All posts by ian

An Interesting Campaign

If you can avoid the usual anti-scottish rants in the comments that is…

it’s been a while since I posted, largely because I have been quite content with the world. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff there to annoy a Scottish Atheist if you look hard enough, but for a while at least, things are ticking along nicely.

Labour has been self destructing nicely, eating itself to death, culminating in them losing Glasgow East to the SNP – good days indeed. The SNP government have been getting on with governing (and doing a darn good job of it) and drawing praise from the Scottish business community to boot.

But this one caught my eye today – I was following the hoo-hah of the Olympics banning the ‘other’ UK flags – the Saltire, St George’s Cross and the Welsh Dragon.. it’s because of Tibet, naturally, but annoying nonetheless. I don’t really have the stomach for waving a Union Jack. So, on the forum, someone linked in the Fair Flags campaign..

The basic upshot of the campaign is that lots of food is labelled as ‘English’, then has a Union Jack added, rather than the English flag – which is the St George’s Cross.

Now this is one I can really get behind – it’s a natural justice thing. I remember as a schoolkid being taught how to make up a Union Jack from the Saltire, St George’s Cross, and the St Patrick’s Cross of Ireland. While we have a Union, we have to remember that we are the United Kingdoms plural, not the United Kingdom singular.

It seems only natural that just the same way a Scotsman would wave a Saltire in support of his team, an Englishman would wave the St George’s cross – and you would expect that just the same way butter from Dumfries and Galloway or cheese from Ayrshire was labelled as local produce with a Saltire, there would be no problem with cider from Somerset, or Bacon from Yorkshire carrying the English flag – loud and proud.

Tesco, on the other hand, thinks otherwise – they claim that this is because Scots and Welsh would not buy produce with an English flag.. well maybe during the world cup qualifiers, but seriously? this is ridiculous. It’s like authorities falling over themselves to avoid offending muslims when the vast majority of muslims just don’t care. A completely non scientific straw poll of opinions here says that this is just wrong – English strawberries in particular are highlighted as being extra juicy: the climate further south is much better for them apparently.

This is basically like the West Lothian question all over again – and in the same way, it’s not a difficult problem. The West Lothian question, of course, is whether Scottish MPs (elected to the UK parliament) should be able to vote on issues affecting only England.. and the answer is obviously no – what moral right does one population have to inflict policies on another population that didn’t vote for them.

And that’s, unfortunately, where the Fair Flags campaign turnsĀ  a bit ugly – England is currently enduring a Labour government (well, really, we are all enduring a labour government) that they did not vote for. It’s unfair, and a lot of English people are unhappy about it. I would be too… and I was, when it was happening to us. England voted in Thatcher’s government, Scotland didn’t want her, and she set about dismantling and destroying our industry as punishment. We had the Poll tax inflicted on us two years before England as a trial – because she knew fine well it wouldn’t make a difference: Scotland’s votes didn’t matter to her.

The commentors trot out The Barnett Formula (where Scotland is funded at a higher rate than England), but oddly enough, fail to consider the income to the treasury *FROM* Scotland (hint – Scotland puts in a lot more than it gets out, even when you don’t consider THE OIL. Remember? The Oil off Scotland’s coast?)

All this does is underline that Scotland and England have wildly different electorates – and the ‘Union’ is like the front end of a pantomime horse stitched onto the back end of a pantomime cow. It’s fooling nobody – and it’s time to bring the whole sorry thing to an end.

Oh, and in the meantime, please let Tesco know that Real Scots are not so petty as to avoid fruit and veg because it comes from England.

Sad News…

I saw that someone died in a house fire last night – and then realised that I knew him.

Denis McKenna – I worked with him in my first real IT job, at the Blood Transfusion Service based in Law Hospital. Denis was one of the developers there – and had a wicked sense of humour.

He suffered fromĀ  a degenerative condition which meant that he used a wheelchair and only worked three days a week (much to the annoyance of the management!). It looks very much like he was trapped in the house, and couldn’t get out.

in coding we often have to make little variables for general purposes – looping through some records, or just keeping a count of something. We used to code in Clipper S87 – a language designed for working with dbase databases, and there were a huge number of reserved words (that you can’t use for variable names, because the system handles them in a special way), which included “count”.

We usually abbreviated it to “cnt” – not Denis. He always abbreviated it to “cunt” – again, much to the annoyance of the management.

he was a real character – and the world is a slightly less interesting place today because he’s no longer here.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh out loud or just smile…

I was at a friend’s birthday party at the weekend, and as I intended to enjoy some VERY nice Whisky, we called a taxi for the journey home.

The taxi driver was quite chatty, talking about going for a walk during the day – we made polite chit chat, despite being quite pleasantly gassed… until it took a rather unpleasant turn.

We discussed being up north at the top of Scotland – Dunnet Head, one of the most beautiful parts of the country. He asked if we had ever seen the Northern Lights (I have – it’s a wonderful thing). Then he asked “Have you seen a shooting star?”.

One of our late night expeditions last year was to go and watch the Leonid shower in November – not the best year, but we saw a few… I answered yes, with a sudden sense of where this was going.

Sure enough, he asked “do you know what that is?”.

My hackles went up… and so would anyone else who has ever “debated” with this strange breed of Muslim who considers themselves a “scholar” whilst really doing little more than regurgitating the same old nonsense. Jen asked him “well that depends – most of them are just bits of rock or old space hardware burning up.”

“no, those are demons trying to enter our atmosphere and being hit with a rock”.

It only went downhill from there. He asserted that the quran was flawless and everything in it had been scientifically proven (I insisted that this was absolutely not the case).

He then launched off on another wackjob explanation – again involving “djinns” – before I really had heard too much. I came up with the argument which got him to shut up – which I was quite pleased with considering how much fine Islay malt I had consumed…

Those explanations are obviously just the people of the first and second century trying to explain the world around them in a way that made sense to them. Now that we have tools like science to examine the world, we don’t need books of old myths any more.

He didn’t speak again until we made it home…

Strength in Numbers.

One of the key differences between Atheists and Christians is that christians have a ready made support network that they see regularly. I actually think that in a lot of cases, that’s really the sole reason for some people to go to church.

Being an Atheist trying to make a difference can be a fairly lonely pursuit – and that’s here in Scotland, a country where there are a lot of us! We live in an incredibly free environment where Atheism is, if not actually promoted, certainly accepted. Our lot appears to be better than our colleagues in the United States, for instance.

That’s always one of my key reasons for doing this – for being involved in things like godless heathens and so on. I feel a bit of responsibility that I should give something back to the Atheist and Secular community.

It’s kinda cool then, to get a reminder of just how many of us there are – to realise that Atheists are not in any way a small group. The best one I have seen in a long time is the Atheist Blogroll

There are now in excess of 650 blogs listed there, and I have spent a couple of happy hours trawling through just a handful. I’m quite happy that my own little efforts are now included.

Together, we Atheists are strong!