or eve independence day, usually say something along the lines of: “Don’t you trust the SNP?” and when I say no, suggest that this is partisan. (Examples in comments at Our constitution: beyond yes and no and A New Claim of Right for Scotland.)

But I don’t trust any political party that far. Or any government. There is nothing special about the air of Scotland that makes politicians more anxious to have legislative work completely open to scrutiny: it’s just that the law requires it. The law that was passed at Westminster: the Scotland Act.

Public scrutiny of legislation

In the Scottish Parliament, this is a three-stage one-chamber process, described in Chapter 9 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders:

The introduction of a Bill in the Scottish Parliament (SP) is roughly equivalent to the First Reading stage of a Bill in the UK Parliament, but more is required of the member in charge of the Bill in the Scottish Parliament, in the sense of accompanying documents. This is in order to give the members of the committee more information.

Stage 1: After the committee has prepared the legislation, the Parliament will debate and vote on it and if agreed, it will proceed to Stage 2. The latter part of Stage 1 is equivalent to the Second Reading in the UK Parliament.
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Filed under Elections, Epetitions, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

School Dinners and Spygate

Why have Argyll and Bute Council been so foolishly high-handed with such a brilliant blog as Never Seconds? Explanation could lie in Spygate, which if you don’t live in the Argyll area, you probably don’t remember or never heard of.

I think Never Seconds is one of the most important Scottish food blogs. It hasn’t been going very long (first post 8th May 2012) and it’s a very simple and very effective concept and it was clearly making a real difference – both at the school and in the wider Scottish discussion about what children get to eat at school.

As Maryn McKenna says at

Can we all agree how monumentally stupid this is?

Here we have a kid who got excited enough about feeding children well that she not only changed the food in her own district — within two weeks, officials were allowing children in her school to have “unlimited salads, fruit and bread,” which apparently was the policy all along only someone forgot to say so — but also got children around the world excited about their lunches too.

Every day VEG goes to school, she gets a meal for which her parents pay £2. (If you want to find out roughly how much Argyll and Bute spend on each school meal they serve, the Scottish Government’s data is here.) And she takes a photo of it. She’s not the first photo blogger to do that and she started doing it because her parents assumed she was exaggerating about how bad the school meals were.

It seems everyone who had school dinners remembers hating them. (I was a vegetarian back before Scottish schools did a vegetarian option: I went home for lunch or had sandwiches, so my memory of school dinners is the glorious smell of chips. Mmm, chips. And then not getting any.) But then you leave school and well, they couldn’t have been that bad, could they? Continue reading


Filed under About Food, Education, Epetitions, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

Skintland, NATO, and nuclear weapons

I have at the moment exactly one positive reason for voting Yes to independence.

I and others have a lot of negative reasons for voting Yes, which Kenny Farquarson has observantly summarised as:

And perhaps the biggest group of all in the “I’m not a Nat, but…” category is those whose vote in the referendum in October 2014 will depend on who, at that point, is most likely to win the UK general election in May 2015. If it looks like the Tories, these people might well choose independence. Their view will be: “I’m not a Nat, but I’m damned if I’m going to put up with this shower for another five years.” After all, in Scotland we talk about Tories in the way Americans talk about buffalo – you can still see one or two dotted around the plains, but the days of the great herds are gone forever.

(David Cameron, if you’re still reading the #TellDaveEverything hashtag, the only way you can save the union is to call a general election in May 2014, and make sure Labour wins.)
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Filed under Epetitions, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

Ms is the word

Ms Rosie Campbell has put forward a petition to remove “Miss” from official documents (as the French have removed Mademoiselle). While the Daily Mail and other aggressive tabloiders would doubtless claim this means women “can’t” use Miss, there would of course be nothing to prevent a woman from doing so if she chose: but there is no reason why an official document or form should provide three options for women’s marital status – “Married, Single, and Mind Your Own Business” when all that’s needed is one, just as men have.

I would love to see David “Calm down dear” Cameron forced to engage in a debate on Ms.

Meantime, there’s this for guerrilla action:

When women of my generation (I’m 59) introduce themselves as Mrs or Miss, it sounds quaint to me. As for the unfilled field on the computer screen, why don’t we all opt for Lady or Baroness. It will screw up the statistics something rotten.

It would also make us all look like we were the denizens of a Gothic romance. We’d have really nice houses.

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Filed under Epetitions, Women

Dear LibDems, climb out of the window now

I woke up yesterday to a Tory on Twitter accusing all of us who have protested the NHS Reform of being “hysterical”. A Lib Dem suggested that we really shouldn’t call it privatisation because that’s just a dystopic fantasy. She and another LibDem were telling me that I shouldn’t blame the Liberal Democrats or the Tories because this was all Labour’s fault really, I ought to be complaining about what the Labour government were doing back when they were in power, not about what the Tories and LibDems are doing now.

[And by Friday, Lord Ashcroft had published a concern troll at ConHome: update below.]

The Ninth Doctor: She's climbing out the window, isn't she?

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Filed under Epetitions, Healthcare

David Cameron: Give citizens more power

People have been shut out of Westminster politics for too long. Having a single vote every four or five years is not good enough – we need to give people real control over how they are governed. So, with a Conservative government, any petition that secures 100,000 signatures will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament. The petition with the most signatures will enable members of the public to table a Bill eligible to be voted on in Parliament. And we will introduce a new Public Reading Stage for Bills to give the public an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation online. (Tory Manifesto, page 77

The Drop the Health Bill epetition passed the 100,000 mark some time ago and is now heading for 200,000: it has 173,903 signatures as of today.
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Filed under Epetitions, Healthcare, Travel