2014 (Again)

In 2016 the Scottish elections were held with a raft of manifesto pledges within them, one key one in the SNP's being the following:

"We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will."

There has been plenty written about the possibility of a Scottish IndyRef2 in the wake of the Brexit vote, not just from me (Politics Next - Politics Next: After the Storm - The Death of the United KingdomA Plan - The Independence of Scotland). However, the biggest argument against a second IndyRef was the phrase "that's it settled" - simply that the 2014 vote still stands because we've already had our say.

That's not true. Everything has changed.

In my three post series in 2014 about my voting intentions, I wrote If It Is a No in which I stated a simple fact: "...and then things will start all over again. Those who wanted better control for Scotland will still want better control. Those who wanted better powers will still want better powers. Those who wanted a fairer government will still want a fairer government. So it won't stop - the framing will have just changed slightly" and "The question might have been answered, but the topic is still up for discussion".

That attitude rightly pissed a lot of people off. There had been a narrow escape for those who supported the Union and they were relieved, only to find out that those who were arguing against them were still as angry and ready to put their case forward. Why? The question had been asswered! It was a No, come on everyone, let's knuckle down. The thing is that it is a belief. I believe that Scotland will serve itself better outside of the UK and on it's own, and with a slight majority of folk disagreeing with me isn't going to change that. Is that a blind bit of faith? I don't know - I am sure that I could have been convinced if the actions of the UK government had been more "equal" than dismissive following almost everything that happened from 19th of September 2014 to... the 17th February 2017.

Now, however, the question is quite different. We know that the question asked in 2014 isn't valid anymore and the contextual basis for the question was entirely wiped out when the UK government lost the EU Referendum vote. Now, I respect that vote. I live in the England, don't forget, so my fellow country-persons voted against me and went to leave. In fact, the area I live in voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. That feeling of having lost against was hard to take, but that's not what I'm aruguing - Brexit is happening to England no matter what, it is the terms of the arrangement that is up for debate there.

Scotland, on the other hand, has no say. They voted to Remain and they're getting taken out of the EU without their consent. That's a disaster scenario for those who voted No but also voted Remain. It's the hard choice of British nationalism versus outward global reach. No longer is the Scottish Independence vote the rejection of collaboration that many painted it as in 2014. In fact, it is the exact opposite scenario now, a Yes vote being for a EU membership, not the other way round.

So no matter who says it, when they say it, or when they believe it, this is not a re-run of 2014. It isn't for a lot of reasons.

  1. Scotland voted to Remain, and is being taken out without it's consent.
  2. That's actually true, even if you say it's a UK decision - the Scottish Parliament says no overwhelmingly, yet it being disregarded. That's not a partnership of equals.
  3. The previous IndyRef was on the basis that a No guaranteedEU membership. Now, it's guaranteeing an EU exit.
  4. The powers promised have been watered down.
  5. Scotland is being ignored in a magnitude that hasn't happened in decades.

So the next step - convincing those who voted Yes but are now a No, or those who voted No but might change to a Yes.

Adventures in Hire Cars

Quite a few years ago now I wrote about the hire cars that I had used during my time in North America. It felt like a fun thing to do, seeing as I'd managed to squeeze in a raft of models in a short space of time. Long time reader Jonathan (and precursor to this very blog) noted that he was glad I hadn't reviewed his car.

I have a new role within work, and it's meaning a lot more travel than any other time in my working life. This is a good thing - the new role, the subject of which is coming up in a coming post, is interesting, but the travel can be tiresome. I'm trying to get it all out of the way at the start, so I can move to a more remote role.

Because of the location of my house and the office transport links are woeful. Last year I took the train to the head office and it was a long and difficult journey with three trains on the way down (of which I missed them all due to a late first train of the morning) and then on the way back it was busy and didn't get a seat. Then there's problem that the train station it's self is a 25 minute drive away. Instead, hiring a car is quicker, more cost efficient, and is far more felexible.

