Category Archives: Scotland

5 No-Brainer Reasons to Support Scottish Independence

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It’s no secret that I’m a steadfast supporter of Scottish independence. If you thought it was a secret, see this post here on why I do. You can also read this piece I wrote for National Collective in August. (NOTE: as of Thursday, 11 April, the second link will take you to a blue screen with a brief statement about legal action. The ‘Better Together’ campaign initiated legal action after National Collective posed questions about the ethics of their (Better Together) accepting a large donation from Ian Taylor. None of those questions received a response. Instead, the actions of Better Together were to threaten and silence the opposition rather than engaging in candid discussion about this very important topic. The National Collective website should be up and running again in a few days.)

UPDATE: National Collective are back, and they have something to tell the world about free speech in Scotland. We Will Not Be Bullied

Since we’re on the topic contained in my little parenthetical above, let’s start there!

5. The Best Offense is…Threats?

Not only have I yet to see a compelling argument to keep Scotland in the union aside from the perceived powers of political benefit Scotland receives from being part of a larger whole, but the fact that Better Together resort to threats and legal actions when they are questioned brings up a slew of other issues.

If you have a case for a No vote, make it. Engage. Create positive dialogue. And when you accept a huge donation from someone with a lot of gray areas in his background and refuse to answer legitimate questions about his ethics — well. That does nothing for your case.

National Collective aren’t the only ones to put a spotlight on Better Together donors.

The fear tactics and scaremongering within the No campaign have been  rather remarkable, from saying Scotland will lose its standing in the EU, to not being able to use the pound, to not keeping rights to Scottish oil and natural gas. Most of these questions have already been addressed to some degree by now, but the tactic continues to be the same.

Here’s a mild example from City A.M.

Here’s a less mild example from UK Prime Minister David Cameron. This one boils down to “if Scotland becomes independent, she’ll lose all her defence jobs.” Because an independent Scotland would just let defence go hang? It also adds in the “Scotland only matters to the world because she’s part of the UK” spiel that carries that friendly little flavour of condescension.

Defence jobs DO matter. But an independent Scotland would need her own defence.

Alistair Darling equated Scotland seceding with a “one-way ticket into uncertainty.”

Uncertainty. Indefensibility. Economic instability. These words ALL sound big and loomy in a recessive world economy. The message overall is that Scotland can’t survive outside the UK and wouldn’t be able to go running back to Mummy London.

A decision for a Yes or No vote ought not be based on threats or scare mongering. Scotland indeed is in possession of a unique opportunity to succeed as a small, great nation on the world stage. By silencing opposition and failing to provide a positive, progressive alternative to Scotland becoming independent, the Better Together campaign fails to make a case for winning the votes they desire.

Just because something is complicated doesn’t preclude its value. So far, the Yes campaign has provided a more positive picture of what the future of Scotland could be.

4. Have a spare room? We’ll tax that.

The Bedroom Tax. For Americans reading this, it might sound like a bit of a joke — and most Scots agree. Except it’s not a joke. It’s a real tax imposed by Westminster this year.

The basics of the Bedroom Tax are this: they slash the housing benefit for people who have one or more spare rooms in their home by 14% and 25% respectively. The estimated cost to citizens? Upward of £14 per week, according to the Guardian. David Cameron calls it the ‘spare room subsidy.’

Oh, and this tax will hit the poor the hardest.

Austerity measures have already resulted in an increase of homelessness in England. So what do Scots think about the Bedroom Tax?

According to this poll, 58% of Scots think Cameron should scrap the Bedroom Tax altogether. (I’ve seen data that suggests this number to be MUCH higher, but I am having trouble re-finding the source. If you have one, let me know, and I’ll update.) But Westminster imposed the tax anyway, which could lead to evictions among low-income citizens.

3. How do you feel about…nukes?

Trident. This is the installment of nuclear-armed submarines at Faslane, just outside Glasgow.

Glasgow is, incidentally, Scotland’s largest city.

The vast majority of Scots oppose nuclear armament and the location of these nukes, which Westminster doesn’t want in England for ‘safety reasons.’

So, they can’t go in England, because it’s unsafe. But it’s fine to plunk them in the Clyde outside Scotland’s largest metropolis.

