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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘united kingdom

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Antipope Charlie Stross wrote last night about the political consequences of the Scottish referendum.
  • blogTO notes that east-end strip joint Jilly’s could become a boutique hotel and restaurant combo much like the Drake.
  • Centauri Dreams reviews the discovery of Pluto’s moon Hydra.
  • Engage with Crooked Timber‘s open thread on the Scottish referendum if you wish.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper predicting the existence of an exoplanet, Kepler-47d.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares the story of how Soviet space station Salyut 7 was saved by two cosmonauts.
  • Geocurrents notes the unreal claims of the Islamic State.
  • Joe. My. God. shares the story of the lesbian couple in Iowa together for 82 years before marrying.
  • The Lawyers, Guns and Money discussion on the consequences of the Scottish referendum is noteworthy.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the Irish economy is starting to see faster growth now.
  • Torontoist notes that Doug Ford has launched his campaign website.
  • Towleroad shares the story of San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener who has announced that he takes PrEP.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia is set on an Argentine-like trajectory of missed growth and calls for more attention to the plight of Crimean Tatars.
  • Zero Geography’s Mark Graham maps the pre-referendum Scottish presence on social networks.

[URBAN NOTE] “Glasgow gives full backing to Scottish independence”

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The Scotsman reports on one thing I found interesting in yesterday’s referendum in Scotland, on the majority support for independence in Glasgow in its area. Three of the four ridings in Scotland that returned majority support were in the Glasgow urban area. Some speculation I’ve seen elsewhere suggests that the scale of Thatcher-era economic collapse helped create this upset with the British state.

With three quarters of registered adults in Glasgow voting – a turnout of 75% – the Yes campaign won by 53.5% to 46.5% of votes for No.

All of the city’s eight Scottish Parliament constituencies favoured Yes. Although the result did not change the national picture, it represented a significant blow for Glasgow’s Labour-led local authority and Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour.

[. . .]

In Glasgow, 363,664 votes were cast. In some wards, the Yes vote was conclusive, with a majority of nearly six thousand in Maryhill and Springburn and Glasgow Provan, results that will give Labour politicians in the city much cause for concern.

Although the turnout was lower than other parts of the country, it still made electoral history in the city. In the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution, the region recored an unenviable turnout of just 51.2%, the lowest of any local authority and well under the national average of 60.2%.

On the ground yesterday, numerous polling stations across the city’s boundaries reported lengthy queues when they opened at 7am. One, in the southside area of Battlefield, reported 150 votes cast in the first 10 minutes. Throughout the day, the turnout remained very high, with the vast logistical operation seeming to run smoothly. In all, there were 438 polling stations in 200 buildings across the city, with 1,188 staff on hand.

Given the size of its population, the largest count in the country was expected to play have an influential bearing on proceedings. In the end, it was good news for Yes, but it came too late to bolster a flagging campaign, although it will likely cause tremors in Glasgow’s political landscape for some time to come.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2014 at 8:03 pm

[LINK] “Canada’s great debt to Scotland”

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Author Ken McGoogan’s MacLean’s article about the contribution of Scottish Canadians to the creation of modern Canada is a nice brief take.

In uptown Toronto, if you look east across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, you will see an elegant building that symbolizes what the Scots have done for Canada. It also suggests why, in light of today’s divisive referendum, Canadians should take a moment to think of their Scottish cousins. Originally, this stately, three-storey structure formed part of the University of Toronto. Today, the main tenant is Club Monaco, a clothing-store outlet geared to young professionals. If you step inside on a Saturday afternoon, you will marvel at the ethnic and linguistic diversity swirling around you.

What does that have to do with the Scots? I would argue: everything. The architect who designed this building, working with philanthropist Lillian Massey, and as part of an architectural firm owned by G.M. Miller, was my wife’s grandfather—a Scottish immigrant named William Fraser. Few people know his name. The Scottish architect has become invisible. Yet, when you look around from inside this neoclassical edifice, you realize that the architect is all around you. So it is with Canada. The Scottish architects are invisible. But if we stop and look around, we realize that they played a preeminent role in shaping our country. Nobody owes them more than we do.

Obviously, Canada is not just a land mass bordering on three oceans and a superpower. It is a cultural, political, and economic entity. It is a web of interconnected governments, businesses, institutions, organizations, and individuals—a complex interweaving of social programs, cultural networks and communications and transportation systems. That is why we can think of it as being “invented.” Canada is a multifaceted creation, one that, more than a decade ago, Richard Gwyn rightly identified as the world’s first postmodern nation.

Today, there are almost as many Canadians of Scottish heritage (4.7 million) as there are Scots in Scotland (5.3 million). Scottish Canadians constitute only 13 per cent of the Canadian population, and have never exceeded 16 per cent. Yet their shaping influence has proven wildly disproportionate. No matter how you approach the history of Canada—through exploration, politics, business, education, literature—you find Scots taking a leading role.

[. . .] I think we should highlight how Scottish Canadians fostered the pluralism that is the hallmark of postmodern Canada. Of this country’s 22 prime ministers, for starters, 13 claimed at least some Scottish heritage, or almost 60 per cent. These include Sir John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King, John George Diefenbaker and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Would anybody suggest that these figures made no difference?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2014 at 2:49 am

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO shares photos of the Eaton Centre immediately after its opening in the 1970s.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram comes out in favour of a federal United Kingdom.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Australia is set to buy ten submarines from Japan.
  • Eastern Approaches picks up on the travails of the Crimean Tatars.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes how Slovakia is a bad model for Scotland, not least because a large majority of Czechoslovaks wanted the country to survive.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a study that has a frankly optimistic projection for Iraq’s Christian community over the next half-century or so.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc describes Rob Ford’s trajectory as a Greek tragedy. I’m inclined to agree.
  • Torontoist and blogTO share reports of how Torontonians and others react to Rob Ford’s cancer diagnosis.
  • Towleroad notes European Union pressure on Serbia to improve its gay rights record.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the issues of Crimean Tatars as well and suggests that the Russian government maintains bad population statistics.

