Scottish Government Independence Consultation

July 15, 2012

Have the SNP got what it takes?

SNP revel in the success of their INDEPENDENCE CONSULTATION as 26,000 respond.

Responses to the SNP investigation into public opinion on Independence stood at 26,000 as the poll closed yesterday. Ministers say this figure is several thousand higher than their original estimations and is significantly more than the 11,900 responses gathered by April.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE?

The success of the review will certainly be counted as something for the First Minister Alex Salmond to rub in the face of Prime Minister David Cameron, especially after the UK government spent much of the beginning of the year condemning the review after it’s originally rock start. (for more on this see here and here)

The number of responses to the review is not enough in itself to act as a significant blow in the fight for the separation of Scotland but it does look favorably on Salmonds abilities as an organised and passionate leader. It shows Westminster that the people of Scotland are interested in the discussion and do still want talks to proceed. But in a country of around 5 million residents one might wonder if merely 26,000 over a period of several months can really be counted as true public participation.

However, any boasting rights may evaporate as quickly as they arrived: it is not so much the number of results as the result itself that really matters. Salmond should get his digs in quick because the proverbial may well hit the fan if it transpires that opinion is not in his favour.

But hasn’t the discussion been limited recently?

At a time when the question of Independence has been put on ice to an extent, the review may serve as the fire to thaw it out once again.

Recently talks have calmed and concerns focused on more localised issues, a temporary truce apparently called for now, in what can only be assumed is a potential fond farewell to UK national pride: with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee having just passed and the London Olympic Games mere days away, the eyes of the world are upon us. It would be seen as somewhat unsporting, and indeed “unBritish” for the children to be bickering over who gets the biggest slice of the apple crumble. After all, their tea will get cold.

Even the ever ebullient Alex Salmond does not have the heart to take this rare moment of glory away from the UK and seems to be quite happy for Scotland to share this shining moment in British history under the national title and bask in the light from the Olympic Flame – even if just to give us a better chance of winning some medals!

But if Salmond hopes to create his own Scottish Olympic team, he will have a hard time winning over one big Scottish medal contender: Sir Chris Hoy. The cyclist has been quoted as saying a Scottish Olympic team would be “ridiculous”.

He may have captured the interest of the nation, but it seems the First Minister still has a long way to go if he is to win us all over.

SOURCES: gemgoesglobalBBC Radio 1The Scotsman,


Sympathy For Those (Bleeping) Call Center Operators

July 6, 2012

Sympathy For Those (Bleeping) Call Center Operators.


Hunger Games Movie Review

April 16, 2012

So, here it comes. The generic movie review from superfan perspective. May the over-adulation begin!

The Hunger Games is the latest action blockbuster to be delivered to the fan-girl/boy masses, but the questions are – was it any good, and will it be the next big movie franchise?

Hunger Games the movie is based on the first in the bestselling trio of novels by American young fiction writer Suzanne Collins. The story depicts a dystopian future where the world is now known as Panam. 12 outlying districts are ruled over by the Capitol and every year each district is required to put forward a ‘tribute’ of one boy and one girl, who are put into an area and made to fight to the death. The sole winner is allowed to go free and return as a celebrity, with fame and riches, now able to avoid starvation in the districts and live out their lives in comfort. Readers follow Katniss, the district 12 tribute who volunteers in place of her younger sister. She faces the moral dilemma of perhaps having to kill the male tribute from her district, Peeta, who once saved her from starvation. Peeta is revealed to be in love with Katniss, but this potentially tragic love story is complicated by Katniss’s friend-who-could-be-more-than-a-friend from home, Gale. 

I will avoid spoilers because that wouldn’t be fair to anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie or had the entire series explained by an over enthusiastic friend.

Before I address the future of the films I have to say one thing. 

I absolutely LOVED it!

I adored the book series, I have been following them from the very beginning and have spent the past two years bouncing up and down in my seat with excitement at every *EXCLUSIVE* sneak peek video clip, cast list, cast rumour, plot twist and pop culture comparison. I was one of those super fans fuelling the fire beneath those silly movie execs that were on the fence about committing the series to film. After seeing the finished result – you may thank me now! And the rest of the wonderful fans, of course. :D 

So, enough of the barely contained adoration and onto the impartial (ish) analysis.