There have been a lot of cars since. Recently, loads of them. Let's try and begin with the last ones I remember. I'm excluding all of the Canada hires - the VW Passat, Kia Optima, Ford Escape, Buick Verano, VW Jetta.  Actually, let's indulge one Canada hire.



Dodge RAM 1500
As usual with weddings Connie and I's went a little pear shaped a few times along the way to a successful series of nuptials. One was the day that everyone was getting into town for the wedding our hire car wasn't returned to the place it was supposed to, in time for us to obtain it. We were due to do some running, meeting friends and later family. Dan, the manager of the branch of Enterprise, who has become a close friend with all the coin we drop anytime we go home, has always done me solids - giving me a choice of car, upgrading almost everytime - this time, he gave us a loan of the Ram 1500 truck for the day until our car arrived, for free, free of gas usage too. It was fun having my friends rocking up in a big truck.

Seat Exeo estate
This one car was nice enough, and I used it to go across the country on a camping weekend, but it really made us want a large estate car, which lead us to getting the Passat. In turn, this meant that my UK hiring days were over until 2016. It was a nice car if a bit dated, but the loading space was impressive.

Vauxhall Astra
Back in July 2015, whilst the world around me was blowing up, someone crashed into the Passat. In order, I had a telephone interview on the Tuesday, was offered a face to face interview on the Wednesday, was made redundant on the Thursday, was crashed into on the Friday, had a hire car on the Saturday and drove to the office I now work in on the Monday, with a job offer that afternoon, and we had selected a new house by the Thursday. The insurers, who knew it was a no fault claim, told me not to drive and got me an Astra estate. It was a massive boon - we put around 1500 miles on that guy between the trips up and down to Cumbria over the two weeks our car was away, and it gave me a nice story to tell the team once I started.

Hyundai Santa Fe
When hiring a car for work they offer you an Astra as standard, but I prefer automatics so I've yet to have an Astra. The first car I got was this massive SUV and it was simply insane - one of the biggest cars I've driven but was very nice inside and was quite easy to park thanks to all the cameras. I don't know if it was a nice car, as it was pretty unwieldly despite all the assistance, but it looked smart.

Infiniti Q30
I didn't know that you could get Infiniti's in the UK and when this car was dropped off I was surprised. It was until very recently the worst car I'd driven as a hire since the Chevy Spark, as it was heavy, low, dark, difficult to see out of, and generally just underpowered. It was a dark car to drive down south in, and I was happy to give it back.

Mercedes Benz C200
When this showed up I was amazed - it was the smartest car I'd ever driven. I had this for two weeks to so it wasn't a quick hire. It was amazing on the motorway and went like the clappers when you put your foot down, but as a saloon model it had a terribly unuseful boot, and there just wasn't that much space in the rear due to the bucket seats. Additionally, the infotainment system (all the media and stanav stuff) was pretty useless, controlled by a big dial and touch pad area, that even after two weeks I still didn't know how to use fully. Still, I was sad to give it back.

Vauxhall Insignia
My dad owned an Insignia for a few years and even loaned it to us when the Passat had it's Great Brakes Failure of 2013. We also had hired an estate version at one point too. Anyway, the car was low and big and pretty boring bar two very impressive features - one, was the tank. I had it filled up before I left and travelled around 270 miles in it with barely denting a quarter of the tank. When I filled it back up the trip computer said I had 800 miles in the tank ready to go, making it perfect for pulling on the motorway. Secondly, it was the first time I'd came across Android Auto. I plugged my phone into the car to charge and it offered me an amazing series of interfaces for using Spotify, Google Play Music, Tunein Radio, Google Maps, and even read my WhatsApp messages back to me. Very impressive.

Fiat 500X
Holy shit. I thought the Spark was bad, but this was just terrible. It had a tiny touchscreen, an even worse set of controls for the heating, sounded like a van under the hood, rattled on the motorway, and had no space in the front for me to find a good position to sit. And to top it all off, this was meant to be my semi-permanent car! I drove it down south and an enginer management light came on, which meant I had to trade it in. Thank christ.