Yeah, most Scots think that’s wonky as well. But they’re stuck with it until either independence or convincing Westminster to plop the nukes somewhere else. (Which will happen. I’m sure. Really. Just ask them. I’m sure they’ll be amenable to moving Trident to England. Or, you know, Wales. I’m sure the Welsh would love it.)

And let’s not forget that David Cameron has brought North Korea into the Trident debate in another little bout of ‘or else’ politics, saying that the UK needs the nuclear deterrent.

2. Austerity?

It’s no secret that the Scots lean farther to the left than their English counterparts.

With the Tories enacting austerity measures (like the aforementioned Bedroom Tax) and slashing public programmes and welfare, Scots will be affected as much as anyone else in the UK — but they’re least in favour of these measures.

Scotland values its healthcare, education, and benefits services. While devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood have allowed for some greater control over certain things, Scotland is still subject to Westminster for its revenue.

These cuts are slated to cost the Scottish economy a mind-bending £1.6 billion.

All of these issues are important. Trident. How the No campaign does its campaigning. The effects of austerity under a Conservative Westminster. The Bedroom Tax. But all of this is secondary to the final reason…

And that’s this:

TelegraphMap2010Election

1. Scotland’s future should be in the hands of Scots.

See that big yellow and red chunk at the top of the island? That’s Scotland.

Within the UK, Scotland is ruled by Westminster when it comes to important issues like Trident, immigration, and more.

And how many Scots voted for the party that is in power in Westminster?

50%? 35%?

Guess lower.

Only 15% of Scots voted Conservative in the 2010 election. Which means 85% of them voted against the party that now leads the United Kingdom, and by proxy, erm…them.

Scotland’s future should be decided by Scots. When 85% of your country wants something different, it ought not be ruled by that remaining 15%. That’s not democracy when you look at it on that level. If the map were more spotted with blue, if the Scots were more scattered on these central issues — maybe it would make a more compelling argument for remaining within Westminster’s domicile.

But it doesn’t. And if Scotland remains in the United Kingdom, her interests will continue to be sidelined by her more populous neighbour to the south. That’s just democracy in action when your country is part of a larger entity. Westminster acts for the betterment of England more often than Scotland because well, most of the people on the island are in England. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that Scotland has its own views, its own needs, and its own legitimacy as a country. And it doesn’t rule out the benefits of self-determination, nor does it preclude the assertion that Scottish issues aren’t addressed as well as they could be within the United Kingdom.

This isn’t all about who gets the North Sea oil and gas.

It’s about the citizens of a great country having the right to decide their own future.

Scotland should be independent.

I won’t be allowed to vote on the referendum. Everything in this article is my opinion or based on articles from reputable reporting agencies, with sources stated to the best of my (fairly lazy) ability. You can feel free to check these things out yourself if you’re feeling feisty. I’m not a Scot by passport, but I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I have a vested interest in Scotland’s future. Namely, I would like to move there. If you have any questions about Scottish independence, feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer. If I can’t, I’ll refer you to someone more qualified. 

Here’s some more light (ha) reading on the subject for your perusal.

A Yes Vote Would Take Us Closer to Nuclear Disarmament

An Oil Fund For Scotland

Routemap for Renewable Energy

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You Never Know What You’ll Find…

…at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

I spent Sunday there to see my favourite band, Albannach, and it was a day full of wonders and revelry. I thought I would share some of the more exciting bits of the day with you, including some vendors that make me wish I had all the monies to spend on their wares.

Badger Blades

They make fully functional weaponry, and they’ll bash up anvils with it if you don’t believe it. You can check out his website here. They’re a friendly lot over at Badger Blades, and you can always find them at the Renn Fest, ready to peddle pointy objects to those of us who love them.

Shiny. And pointy. I like shiny and pointy.

 

Broadswords and claymores for the more hack-and-slash among us. Which is to say, excuse me while I wipe the drool from my mouth.

 

I believe these are the bastard swords (and a cutlass or two?). Though they are still every bit as legitimate in combat.

 

And of course, daggers and pendant daggers. Stash a few of these about your person. Just be careful when you hug people if you forget to buy a sheath.