The film sports a cast of experienced and extremely talented actors including Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Melark.  

Stanley Tucci

Tucci has excelled in every role I have ever seen him in, from child murdering creep in The Lovely Bones to gay, high fashion assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. I challenge anyone to find a role he cannot make better and make his own. Here he plays a charismatic TV chat show host for the games.

Sutherland, well, do I really have to explain? The man is a living legend and his son (Keifer Sutherland, 24) is heading the same way. In this he plays the leader of the capitol, effectively a dictatorial old man (could there be a more current affairs appropriate time for a Hollywood super villain?) and with his soft, somewhat ambiguously accented voice, he pulls off the quiet intimidation of a powerful man well. 

Josh Hutcherson has been cast as the leading man and pulls the sweet and sturdy persona of Peeta off with an ease that suggests he is barely acting the role. He will be setting girls hears a flutter with his portrayal of the love-struck and likeable Peeta, fighting in the arena without a hope for himself, but rather praying to get Katniss home to her family.

Josh Hutcherson

Josh Hutcherson

Relatively new to the game is Liam Helmsworth, playing Gale. Tall, dark, handsome and (for some reason…) dating Miley Cyrus. You may have seen him in the (excellent) mind-fuck of a movie Triangle. About all you need to know about the man for now. The Aussie plays a fairly minor role in this instalment, but in the book seems to be an ever-present factor in Katniss’s thoughts throughout the games. This presence was underused in the film, which was a little disappointing as I don’t feel it builds enough hype to the importance of his character in the next two instalments. I can only imagine it was to minimise the confusion between loveliness and maintain true to the main focus of the story, which is the fight for survival, but they may find they have made more work for themselves in the future.

Liam Helmsworth

Saving the best for last that leaves us with the Girl on Fire, Katniss Everdeen, played by the stunning Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence was absolutely outstanding. Having been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Winter’s Bone ­­­­­­­­­­­last year, the 21-year-old has a wealth of experience already and has developed her skills to the point where she could have carried this movie with ease, without the impressive list of co-stars. Lawrence perfectly captures Katniss’s core values of being a lethal hunter, surviving for so long in harsh district life only by containing her fear in order to provide for her family, with the vulnerability of being a 16-year-old girl thrust into the altogether more terrifying environment of the Hunger Games.

Jennifer Lawrence

The only slight criticism I could make is that she is not exactly the Katniss I had in my head from reading the books. I saw a malnourished, pale-faced girl, possessing all the qualities Lawrence gives our heroine. But she has an answer to justify her more curvaceous, healthy figure. In an interview with GLAMOUR magazine she said “…Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow isn’t scary…”. She makes a very valid point. I accept that and, as I read that interview before seeing the film, I had that idea already imprinted in my mind. Therefore she is Katniss Everdeen, and I am glad of it.

Paying homage to an array of influences, it is unavoidable that comparisons are going to be made to other works. The idea for the story, whilst fantastic, has been done before in a variety of formats. From The Lord of the Flies we can see what happens with the breakdown of reasonable society (take note anarchists). From the likes of Battle Royale we see a similar fight to the death from children, randomly selected and set upon each other in a bit for survival. There are many other examples, Collins herself cites the inspiration for her story to have come when channel hopping between reality TV and a war documentary.

Regardless of whether it has been done before or not, the fictional setting is entirely of her own creation (forget that, yes, there have been many other fictional dystopian societies used as the settings for novels) and it completely adds the feeling of secular seclusion and total societal control that the Capitol has over each of the districts.

Overall, I loved this movie. I thought it was a great compliment to the books and that even if you haven’t read the books you can still enjoy it. 

However, I do feel that you might enjoy it more if you have read them beforehand. Simply because, as with all movie adaptations, certain details have had to be glossed over for the sake of keeping the pace and the interest. With a prior knowledge of the content you can fill in the blanks yourself. I wasn’t alone when I came out of the movie and said I had a sort of inner monologue running throughout it, filling in what Katniss was thinking in certain situations, remembering little details that help justify certain characters actions and so on. It really just adds a little depth and richness to the characters. 