Peugeot 308
My sister bought a new 208 last year and I remember thinking I liked the look but it was just too small for my tastes, which means the similar but larger 308 should do the trick - and it does! It has a nice ride, great fuel economy, nice driving position, good technology built in, and has a pretty enourmous boot. There are three major draw backs though - the dash controls are non-existent, and replaced with a touch screen for everything. That's fine, but only if the screen was fast, well designed, and easy to use, all of which it isn't. There are afew neat tricks, but not enough to make up for the fact that I have to take my eyes off the road to change the temperature of the AC. The second is that it is blooming tiny in the back, with barely space for car seats never mind an adult. And thirdly, since I've got it the additive management system light has been on, something that has yet to be sorted out by the hire company.


Ten: The Single Posts Worth Your Attention

My one hit wonder. This still gets 400 hits a month even now, and has had a totaly of 250'000 unique readers since it was posted back in late 2013. Seriously; what they absolute hell. Well, at least going viral once has been checked off my to-do list, but in the end it still stands as one of my most informed and actually well structured posts.

Locked Out
Of all the stories posted on here about Frank and my own personal idioacy, this one, where I tell the tale of being locked out of my car with Frank locked in the back, and having to break into my own car, still stands out as one of the best I've ever written. I still laugh about it now with Connie. A few years later I attempted a sequel, but it just didn't quite have the same level of jeopardy.

Connie Says Yes
Pretty obvious this one.

Internet Identity
I still cite this as an important policy and one that I preach to anyone who listens - no judging anyone who doesn't do it, but it's quite important and I think that it will be come far more important in the future.

The Pholly of My Phones
For the longest time this post was the most visited place on the site. Not sure why, but I think it is an SEO orgasm of data, with pictures and stuff. I have started writing a new one, an update, but there is a fraction of the phones since that post so we will see.

Peter Devenney Shields
Writing this post about my grandfather was a difficult thing to do. It stands as one of the best posts I've ever written, and it also stands as a testament to the man himself. There is one line that I absolutely love and I can't believe I wrote it.

But that's not the most important thing; not by a long shot.  The man, from a large family, met a woman, Marion Kavanagh, from a similarly big family, and they fell in love.  They married, in 1958 and gave birth to my father in 1959.  He raised my father in the way that he knew, and my father later fell in love with a woman, my mother, and later, in 1985, I appeared, his first grandson.  In 2010, his two eldest grandchildren would move away to America and Germany after one of them graduating from University, the other in the middle of her studies, and he would remark to my father that he couldn't believe that was possible.


Ten: The Series of Posts Worth Your Attention

"Surely, someone, somewhere will read this and realise, wow, what a sack."
Mark Shields, 4th February 2008.

Back in 2008 I wrote what was probably my first post that was strictly about the blog. I had been writing for a year when I posted My Internet Miscapades, which was an adaptation of a post I'd made on the forebearer to this site, JustAnotherSheeldz.co.uk.

I capped that post about the blog back then with the above phrase, which when I read it back to myself this week, made my laugh with tears. It is sad to say that my past self made my self giggle so much I almost peed a little, but one of the joys about reading my old posts back is the chronicling of things and the writing of opinions that I'd totally forgot about. Perfect examples of these lie in the Holiday posts, including ones about holidays with my ex-girlfriend, to #LadsHolidays with the #boys including stories that I'd totally forgotten about.

It is amazing to think that what was really started on a bit of a whim has lasted this long, becoming the longest single thing I’ve had in my life for years and years, charting so many ups and downs in my life, like a diary, like a time capsule, like a self-built reflection of my younger self. Of course, now at ten, there is no way that I will stop writing, but there have been good times and bad times for the blog, times where posts have came and gone. But I have posted once a month at the very least for every month that the blog has been in existence.

There are a few series of posts that stand out in my mind as ones that any reader of my history should pay attention to, so here they are.

The Tale of Chemical Engineering (Part n of 1)
I started writing these posts, of which there are nine, back in 2007. It was a moment in my life where I suddenly realised that I didn't have to what I'd been aiming for for years. Did I want to be an engineer? The tales since have chronicled my ups and downs, including the change of career, chartership, disillusionment with managers, and many other things. Best place to go is to Part XI of I, and work your way back.

