I'm declaring how I've voted and explaining why. Because I'm moving home this week, I'll not be able to join any ensuing debate, but if you comment, please be generous and kind to one another. Please don't be like the ignorant folk in both camps who seem intent on being cruel and destructive and who seem to be completely incapable of listening to one another.
I voted YES. My reasons are as follows:
Historically, boundaries change. This need not be an acrimonious divorce. Rather, I'm trying to see it as a new birth. Nation states are born or reborn regularly. Look at the Baltic states who gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union or the former Yugoslavian states. In 1921 Ireland became independent after a much longer period than Scotland has had of being joined with England. Our parliaments have been joined for just over three hundred years. The crowns were joined one hundred years before that. The white paper suggest that (for now), the crowns will remain joined. In that sense, there will still be a United KINGDOM.
We are talking about the Scottish Parliament having full control of every aspect of our life. At the moment, the government in Westminster is not one that most people in Scotland wants. As a former Labour Party member, I'm not sure that many people in Scotland would want to be ruled by them now, given their decision to move further and further to the right. At times, I find it hard to distinguish between the three big UK parties and the rise of UKIP only makes me think that England will drift that way even more.
I believe this change might allow the Scottish people to lose the chip(s) on our shoulders, allowing people to fly and grow in confidence. We'll have to take responsibility and make wise decisions.
Will it be hard? Of course it will. We might well have to sacrifice much in order to be a new nation. Will there be things that concern me in this future? The economics are unclear and the politics of EU and NATO membership uncertain. I don't see how we can ditch Trident but still accept the possible use of nuclear weapons by NATO. There are many questions about the currency and debt that will have to be answered.
However, with imagination, hard work, democratic engagement and hope, we can build a better nation, where the least, the last and the lost are cared for and where we can work together with our neighbouring nations to ensure peace for everyone. I don't fear the future. It seems to me to offer great opportunities for transformation. I hope we get the chance to at least try.
Much as I love Uganda, I must say this: the legislation signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni this morning is an evil thing masquerading as a good thing. It will bring persecution of people with same sex attraction and that is cruel. That is no way to treat anyone, and it will have a negative effect on Uganda's standing in the world. In addition, it's definitely not the best Christian attitude available towards those one does not agree with.
Is it just us, or has there been a general upsurge in beggars visiting churches lately, especially from other countries? In the last two weeks, we've had (among others) someone from the Congo and a family from Spain looking for help. They all have stories to tell, and I have to do the usual "wanting to be generous, but having to be careful" routine. The Spanish gentleman was particularly unrelenting in his requests, and very good at upping them once one request had been met. If you don't ask, you don't get and all that, but haggling is very exhausting.
I visited the anti-greed camp in Kelvingrove Park yesterday, and offered the use of our shower at the church. They plan to stay into the New Year, but I can't help but feel that the new site is now so tucked out of the way, they might as well set up in someone's back garden. They'd accept a donation of a pot of soup or two.
Wee reminders close to home, of the economic difficulties already here and signs of what might be to come in terms of need and protest?
I voted over a week ago, having registered for a postal vote. It was a difficult process this time both for the referendum on the Alternative Vote and on the constituency/regional votes.
Culturally, instinctively and historically, I've been a Labour Party member. I left the Party in the late 1990's, disillusioned by the middle-ground the leadership had occupied. I still voted Labour, but in recent years I've moved my vote around different parties, partly drawn by individual candidate's merits, the policies of parties and local issues. For me the question this time has been, 'Which Party will bring the most coherent and transforming opposition to what is coming out of Westminster?'. I've made my mind up, conscious that there might be risks involved. I discovered Scottish Vote Compass after I voted and using the 'further analysis' illustration, I learned that the Party I am closest to is the one I actually voted for!
On AV, I voted 'Yes', not because I think it's the best system, but because I think it's a nudge towards greater change. A 'No' vote will allow those in favour of the status quo for Westminster elections to argue that the country has spoken and doesn't want or need change. A more proportional system would be better, but that's not on offer (yet), so I've vote for AV in the hope that it might be a stepping stone.
I preached on 'Making the Cross Count' on Sunday night. I hope and pray that the Scottish people (and UK in general) use their hard-earned votes wisely today.
Yesterday I discovered a couple of people in the skip which currently adorns the rectory driveway. It's there to receive the stuff left in the basement, but never taken away, by fifteen years of people passing through the 'granny' flat. That's a lot of stuff.
This man and woman had on fluorescent safety jackets and they turned out to be Bulgarians. In broken English, they explained that there was no money in Bulgaria, but they could make a living here from scrap metal and electronics. I helped them get as much as they could, and they helped the latest refugees move in to the basement. It was a lovely encounter and I admired their resolve and commitment to making a living for themselves.
As I thought on it I began to wonder if, as things get more difficult economically, we'll see more such entrepreneurial endeavour here.