UPDATE FROM WHEN I ORIGINALLY WROTE THIS

Yeah, so I actually wrote this about two days after the film came out because I saw it the day it opened in the UK but forgot to upload it. Since then there has been an update with regards to the filming of the sequel. They have had to begin a search for a new director because of time restraints. The studio is looking to have the movie done by next April so that interest is kept high and fans aren’t left waiting for years and years for all three to be completed. However, star Jennifer Lawrence is to begin filming for the new X-Men movie in January, limiting the time available to get the script written and all that, so the director of the first movie has dropped out. He says that he would feel he couldn’t make such a good attempt at it, given the small time frame he has been given, along with other projects he himself has committed to.

Hunger Games main trio


Is the Independence Movement “Anti-English”? John Redwood seems to think so…

April 5, 2012

Former cabinet minister John Redwood claims that the Scottish movement forIndependence is anti-English.

Redwood gives the SNP a telling off...

The veteran Euro sceptic claims that the way forward is not Scottish Independence from the Union, but English separation from theUKand EU simultaneously. He states that “English nationalism is “the new force inUKpolitics”.

Redwood showed himself to be an Englishman with issues to air after posting a rant on his blog about the determination of anti-European campaigners inEnglandand the benefits ofScotlandsplitting up and shifting control toBrussels.

Expressing his distain for the European Union he cited that he would like to see post referendum negotiations between the rest of theUKand the EU regarding continued membership, if the SNP are successful, of which an independentEnglandwould have no part.

“Scotlandand the rest could keep the EU membership as a leaving present or a poison pill, depending on how you look at it.

“I want theUKto have a referendum on its relationship with the EU. If theUKsplits, I would hope bothScotlandand the rest would have to renegotiate with the EU.”

Redwood ran an unsuccessful campaign against John Major in 1995 for the role of Prime Minister and with comments such as these it seems he is still holding on to the idea of a future forEnglandsimilar to the one now being carved forScotland, thanks to the efforts of First Minister Alex Salmond.

However, as no names were mentioned and there has been little response from other Tory party members to the comments, it would seem that the backbench MP will be standing alone on the English Unionist frontline. Behaving as a more embarrassing form of Alex Salmond is not winning him any supporters in Parliament, it seems.

With the current turmoil and the very real possibility of a union split, few are willing to put their lot in with Redwood as he proposes that Devo Max should be a deal extended toEnglandfrom the EU, giving the country powers over trade and friendship agreements. He claims that it is not in the National best interests to be a part of the “emerging superstate” of the EU.

Partial severance from the European Union has already begun, of course, after David Cameron decided not to take part in the Greek bail out in November, meaning that theUKis no longer involved in certain talks and summits within the EU.Scotland’s place in these discussions, depending on the result of the referendum, has yet to be decided.

SOURCES:

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics-news/2012/03/19/scottish-independence-movement-is-anti-english-says-tory-john-redwood-as-he-demands-devo-max-for-england-86908-23794520/

http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-independence-movement-anti-english-claims-former-tory-minister-1-2182809

The Metro


Salmond Hints At Possible Multiple Question Ballot Paper

April 5, 2012

At a party political address inGlasgow’s SECC, First Minister Alex Salmond gave possible signs of a multi question ballot paper over the referendum, proposed for October 2014.

Mr Salmond was hailed by supporters for his rousing speech on the current success of the Scottish National Party, but was criticised immediately after the event by political analysts for avoiding direct confrontation with the issue of the referendum.

Having promised repeatedly that he has every intention of delivering a ballot asking for a straight yes or no vote on independence, many political commentators were surprised to hear the subtle hints from the SNP leader that this may not be so.

Using phrases which included “a little independence is good for Scotland, a little more is better,” many feel that the First Minister was intimating at the possibility of a multi question ballot paper come October 2014. This would leave options open for the much disputed Devo Max and Devo Plus.

Tom Gordon

Tom Gordon, the Scottish Political Editor of the Sunday Herald, believes what can be taken from the speech is that Mr Salmond was attempting to cushion the blow for when he really does drop the bomb of their being a question on further powers being devolved to Hollyrood from Westminster, without there being full devolution come 2014.

