Over the next two weeks the twitter-sphere and internet will be full of lists concerning 2016’s memorable moments, top ten’s and awkward regrets. Many people would wish that Brexit was not happening, that Clinton had won the USA election or that they themselves had exercised more effective decisions making in their more personal moment (e.g. such as forgoing that tattoo to celebrate that relationship anniversary with their now ex-lover). So, John Davis highlights what we can learn from 5 things that could have happened in 2016 that didn’t.
1 : Driverless cars and 3D movies could have gained more public acclaim but they didn’t–
We could have had a sudden shift in our trust of computer controlled driving (but we didn’t). The media keep going on about them and there is no doubt that, in the long run, they will save lives and be a fantastic asset e.g. as a solution to drink driving:
Indeed, it’s predicted driverless cars will take over in the next 10 to 15 years but you rarely hear people talking about them in everyday conversations. The public isn’t buying the hype, people will take a lot of persuading and this year raised a lot of questions concerning the safety of driverless technology. http://readwrite.com/2016/09/23/3-reasons-self-driving-cars-arent-driving-public-support-tl1/
Unless, safety issues are resolved, computer controlled cars may become like 3d movies. They surface for a moments acclaim; some people jump on the band wagon; most people don’t and they got back to obscurity.
There have been various phases of 3D Movie hype (e.g. 1950s, 1980s and 2000s) but stats tell us they are expensive to make and customers complain about the quality of many of the movies. Indeed, this year, a shift to post-production 2D to 3D conversion led to big complaints about quality. Avatar 2009 may turn out to be peak oil for the 3D movie industry. The 3 things that have put a check on 3D movie growth are: concern over cost, safety and utility. Would you believe it? These are the same concerns that people have about driverless cars. Conclusion: they are going to suck the pleasure out driving so they better be damn safe if we are going to be convinced to use them. Its the same for independence there will be risks in Brexit and in independence – The SNP better have a damn good plan for how we get through this mess, it better be based on honesty, explain clearly what the problems are and also be candid about the ambiguity/uncertainty politico speak, Ingsoc and spin doesn’t work any more (if it ever did).
2 : Acid rain fall could have increased but it didn’t –
In the age of global warming, it is important to have evidence that demonstrates that national and international policies can seriously reduce environmental pollution. Good news came this year from scientific studies concerning acid rain. See link here: http://sciencebulletin.org/archives/5347.html
Scientist tell us that human generated atmospheric acid pollution is back down to pre-1930s industrialisation levels of acidity. It’s a long time since the United States adopted the clean air act (1956 and amendments 1977/1990), which made companies take steps to reduce acid emissions (e.g. by putting filters in factories). The UK introduced similar legislation (e.g. Environments act 1995 and EU directive 2010) which gave respite for the countries down wind of them.
Lakes in Norway and Sweden have seen some recovery and further recovery is expected by 2030 (depending on non-human acid occurrences such as volcanic activity). This finding is important – it gives hope that we can challenge the big environmental issues of our age – we have learnt from the Tories that they enjoy putting bullets into, and barriers in the way of, the Scottish renewable industries – The Tory post-indy ref behaviour on this issue will be key to explaining the need for independence. Also a vote in Holyrood for 2nd referendum will require the votes of Green (6) and SNP (63) MSPs – this will be an issue that unites them.
3 : Death rates, for the Big four, could have fallen in Scotland but they didn’t –
On a sadder note – death rates should have continued to fall in Scotland but didn’t. Deaths by accidents and probable suicide have dropped which is good news but deaths related to alcohol (though down 34% since 2003) have increased. Similarly, 2015 stats, released in 2016, saw a stall in the fall in deaths from the four big killers (Cancer, heart, respiratory and strokes).
