Scottish Independence Part I - A Long Road to Change

Here's the thing - when the IndyRef was announced I was dead against it. I hated the idea that the Scottish government had legislated for it and that there was going to be a vote. That knee jerk reaction changed to an understanding of the need for a vote, but still dead against the idea of an independent Scotland, dead against the end of the UK that I knew and back then I wanted to remain.

Notice the past tense. Since about June I have been pretty set on voting Yes for Scottish Independence. This hasn't been an easy or a quick decision - indeed, quite the opposite. In the next five days I am going to post several posts ranging from my thoughts on the No campaign to the reasons why I am voting Yes. 

But first, here's a post about my road to Yes.

The first place I'd start is in 2009 where I rather amazingly posted this titled "Being Scottish. Is It Shite?" where-in I ridiculed the idea of independence because we are a bit of a "shite" nation, and also was worried about a few things. I wrote some amazing sentences in that post: (and I lift directly) "We are a nation hurtling towards the brainwashed masses voting us out a Union with England and Wales that could ruin everything for all countries involved." and I went even further with "[independence]...is a car crash in slow motion, hurtling towards a long, expensive and pointless program of devolution and independence. Why should we think that we can pull out of the Union when if anything we have been the ones who a benefited most from it?".

Ahem.

Okay, so I have changed my mind. The advantage of this blog having existed for so long is that I can pull back from five years ago and know that at that point in time that was my true feelings. That's what I thought, and for better or worse, that's what I wrote. Am I now having to eat those words? In a way, yes. But I am not apologising for writing them. Actually, here's the things - that last part of the second quote is interesting; it qualifies something - at that point I thought we were getting the better deal. I thought that the traffic went in one way - to us, and we benefited greatly from the Union. This is a key point - because I don't think so any more.

It was around 2010 I think when walking down Buchanan St a friend, his boyfriend and I scoffed at the idea of iScotland. It was then when I truly remember realising with alarm at the idea of Scotland going it alone. I had in my head an idea - one that seemed to suggest that Scotland was doing a bad job. I believed that the SNP government were not doing things correctly. Then several things started to happen.

The first was that I realised that this wasn't about the SNP. This happened shortly after my return to Aberdeen after living in Texas. The second was that the UK Government started to mess with things that they shouldn't be messing with - the NHS, Royal Mail, benefits, and tax. I dislike the conservatives a lot, but anyone who votes either way because of party lines is making a grave mistake. This is bigger than that.

It wasn't until I was describing the current set up to a Canadian that I realised how nonsense it actually is. The Scottish parliament, Westminster, the House of Lord (that bit especially, actually)... it all really doesn't make any sense any more.

We pay our taxes, and they go to Westminster (or Whitehall, a turd is still a turd by any other name) and then they decide how much we get back. We get to spend what they give us in anyway we want on certain things. That isn't the right way it should be. Devolution was a way to give us powers to govern things that needed to governed in Scotland, like health and education, and in my mind we've done a very good job with them. But we are still at the mercy of the Barnet Formula, which is a pretty unfair way to work out our budget for both Scotland, and the rest of the UK.

Additionally, I realised that the question being asked wasn't about "What Ifs" like the No have been suggesting - instead, it should be "Imagine If" - imagine if we had control over everything. Imagine if we voted for the and got our government. Imagine if we could take all the oil income and spend it on us rather than splitting it across the rest of the UK?

There are a lot of great reasons to vote yes, but the one that clinched it for me (shortly after I posted this speculative post titled "Yes?" in February) was why notSeriously - why not? Why not have a go? All of this fear peddled by the No side is because they're the ones scared. The vote was given as an appeasement to silence us - instead it has actually given us a voice... and we're starting to shout.

Later this week I'll explain why I think that even a No vote will change everything in the UK, and not just for Scotland, but in the meantime my journey from a dead-cert No to a optimistic Yes is almost at an end. Yes, I love England. I liked Northern Ireland. I've got nothing against Wales. Yes, my sister lives in the Lake District. Yes, the Union has worked, but it's not working now.

Time to change it up. Time to grow up. Time to take a chance.

Numerology, Cataloguing and Lists

In 2006 I started tracking the music that I listened to on my computer via Last.fm and the Scrobbler. It wasn’t something I seriously considered the implication of, at first, but it’s now 2014 and I just passed 90,000 scrobbles (Last.fm speak for plays of songs) and I have done several different posts on the blog each year taking part the numbers and adding some context to the results. This year’s post might be delayed a little into September for obvious reasons, but it will come as I enjoy the surprises that the numbers provide each time I take them apart.

One thing that the scrobbling has done since then is that it has made me interested in cataloguing numbers for lots of other things that I do – for example, each blog post I’ve ever written is stored offline, catalogued, each with a unique “document number”. That’s probably a bit insane, of course, but otherwise I wouldn’t be able to just randomly find the posts that exist all over the place. However, that kind of ornate archiving is something that I really enjoy making sure is workable. Each episode of the Monday Graveyard, too, has a code that means when they are all in a folder they are easily identifiable.