Many readers will know about the St Silas' couple who are fostering a young Eritrean asylum seeker, Rima Andmariam. They are on television (BBC1) in Scotland only on Wednesday
19th May at 22:45. The programme is called “Truth, Lies, and Asylum
Seekers” and is a full-length documentary about the situations of three asylum
seekers in Glasgow. The story of their family is one of the three. It is
also available on Sky 971.
With a new Parliament and a new Government and a new Home Secretary there is a
fresh opportunity to bring Rima’s case to the attention of new Ministers.
Robert and Alison write:
Our campaign is entering a new critical phase. Rima will turn 18 on 1st
July, and the law covering her situation changes. There is a good
chance that the Border Agency will try to deport her soon after then if
we have not managed some progress either legally or politically
beforehand. However, we have new MPs and a new UK government is in
power, so now we are able to resume campaigning.
Thanks to your support, our MP, John Robertson, did write to the former
Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, on Rima’s behalf just before Parliament
was dissolved, asking that at the very least she be given the
opportunity to claim asylum in the UK. Unfortunately the reply he
received simply announced that with Parliament being dissolved and the
election period imminent no action could be taken. In addition,
Catherine Stihler, our MEP, raised a
question in the European Parliament (thanks to Rima’s friend
Douglas, aged 8) and has received a full and helpful reply from
President Barroso, President of the European Commisson.
A new range of letters is suggested, depending on who
was elected to Westminster in your constituency. We do not believe at this stage
that we need more letters to MSPs or the Scottish Government at the moment, but
Scots may wish to write to the new Scottish Secretary as well as to their MP.
This is especially worth while given the announcement by the new Prime Minister,
David Cameron, that there will be full co-operation with then Scottish
Government on all issues. Please do personalise the letters as much as you feel
able, and have time for. The more individual a letter the more impact it makes
on all of these politicians and their administrative
As a first priority please
write to the new Home Secretary, Theresa May. See Letter A
If your MP was re-elected,
then you could use one of this range of letters:
B1 – If they have already
B2 – If they have
expressed support and you know they have had a reply from the Home
B3 – if they have refused
to express support
If your MP has now become a
Government minister, it is well worth congratulating them on that also. To our
surprise, a number of Cabinet Ministers in the previous Government were very
positive in their replies to constituents, so there is no reason why the same
should not apply to the new ones. You might mention this to them, to encourage a
positive response. If you have friends in the constituency of the new Home
Secretary (Theresa May, Maidenhead) or Immigration Minister (Damien Green,
Ashford), could you ask them particularly to write to them as their
If you have a new
MP, then you should use letter C1. MP’s who
have been helping us with our campaign have informed us that where new MP’s have
been elected then previous files are closed. So where there are new MP’s I’m
afraid we need to start again, on the ground.
If, as a
Scot, you want to write to the new Scottish
Secretary, Danny Alexander, you could use letter
We are also printing up a
new Postcard, addressed to Theresa May. Let us know if you would like
some of these for your friends and contacts to use.
Please also send hard
copies of all your letters to Rima’s named UKBA ‘case
I've been out tonight, so missed the events in Westminster. I have mixed feelings. Gordon Brown's farewell speech was wonderful. His smile and words were genuine. A good man gone. Mandelson and Campbell are gone - hurrah (but who will be the new spindoctors?).
Cameron and Clegg seem to be forming a real alliance. The reason for this can only be that things are REALLY bad (worse than we've been told to date) and there needs to be a broad government to deal with it/take the blame for tough decisions. That's commendable. However, I foresee significant problems - Trident? That's a £100 billion deal isn't it? Wouldn't that go a long way to dealing with the deficit? I suspect some Lib Dems will not be pleased with that and many other things. Fixed term of five years? All that does is lock in the LibDems.
Labour will regroup. I hope some new blood gets to fill some of the leadership roles that will now appear. Next year's Scottish Parliament elections will see Labour and the Nats strengthened with the Lib Dems getting hammered senseless for aligning with the Tories. Scots can be very unforgiving when it comes to politics.
Praying for David Cameron/Nick Clegg and their families. None of them have an easy gig.
After some initial excitement at the possibility of a Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition, I've calmed down sufficiently to have a more sober judgement on what is happening.
If the leaderships of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties manage to do a deal, I predict that it won't last. Tom Harris has already declared his clear opposition to any form of electoral reform and has indicated that many other Labour MPs will oppose it. Labour are in all probability in a fragile state following the loss of almost 100 seats. Many of their MPs want to be in opposition, if only so that they don't carry the blame for implementing the tough policies required to deal with the budget deficit. Also, the Liberal Democrats want tax reform - where is the £17 billion that it would take to raise everyone's tax allowance to £10,000 going to come from, when taxation is going to have to increase?
Much as it pains me to say it, sadly maybe the only way forward will be to allow the Tories to form a minority government, while the other parties regroup. I fear what the Tories might do, but they know they are in minority, and they might stuggle to get their more extreme measures through. There will be brakes on them.
As I've reflected on this evening's events, I've begun to feel that it might be time to give up power in a dignified way, and let's see what the party with the most seats and votes can do. They won't last long doing it.