[LINK] “The peculiar coin of English nationalism”

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Writer Anthony Barnett has a long essay at Open Democracy about English identity in the wake of the Scottish referendum, and its relationship to British identity.

[A] great cry of pain arises from the Brits, including from the hearts and souls of many of my friends and compatriots south of the border. For them, the idea of Scotland ‘leaving’, never before taken seriously, is enraging. The mere thought of it—let alone the thought of becoming English—fills them not with the thrill of self-determination but with despair.

[. . .]

There is no doubting the sincerity of this lucidly expressed feeling. But it is very strange. Why would [Martin] Wolf lose part of himself? Why should he and Tom Holland and many, many others in England suffer such a dramatic amputation, all the more painful for being internal, as a consequence of less than ten per cent of the UK peacefully choosing to govern themselves in so far as they can? They would not feel the same way if Northern Ireland voted to leave, as the Good Friday Agreement explicitly permits. So it is not about part of the UK deciding its own fate.

A clue shouts out from Wolf’s description of Englishness as “ethnic” (meaning a racial identity that excludes him) whilst contemporary Britishness is “civic”. For him and many others to become English is experienced as a threat, even though it is their actual nationality, for Britishness is multi-national and you cannot be ‘just’ British. The strain in Wolf’s observation can be seen more clearly if you start from the fact that Scottishness is civic: the Scottish parliament represents a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, open society, whether the vote is Yes or No. The Yes campaign invites everyone to join it. If the Scottishness is civic and also part of being British how come Englishness is ethnic? Why is it racial while Scottishness and Welshness are not?

I am British and have embraced the fact of my Englishness, and found that England too is a civic, tolerant, anti-fascist country that I am proud to call my own. I came to this realisation thanks to the Scottish experience, which I have been following closely over two decades. For me it is an emancipation: not a loss but a gain. However, there is no doubting that Holland and Wolf express the majority experience. It is not just an opinion or even a profound sentimental attachment to Britishness that they fear to lose, it is an internal part of themselves that feels threatened.

The pain of this is not going to be healed by a ‘No’ vote, however relieved they may be. They can see perfectly well that Scotland would vote ‘Yes’ if the English offered to help diminish the risks, not threaten to increase them. This week’s pre-referendum editorial in the Economist bewailing the prospect of a Yes vote included this extraordinary sentence: “The rump of Britain would be diminished in every international forum: why should anyone heed a country whose own people shun it?”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 18, 2014 at 3:56 am

[LINK] “Scotland independence vote could be as close as Quebec referendum”

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Canadian politics blogger Éric Grenier, the man behind ThreeHundredEight.com, has a piece of analysis at CBC suggesting the outcome of Thursday’s referendum could be quite close indeed.

The consensus view in general is that undecideds tend to break disproportionately toward the status quo, opting at the last moment not to take a step into the unknown. This is what seems to have occurred in the 1995 Quebec referendum, when polls suggested the Yes side was on track for a slim victory.

Yet, this has so far not been the case in the Scottish referendum campaign. From March to July, support for independence stood at an average of 36 per cent, with 46 per cent supporting continued union and 17 per cent remaining undecided.

In August, the number of undecideds fell to about 13 per cent, with neither the Yes nor the No campaigns benefiting more than the other. Support for independence increased by two points to 38 per cent. Support for union was up three points to 49 per cent — a proportional increase.

But lately support has swung strongly to the Yes side. Undecideds have fallen again, by four points to an average of nine per cent, but support for independence has surged by six points to 44 per cent, with support for the “Better Together” campaign dropping to 47 per cent. In other words, not only has “Yes Scotland” drawn some undecideds toward its option, it has also converted some former unionists.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 18, 2014 at 2:46 am

[LINK] “Merkel Counting on Scots No Vote Shows Europe Unprepared”

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Patrick Donahue and Arne Delfs’s Bloomberg article suggests general disarray across Europe at the prospect of a Scottish vote in favour of independence, with the Germany that is becoming the central power of Europe and a Spain facing even graver separatist issues being highlighted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is counting on Scots to reject independence and hasn’t made contingency plans for a U.K. split, underscoring a lack of preparedness across Europe before tomorrow’s referendum.

While Merkel has avoided weighing in on Scotland’s future, German policy makers view independence as an ill-advised choice for Scots and are concerned it would spur separatism in other European Union countries such as Spain, according to three government officials in Berlin who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

The possible breakup of the EU’s third-biggest economy has been low on Europe’s agenda as leaders focused on the Ukraine conflict and the advance of Islamic State militants in Iraq. While the “yes” campaign for Scottish independence gathered steam, Merkel spent days campaigning in three German state elections.

“Everybody seems to have underestimated what Scottish independence may mean,” said Joerg Forbrig, an analyst at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, citing questions about the future of U.K. nuclear weapons and Scottish membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Nobody wants the disintegration of any European countries, be it Scotland or Catalonia.”

All surveys suggest the contest over Scotland’s future tightened in the final days of campaigning. Four of the five latest polls showed the anti-independence Better Together group backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and the main U.K. parties leading the “yes” campaign by 52 percent to 48 percent, excluding undecided voters.

[. . .]

The British pound has lost 3.1 percent against the U.S. dollar since the start of August as polls showing a growing “yes” vote led to market uncertainty. The yield on Spanish 10-year bonds climbed the most in 15 months on speculation the vote could stoke the Catalan region’s bid for autonomy.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 18, 2014 at 2:32 am


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