Uncle Frank and...
Getting Frank was a big deal. A huge deal. And over the first year of his life I posted eight posts about his life. They're awesome snapshots of our life with him, before we had kids.

Say Hello to Uncle Frank
Uncle Frank's First Four Weeks
Uncle Frank's First Family Holiday
Uncle Frank and His Harness
Uncle Frank's New Tricks
Uncle Frank's Procedure
Uncle Frank and His Names
Uncle Frank's Life Through a Lens (Part One)

Life Through a Lens series
I started posting photos that I'd taken that also chronicled my life for the first time in 2010 and it grew into three sub-series of posts - the "main" ones, the Pretentious series, and a single Frank instalment that is linked to above. There are five main instalments and three pretentious installments, all worthwhile looking at for a visual element to the blog that has been recently totally absent.

Life Through a Lens Part One
Life Through a Lens Part Two
Life Through a Lens Part Three
Life Through a Lens Part Four
Life Through a Lens Part Five
Life Through a Pretentious Lens Volume I
Life Through a Pretentious Lens Volume II
Life Through a Pretentious Lens Volume III

April 30 Day Music Challenge
When I lived in Texas I took a solid few weeks off and did a huge road trip. That never ended up on the blog, oddly, but what did was a huge planned series of posts - 30 in 30 days, each about music. It was a Facebook thing that people were doing, so I adapted it for the blog. It's an impressive read. Find them all here.

Lyrics That Seem to Make Sense
I have posted lyrics on the blog for years. Ones that I love, and ones that I adore, and ones I identify with. There is too many to list, so here they all are.

In the Middle of the North Sea
When I first started working in Aberdeen I never really thought about going offshore, then in 2008 I found myself there a lot. In the end, I gave me some great material, but also lead me to hate the offshore life, despite it single handedly paying for my student loans.

In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 1 "The Tower and Mr Ocean"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 2 "What Kind of Isolation?"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 3 "The Reprobate Level"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 4 "Virgin Radio/Sleep Becomes Me/Highs and Lows"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 5 "Predictions"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 6 "The Offshore Shuffle"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 7 "The Return"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 8 "Tourism, Would You?"
In the Middle of the North Sea Pt. 9 "A Real, A Fake"

Other notable series:
Statistics on My Music
My Portable Music Devices
My Favourite Computer Games

A Note About Write in for Writing's Sake: I wrote a lot of short stories for Write in for Writing's Sake, firstly for Aaron, and then for Laura, and they were mostly linked to on this site. Since Laura gave up the site, the place has vanished from the internet. One of the 2017 goals is to post every single one of them on this site (for I still have them) under a new main heading called "Writing". It's a big deal, a huge project, and one I'm going to start in March. I hope to have it sorted by the middle of the year. Then, following that, I'm going to post all my old reviews for God is in the TV Zine, and Scottish Fiction, under the same heading.


Today, the 12th February 2017, this blog turns ten years old.


I have been blogging for a decade of my life. That means that I have been writing to you, the anonymous reader, for almost a third of my life. 

I can't not post today. But I have posts planned all week - some celebrating the milestone, others ignoring it.

Later this week I'll hit 800 posts, so there's another milestone.


The Independence of Scotland

I've written a lot recently about Scottish Independence. I've also written quite a lot about the future of politics in the United Kingdom, and how the recent Brexit votes and other things have changed the way the UK can be seen, mostly that it's not United anymore.

If anything has happened in the last few months since my last posts about it, the divisions have got worse. The UK government is steaming ahead with a total Brexit, leaving everything about the EU behind. With it, the intention at the moment is to also pull Scotland with it, despite the simpel fact that Scotland didn't vote for it not stopping them. Even the Scottish Government have voted a few times against it. The only person in the Scottish MP cross party cohort that voted for the Article 50 Bill was the only Tory MP, and one who said just last week that to call an IndyRef2 would put "Scots against Scots", a blantently stupid phrase that pushes tribalism into a simple fact; politics is about people versus people, and denying that there is a difference of views is quite simply madness.

