Monday, 25 March 2013

Voterspotting and Shadow Puppets

A day and an hour loomed large this week.

The day – 18 Sep 2014 – is our date with… democratic reform. “Destiny” sounds unnecessarily stirring. Call me Mr Tidy but for me this is about creating clear lines of governance and audit rather than fulfilling something the Corries might have penned.

I had hoped the popular press, who surely have an interest in this battle going to the wire, would try to be a bit open-minded. The Daily Mail helpfully drew a diagram to show its readers how to vote No in 500 days’ time. Tired old phrases like “Break Up Britain” continue to be cranked out. Sigh.

To their credit Scotland on Sunday have been running a series of think pieces, occasionally getting beyond the usual soundbites, and I genuinely hope this piece by Karine Polwart reaches a good chunk of the Undecideds. It’s inspiring stuff and certainly strikes a chord when I force myself to watch Question Time which increasingly looks like it’s reflecting a completely different planet.

I had a wee chuckle at the Sunday Times’ effort at boiling down the sections of society the campaigns will be probably be targeting. They cleverly illustrated the piece with a Trainspotting theme. Look, there’s a man, a lady, another couple of blokes and a man in a Brigadoon outfit. He’s a Highlander. Oh yes. Because, you know, that’s how everyone dresses as they trundle round Tesco Extra on the Inverness Retail Park.
Key voters: Youth, lady, clipboard man, bunnet man, and, er...

If only there was another image they could have used to illustrate “Highlander”. Maybe rather than a stereotype they could have used someone famous from the North. Like Kevin McKidd from Elgin. Who was in Trainspotting. Too clever?

So far my experiences of talking to people who haven’t decided about the referendum fall into two categories. The first group of people don’t really want to think too much about it but aren’t ruling out taking an interest nearer the time. The other group are those who have strong political feelings and are curious about how independence can help get them what they’re after.

In chunks of East Lothian there’s an ingrained Labour vote. ‘Tie a red rag round a brush and people will vote for it,’ was an expression I recall from childhood in the mining community of Tranent. My father’s grandfather, a chap called Lees, was apparently famous as one of the few Tory supporters in the town and would pin blue rosettes to his delivery horses at election time, only for them to be pelted with veg as they made their rounds.

It’s becoming clear those traditional Labour voters are key, with many confirming to me they understand they can vote Yes next year and go back to their traditional voting pattern the year after in the hope of unseating the Tories from Westminster. Whether they then go back to voting Labour in the Holyrood election in 2016 is another matter entirely given the party’s increasing number of grey policy areas.

During these chats I often detect an appetite for something other than the usual main flavours, at which point I remind folk you get two votes in a Scottish Parliament election and the regional vote uses proportional representation to elect 7 MSPs rather than one. Like Karine said in her piece, her Green vote does actually count.

So that’s the day that loomed large. What about the hour? Well, it was arguably more important than the referendum – Earth Hour on Saturday. (I remain amazed at some hardcore Nats who insist we need independence first and then we can figure out stuff like climate change. Why would you argue to get control of something without saying what you’d do with it?)

I am usually a wee bit sceptical of campaigns that go mainstream. Earth Hour is a good example. This year it felt like Comic Relief with lots of people pledge their support and being seen to be doing so. I can’t help thinking the excitement of going without electric light on a Saturday night overshadows the real need to conserve power all year round, and for the transition to renewables to gather pace.

Speaking of shadows the Bairn had a whale of a time in her candlelit bath. Getting her Octonauts toys to act out their usual adventures but via the medium of shadow puppetry gave them a whole new lease of life.
Barnacles reacts to the SNP's climate change plan

This week parliament debates the Scottish Government’s proposals and policies for reducing carbon emissions, which frankly are beyond the rescue of even Captain Barnacles and his polar bear might. We need to cut emissions from transport and housing by investing in walking, cycling and public transport and by insulating homes properly. Instead the government appears to be pinning hopes on a mystery solution when they’re in their dotage. The first emissions targets were missed; they blamed extremely cold weather. Thank goodness that’s unlikely to happen again!

On an unrelated note, do excuse me: I must rub some more goose fat under my thermals and crank up the radiators a bit more. In true dad style I am livid at the prospect of still having the central heating on as the calendar flips over to say April.

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