In an interview with Brian Taylor he stated that: “There are a lot of things (DEVO MAX, DEVO PLUS) coming out of the woodwork right now, I think there is a good chance of one of them making it into the ballot paper.”

It is possible thatScotlandcould see a higher state of devolution of power from London to the Scottish Parliament, entitling our country to more extensive control over our own finances, for example,  all in the form of DEVO PLUS and DEVO MAX.

These mysterious DEVO options, while being shrowded in political mystery, seem to be turning into a sort Independence with Stabilisers. We will be given more control, but Westminster could still swoop in if things start to get a little wobbly.

As recently as 22nd March, powers were devolved to Hollyrood regarding income tax and borrowing. This was as part of a deal struck between Scottish andUK governments, however the extra powers were granted without five of the six key demands made by Alex Salmond.

Requests to be granted control of broadcasting, corporation tax, excise duties, the Crown estate, and a formal role at EU meetings have all been rejected by the UK government.

However, at present this would-be safety net is proving a less than reassuring back-up plan. Mainly, because no one seems to really know what any of them are.

Commenting on how the public will not be able to differentiate between the options, when even the politicians seem to be struggling, Mr Gordon said: “A lot of these things are very fuzzy and difficult to vote on. I hope it will all be made a bit clearer perhaps as time goes on.”

And with more, similar packages set for announcement by the end of this year, it seems to be a case of ‘watch this space’ before we find out what the people ofScotlandwill actually be asked to vote on.

When you’re country is in such a state of flux, where no-one is really sure what is going to happen, drawing these issues out cannot be helping their image. If they do not sort themselves out soon and organise even the most basic of details, such as the date we will be asked about Independence, the SNP could see a sizeable chunk of their voters desert them.


Should 16 and 17 Year Olds Be Given the Right to Vote

April 5, 2012

It has to be one of the most hotly contested issues surrounding Scottish Politics – whether or not 16 and 17 year olds should be given the right to vote.

Yet despite this being such a prominent issue, it has taken until now for it to be seriously considered in Parliament. The first real effort to have the age changed to 16 came in December 1999 from Simon Hughes and there have been several other attempts since then. None have ever really taken flight but it seems that the idea will be resurrected to better success as a result of the referendum as the SNP supports the youth vote.

Opinions have long been split over whether or not the youth of our country, or indeed of any country, are prepared to vote in elections ages just16 or 17 and the arguments for each are as relevant now as they have ever been. Ordinarily the voting age is 18 and has been since 1969.

In a society that is primarily youth centric, it would make sense that the age bracket that constitutes the majority of the population would have the right to influence decisions made on them. That seems fair, right? I mean, by age 16 in the UK you can legally marry, have sex and smoke and by 17 you can also drive. Pretty much the only thing you can’t do is have a glass of wine at your wedding.

People these days are living longer and the birth rate continues to rise. The birth rate in the UK is slowing but it is only is Scotland that we are finally seeing a decline.

While this is great for the older folk, and for us young’ins as we’re more or less guaranteed to have someone to take care of us when we’re too lazy or decrepit to take care of ourselves, it does mean that there is more onus placed on the youth from a much younger age.

Everyday we hear reports of figures on “Youth Unemployment”, a phrase so commonplace now that it fails to shock and yet is still an unwelcome and inescapable feature of our society.

So couldn’t it be said that young people have enough to worry about without having to consider the complexities of government? Is it really fair, on top of all the other adolescent adjustments and stresses and strains and life-changing decisions and studies and pressures, that we add another to that infinite pile? And, at, that, one that is going to affect the entire country! I personally am not convinced that the malleable mind of a 16 year old is always prepared to deal with that kind of decision. It all comes down to the maturity of the individual.

Sottish Youth Parliament Logo

Of course, there are many teens who are interested in politics and even some who are actively involved, for example, in the Scottish Youth Parliament. Children – because that is what they are, effectively, at that age – who have an active knowledge of government would of course cherish the privilege of having their vote count toward such an important outcome.