 

Interlude: A Horse of a Different Colour

From Big Bird to a dancing duo of Mario and Luigi, the Renn Fest is full of all sorts of glorious characters. These were a few of my favourites.

Kilts, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, storm trooper, Scottish, kilt

Just look at these snazzy folks.

Moresca

This vendor makes some of the most glorious Renn Fest wear you’ll find. From fairy bodices to cloaks and lush velvet caped gowns, they’ve got it all. A few years ago I bought a full costume from them. I’ll have to lose about twenty pounds to fit in it again, but hell. That’s a goal for next year’s Renn Fest. Check out their website and ogle their wares below.

These hairpieces complement just about any look!

Set Outfit Capacity to “Stun.”

 

Or you could go straight for the fairy bodices. Try not to drool on them. I have one in blue.

One of the Best Things About the Renn Fest…

…is that you can find just about any kind of food on a stick. Or fried. Or fried on a stick.

The signage complements the turning foliage.

 

Pick your poison.

Miles Tonne Leather Wear

Talk about drool worthy. Miles Tonne creates custom leather wear for the discerning humanfolk. I’ve been gnashing my teeth over my inability to afford well…one of everything in his shop for ages. The ragged skirts? Killer. The bodices? So well made you’ll want to give up on Victoria’s Secret and their miracles. He’s got a website, too.

If you ever find him at your local Renn Fest, they’ll help you get into whatever garments you want to try. Here’s me in mine:

Over the clothes, but it still works!

Interlude: The Targaryens Are Coming!

In my wandering, I discovered Dany Targaryen romping around with one of her children in tow.

She says hello.

Grichels

Every once in a while, I find something new and so wonderous that I can’t help but wander goofy-smiled for the rest of the day. Sunday was one of those whiles. I discovered Grichels, and they are so splendid and deliciously different and fantastical that I had to share them with you. Visit their online home here.

Tissue-Grichel is sad you have a cold.

 

I want to carry this everywhere.

 

I feel like there has to be magic inside this.

 

Best. Screen. Evar.

 

This handbag would discourage cutpurses.

 

I would love a home full of Grichels.

Got a Kindle? They make Kindle covers. And iPad covers. And legal pad holders. Need a new wallet? They make those too. What a wondrous craft. Maybe it’s that they remind me of Green Men, but I was a wide-eyed child again in their shop. Love it.

No post about the Renn Fest would be complete without the reason I went: Albannach. So here are a few pictures of the band, who are lovely. And can I just say that Jacquie Holland is the loveliest of all lovely humans. She and I had a few quite nice conversations, and she asked me if she could read my book. (!)

Did I mention her voice will give you chills? It will. She has a tremendous and haunting resonance to her tone.

The band, minus one bodhran player who is on paternity leave. Congratulations to Aya Thorne on the birth of his new baby!

My day at the Renn Fest was a glorious one, and one that will probably remain in my memory for another reason — it ended up juxtaposed with the news that my beloved granny has left us. So I’ll leave you with one last picture of something my grandma made sure I had before she passed. It’s a locket with her baby picture and a toddler Emmie.

Where’s Your Gods Now?

(Poor grammar in title intentional.)

In an effort to do some more background research for the yet-incomplete third novel of my epic urban fantasy trilogy (genre coined by this hopeful and not at all out of conceit), I’ve begun delving into Celtic mythology. Partly because I’ve always wanted to learn more about it, and partly because I have a masochistic attitude toward the amount of projects currently occupying my schedule.

The gods of the Gaels are a dark and mysterious lot. Most of them evolved in the British Isles, and as such are often concerned with water and darkness as much as venerated for bringing sunshine and light. In an area that sees epic amounts of rainfall, it makes perfect sense for the Gaels to have created an even more discrete dichotomy for their diametrically opposing forces of gods.

Yin Yang

Yin Yang (Photo credit: M@R©K)

The Gaelic Dichotomy

Dark and light, night and day, crunchy and smooth.

A dichotomous arrangement of pagan gods was not uncommon in pre-Christian civilisations. Thor and Odin fought the Jötuns; Zeus, Hera, and Co. fought the giants; and the Indian Devas fought the Asuras. The X-Men fought the Brotherhood of Mutants.