Over the past few weeks I've came to a simple conclusion - one that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention.

Scotland is going to be independent.

After the IndyRef in 2014 I wasn't sure how long it would take. I wasn't officially sure that it was going to happen. But now, following a few massive factors, it is plainly obviosu that is has to be the only way forward for a progressive Scotland, for the following reasons.

Scotland is European
This is something that I have only recently started to believe fullly, but it's something that should be said - England has been for hundreds of years it's own thing. It's had power as part of the English Kingdom, later the Union, and then the Empire. It's had power, and power that it has had has been used to make sure it retains it's power. Scotland has benefited from this - there is no denying it. One thing that Scotland had before the Union was a catalogue of affilations and rulers from Europe, mainly France, and the overall feeling in Scotland is one of European symptahy, when friends and family visit there, work there, and we see the work done for Scottish roads and farmers and fishermen. The difference in the culture is something it is hard to understate, but also hard to quantify.

Scotland is Global
The largest export Scotland makes is Whisky, and it's synonymous with the word across the world. Exporting that to the world is part and parcel of the 21st Century Scotland. That too is part of the inventions and technology that originates from Scotland - not the mythical telephone, television and steam engine, but the minds like the economist Adam Smith, or clonging technology - technology that is shared internationally. This collaboration has meant that the Scotland of the world looks around at peers and welcomes those in. This is partly because of a shared emmigrant history - families all over North America identify as "Scottish", in the same way we identify as a global culure.

Scotland Wants to be in the EU
This is obvious, isn't it. 62% voted to remain. But in the IndyRef1 we voted No to Remain too. It was repeated time and time again that the UK was the sure-fire way to stay in the EU, and despite what lies Thersea May repeats, an Independent Scotland will very likely be in the EU. The scare story that we'd not be welcomed is just simply not the case, and very few EU politicians would say otherwise when Scotland is already in the EU. It's democractically barmy to think that EU citizenship would be refused to a nation self-determining that the EU is part of it's identify and part of the identity of an Independent Scotland. If the UK can leave, then Scotland can stay. So too, can Northern Ireland.

Scotland Will Still Trade With the UK
One of the largest attack lines with the current swell of momentum is that the UK is the largest trading partner an Independent Scotland would have. That's right, there is no disputeing that. But if we walk through the scenario, there's nothing to worry about - if rUK leaves the EU and Scotland stays, it's gets the benefits of a EU-weighted deal, one that the EU will only negotiate if it is in their best interests. Is it better to be inside the UK but out of the single market? Who really knows, but by inspection, being inside the largest market for the rUK to trade with, and also trading freely there, is a far more competetive place to be that stuck with a partner who doesn't believe you're an equal.

Scotland Isn't Being Listened To
Some Indy supporters already think this - I certianly do. A Tory PM ruling a country with one MP is something that I find hard to stomach. Another thing I find hard to stomach is the brushing off of a nation of people more poilitically engaged than any point in modern history with simple "you've had your chance" and "shut up and put up with it". If anyone was convinced by the post-IndyRef1 comments from Westminster of "partner of equals" they've been put right in the past few months - Scotland may have a voice, but it's drowned out by the rUK's louder and more powerful one. Why stay together when one party hates the way the other treats them, and then when they promise to do better they actually do a million times worse? It just logically doesn't follow.

Finally, Scotland Needs to Do Something Different
Scotland is a place of different things and ideals. A country that has suffered and thrived a few times in the past decades has found it's own calling in recent years, bouyed by a generation, like me, who actually care about other people. There areafew who don't, but by in large the nation is a left-leaning group of educated folk, and those who aren't degree level educated are far more cosmopolitan about their future and the people they live with. Scotland is so drastically different to England, it's hard to emphasise it enough. And now, as the two nations drift further apart, Scotland needs to - nay, deserves to - take it's own step forward and into a global community rather than retreat for it.

An independent Scotland is coming. It is now a matter of When, not If.