That can be said towards all things though. If you have an interest in music you might watch the X Factor. You might vote for your favourite to win. But that does not mean you are an expert on music. As we have seen in the ITV vs. BBC battle of the talent show with Briton’s Got Talent against The Voice, a lot of what influences peoples decisions are appearances. What it comes down to is that it is very possible that a 16 or 17 year old would vote simply because they can, and vote for a person at random, based purely on whether they like the look of them or not.

The impact of this could be enormous. Election results could be entirely skewed and the best person for the job might lose out. The votes made by informed individuals will mean nothing if counted against an ocean of teens that preferred this politician’s impressive beard over that ones pedo comb-over.

While I am all for more school age people getting involved in politics so that there isn’t that school-like panic when you make the jump from primary to secondary (cue nail biting terror) and feel the pressure to educate yourself on government when you leave school, I don’t think this is the right way to go about it. I feel it would be much easier to just educate young people on politics. Drip feeding them information or bettering the basic understanding if how a government functions or even just the difference between the parties would be better than the pitifully inadequate job they are doing right now. As things stand, you could leave secondary school knowing little more about central government than who is in power!

A friend of mine (who I won’t embarrass by naming) turned 18 in time for the last election. As someone with a general interest in politics, she came to me to ask about the different candidates. I was shocked that by the age of 18 she knew virtually nothing about the people running our country.

We cannot count on young people to all take the initiative as she did and find out for themselves. More needs to be done by the government inScotlandto educate, so that we do not grow a series of generations with no opinion and no way to make the right decisions.

SOURCES:

Anonymous friends embarrassing lack of political knowledge…

http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=need.copy&ID=44375&&keywords=lowering%20the%20voting


Follow-up To Independence Consultation…

April 3, 2012

The SNP have announced a move over consultation responses.

There has been a development on the issue I posted yesterday regarding the mistakes made in the Scottish Governments investigation into Independence. They have decided to discount all anonymous responses amid criticism from Labour representatives.

The SNP had previously claimed that there had been an oversight in the design of the poll, meaning that submissions could be made with the option of remaining anonymous, a fault that permitted the sam person to apply several times causing the results to become skewed. It was all, they said, in the efforts to maintain a level of privacy.

It has now been decided that any responses that “do not include personal identification details” or that were “duplicate identical responses sent from the same computer” would also be excluded.

While this is a measure that makes sense if they want their survey to be taken in any way seriously, given the breadth of media coverage te issue has attracted it could well harm the integrity of it anyway. The public are not going to look kindly on such a basic oversight as this, if it even was an oversight. Without trying to ruffle ant feathers, it is possible that the mistake was ‘accidentally on purpose’, slipped in to encourage people to vote more times, simply because they can in order to support their party.

Such extensive negative coverage regarding the survey may also deter people who were not previously aware of it from voting in it, despite the fact that it does not close for several weeks. On the other hand, all publicity is good publicity and the poll is not the sort of thing you would be likely to find unless you were looking for it, so it could act as encouragement. It has even become such an issue of concern that it had got Journalism students writing about it! Only time will tell on that, when the poll closes in May.

Labour have struck back once again, saying that the SNP appear now to be making things up as they go along, implying that their bit for Independence is getting out of control.

Due to the new measures being taken, 414 of the 11,986 submissions already made will have to be discounted. Whether this will make a huge impact in the long run remains to be seen. They also failed to give details about what percentage of these results were in favour/were not in favour of their party. A statement was issued on their website:

The Scottish Government has published details of the referendum consultation responses as at first thing this morning, which show that only 414 responses out of a total of 11,986 were anonymous – just 3.5 per cent of the total.

These changes address any conceivable concerns about the Scottish Government consultation – while there still remain questions about the Westminster exercise.

Our public consultation is going from strength to strength, and I encourage everyone with an interest to make their contribution to this vitally important discussion on Scotland’s future.

Further posts will be made as this story develops.

To access the consultation that has been causing all the controversy, simply go onto the Scottish Government website and it will ask if you would like to take part: http://www.scotland.gov.uk, then take you to the page via link. Couldn’t be easier.

SOURCES: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/04/scotland-referendum02042012


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