For the Gaels, their gods presided on opposite sides of the horizon. The Tuatha Dé Danann were the gods of sun, light, fertility, prosperity, hugs, and puppies. The Fomors reigned over night, darkness, and everything nature does to make your day more obnoxious.

The former are named for the over-goddess Danu, the mother of all other Gaelic gods. More about her later. The Fomors, whose name comes from the Gaelic for “under the sea” (not a reference to a wee red crab singing to a recalcitrant mermaid) have even more levels of interesting within their appellation.

For dwellers of an island nation, especially one prone to as much sogginess as those that occupy the North Atlantic, the sea represented a cold mystery that could (and did) hold death as much as it provided sustenance. Dark and wet and hostile — these were the Fomors. Often ugly and misshapen (with a few notable exceptions), even the deities themselves were analogies of the strange creatures that lurk beneath the waves.

Even beyond that, the line between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomors is all the more distinct for the extremities of night and day that exist in the northern latitudes. Winter is long and dark, buffeted by winds from the seas. Summer is brief, but full of light and stretching days. These natural elements shaped the Gaelic gods like a pudding in a mould.

Note the spiral triskele, a symbol of the triune path of womanhood from maiden to mother to crone and the unity of all its parts.

Danu, Goddess of Lots of Sex and Babies

While Danu is credited as the mother of all Celtic gods, it should be said that she  is the oldest goddess we have record of, and it’s likely that farther back in time, there were tales of her forbears as well.

Danu is the quintessential fertility goddess, bringer of light and the one to chase barrenness out of your bedchamber with a broom. The etymology of her name (because I’m a nerd about things like that) comes from the Indo-European root meaning “flowing water,” and interestingly there is a mother-goddess of the Indian Asuras by the same name. You’ll also find it as a name for rivers like the Danube.

Lompoc Dagda Barrel-aged Irish Style Red Ale

And the Great Good and Many-Gifted has become…beer. Lompoc Dagda Barrel-aged Irish Style Red Ale (Photo credit: The Northwest Beer Guide (aka, The Pickled Liver))

Dagda, the Goodly-Wise

Danu’s benevolent counterpart (though not her husband) was Dagda, whose name means “the good god.” He was an earth god and can sometimes be seen depicted as a green man, though in most stories he’s wearing more brown tunic than leafy-face.

Dagda had a cauldron called “Umbry,” from which people were given food according to their merit (I assume that applies to the quality of the food, because it’s also said that no one would leave unsated — though if you sucked as a human, you’d likely be sated on stale lumpy porridge rather than roast veal and honeycakes). Benevolent as he was, Dagda also toted a massive war club around with him that took eight men to lift — so don’t doubt his smiting abilities by the fact that he named his cauldron.

This is all much too friendly for the warlike Celts, so let’s move on to…

silver hands

Like this, but just the one. silver hands (Photo credit: Neil)

Nuada Silver Hand

Dubbed Argetlán for his shiny metallic appendage, Nuada wasn’t all about the glitz. Or at least, not the sort of glitz one might expect. Nuada delighted in slaughter and surrounded himself with warlike consorts (who were incidentally also known for their skill in the battleground of bed).

Savage and bloodthirsty, Nuada was twice the High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, ousted for seven years by Bress (a half-Fomor and one of the few exceptions to the “all Fomors are really hideous” clause”), and restored when he gained a fully-functional silver hand to replace the one that got sliced off in battle. In Welsh mythology, he is known as Lludd Llaw Eraint (which also means Silver Hand).

The Mother, the Giver, the Warlord. These form the cornerstones of Gaelic mythology and provide a window into the values of my ancestors. They worshiped gods who provided life and acted with generosity, and they worshiped gods who protected their lands from the already-evident pattern of encroaching invaders. Gods who they hoped would keep the night and the sea at bay (no pun intended) and create a bountiful land from the lush but isolated islands of the North Atlantic.

Next time we’ll get ugly and talk about the Fomors — until then I am going to see if I can go find myself the Undry to see what food I’m worthy of consuming.

Dichotomies and symbolism are inherent in all religions. In what ways do you see the similarities between the ancient faiths and contemporary religion?

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