Take episode 16, which was broadcast on the 24th of March – it has the initially unintelligible code of 140324MG01E016. The first six digits are the date of broadcast (in the format YYMMDD, because Windows is dreadful at understanding numbers sometimes) which means that all episodes are in chronological order by default, no matter when the MP3 file was burned. Then, the two letters “MG” which are self-explanatory are added to define what it is (the reason for which will be explained shortly). After that, the “01” which is for the first “series” of the Monday Graveyard, which so far hasn’t ended. I am considering calling the live return in October a second series if I come back. Finally, the next set is “E” followed by the show number (which was future proofed to have three digits, in-case of going to more than 100). In addition, I have three series of the Wednesday Graveyard which follow the same naming scheme, which creates a nice uniformity that calms my soul – which explains the MG.

When doing the Wednesday Graveyard, I had already decided on “series’” of shows, which is why the first episode I put online was episode 1.1 – series one, episode one. I haven’t done that with the Monday Graveyard, as each show will be sequential, but they do have different codes so I know that they are different. Each episode has statistics too, like listens, shares, loves etc that I catalogue too in an Excel sheet. But, I went off topic there…

You see, the cataloguing is part of being in control of the things that I make. As long as you keep the list up to date, and refreshed, it’ll always be a good source of information. I try to list things every day now, to make sure that I can keep track of things. I don’t know if that is because that is the way my brain is wired or that it is just a personality trait - but the use of lists and writing things down is pretty much the only way that I can remember things or learn things. At university I used to copy out the equations and strategies for problems easily four to six times, in full, as it was the only way to get my brain to actually realise “oh yeah, that’s what I’m supposed to be remembering”. It is a technique that I still do to this day – using the cloud more, as for shopping lists in Google Keep, and what not.

Now that I am due to be a dad for the first time, I wondered back the idea of Scrobbling, and maybe I’d be recording a lot of my babies “firsts”, of course, but also the total number of times something happens. I was reminded when thinking about this of someone who did that, but instead of around birth did it around death. The Feltron Annual Report was first introduced to me by a 99 Percent Invisible episode, number 31, and he does that – he takes the things he does every day, catalogues them, and creates the same kind of thing I do with my music – a yearly appraisal. He took this information, when his father passed away in 2010, and created a personalised portrait of his father using only the data he left behind.

It is interesting to think what we data we will leave behind. Me, I’m leaving behind this blog, and a load of Google storage for every search I do, every site I visit, every message and interaction I have. It is strange to think that my child might have their entire life mapped out by the data they leave behind. I like lists – I like them more when they are live and used in powerful ways, but a simple shopping list or chore list makes things really easy to manage for me. If only life was more built for single lists. 

Hidden Minutiae

There are always quirks to the inner workings of a healthy relationship that only those inside the relationship know about. Sometimes these are intimate, or in other cases, they are just simply inside jokes. It is interesting to consider the black hole that must exist when you think about the relationships of friends and family that you just don’t see – what happens behind these closed doors is oddly interesting to me; don’t get me wrong, not from a perverted perspective or a nosey perspective (I don’t actually want to know what goes on) just that I know what happens in my relationship that other people don’t know about - the mundane little ticks of a stable relationship - and wonder what mundane stuff that happens between my friends and their partners.

In my relationship with Connie, one in which we’re married and have a child on the way, we have loads of these, all normal I think. There are small ones that are subtle, worked in by habit (like remembering to lift the bathmat from the floor after I shower), and there are others, borne from ritual and conversation. Of course, I am not going to divulge all these small minutiae, because they are boring – but one thing that a lot of people won’t consider is one of the most important.

As you will no doubt be aware, Connie is Canadian. Now, how many of you have honestly considered the “how” of how she gets to stay here? Have you thought about her as an immigrant? As someone who technically has little “right” to live here? You probably haven’t because she’s just my wife, just a friend, or just six letters that appear on this blog every so often. So here’s the thing – much of our relationship has been dictated by her need to legally be able to stay here. What that entails is a shocking amount of beauracy and a scrutinising of your relationship of the like that very few other people will encounter in their life, never mind in our case which has been every two years since we started seeing each other.

You see, Connie originally didn’t come here to settle. She was on a transit visa, part of the Youth Mobility Programme, which gives out cheap and finite visas every year to commonwealth countries to allow people to go off and live a new experience. After we met, she decided that she wanted to stay here with me, which is nice – so in 2012 we applied for her to get an extension to her visa as my partner, which was granted. The couple of days around this event, where we went to Glasgow’s Home Office centre to apply in person, saw us have a short holiday to Stirling (we were living in Aberdeen at the time), have a rough night’s sleep before the interview, and then on the way home we bought Frank. It’s a pivotal moment in our history.

And this week past we have had another – you may notice that was 2 years ago, and now Connie, having lived here for 2 years as my partner, is now able to apply for Settlement or “Indefinite Leave To Remain”. This is another larger form, more money spent, and a further check to make sure that we do live together. Once this application has been accepted (we hope it will) she will be able to stay in the UK free from the prospect of her stay expiring. And, because she managed to pass the Life in the UK test in a years’ time she can apply for British Citizenship and be a dual-national of Canada and the UK.

So yeah, that’s one of our hidden things. It’s a big one, and one that someone might not even think about.