The most likely reason for this bad news is that we are seeing the impact of inequality on the elderly. Tory cuts, post-Brexit vote living cost increases and increased rent costs have all impacted on our living conditions. Top English health expert Professor Danny Dorling specifically links English Tory policies to health inequalities in Scotland:
‘Two years earlier, in 2013 it became apparent who in Scotland had most been effected by the welfare cuts. Hospitals in Scotland have been overwhelmed by less affluent elderly patients who are in poorer health, with the health having been harmed almost certainly as a result of austerity in Scotland imposed by the government that took power in 2010 in England’
Dorling clearly identifies the cause of Scotland’s increased death rates with the politics of Westminster. His comments are eerily reminiscent of the report into the ‘Glasgow effect’. We discussed this report earlier in the year in relation to the life of Scotland first World Champion Boxer, Benny Lynch. See our article on this here:
People living in Scotland continue to die early because of Westminster policies – sadly they have done so for over 100 years. The Benny Lynch article made connections between the life and times of Benny Lynch and Glasgow effect report that demonstrated connection between illnesses of desperation and the policies of unionist politicians and parties. Dorling argues that the SNP government need to be more proactive in mitigating Tory impacts on health by e.g. providing more staff to support the elderly (which is an admirable policy). But, if we were Better Together in the Union why do we have to constantly take on the Westminster establishment to enable people to live more equitable lives? Why, if we are supposed equals in the union do we have to mitigate Westminster unfairness? Why do we pay higher taxes in Scotland to offset Tory cuts? A union that was truly better together would involve dialogue not Holyrood having to tidy up after Westminster’s mess.
Conclusion, when we next get the chance we need to vote for independence so that Holyrood can tackle the health effects of poverty – without one hand tied behind its back, cap in hand and/or as second class citizens. For years Scots have been blamed for their poor health record – such deficit model tactics are used to mask the real culprit which is economic and social exclusion – caused by Westminster induced poverty.
4 : The Italian government could have chosen to have a referendum on equal marriage but they didn’t –
The Italian senate chose to show leadership and voted the change through in early 2016 and the Italian president signed equal marriage into law in May 2016. Research into the 2015 Equal marriage vote in Ireland highlighted the negative experiences for LGBT respondents of prejudiced campaigning by No campaigners during the Irish referendum. 75% of respondents felt negative emotions during the campaign, 80% were upset by the negative NO campaign materials and 78% highlighted being very mush upset by the TV coverage of the campaign. See link here https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/oct/08/same-sex-marriage-irish-campaign-had-negative-effect-on-most-lgbti-people
Conclusion: politicians could have been more courageous in Ireland and voted equal marriage through without the referendum. We need to learn lessons here about SNP support for the TIE campaign and also think about longer term processes of bringing people together over issues like resolving religious denomination segregation in the Scottish school system and sectarianism in wider society. Leadership is required from all our politicians on these issues.
A referendum is a good thing for settling constitutional issues but for settling rights based issues they are problematic because – rights are indelible. You shouldn’t have to beg for your rights to be recognised. For citizens of modern democracies, respect for your rights should come as part of the ‘deal’. Westminster politicians seem to have a lot of trouble understanding this – hence Scotland’s concerns about the Equity Act post-Brexit.
Equally, if SNP MSPs want to show they truly believe in rights – they need to show it where they can e.g. by fully incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and properly responding to discrimination and bullying in schools and any other area of children’s lives.
5 : The information sharing aspect of the named person scheme could have got through the supreme-court but it didn’t –
The supreme-court prevented representatives in local authorities from being able to pass confidential information about children and parents without their permission. See https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9583/what-supreme-court-decision-teaches-us-about-human-rights-and-family-support
In October we wrote of this issue,
‘It should be remembered that the 2014 Act was passed unanimously in the parliament – this is an act owned by all parties – all MSPs have a duty to amend their errors and when doing so, according to the decision, they should take a more human rights focus.’
So even in Scotland, we can make Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ mistakes. The creep of the surveillance culture was resisted by the supreme-court and we are back to where we always were – information can be shared where a child is at risk or with the child and parent’s permission.
Conclusion: At Holyrood, the choice to have committee structure (rather than a revising house) needs to be thought through – if committees aren’t doing their job they need to be beefed up.
We should be very wary of consensus in the Scottish Parliament – We need to watch them closely when there is no opposition to an issue and they all get self-congratulatory – because, it is then, that they collectively pass poor legislation.
Music That Poses Questions For The Year To Come –
Finally a couple of songs, which are oldies but will very well some up the key issues for the year to come and, indeed, the years after that.
Lets not burn our bridges whilst Brexiting: we need to plan a seamless transition and listen more to For The Good Times
Lets ask difficult questions of the Westminster elites that claim they still want us in the union: Arthur Hamilton’s tone here seesm very appropriate ‘Cry Me A River’ And finally –
To all those people this year who said they had shifted their view on independence since the Brexit vote, remember this – Saying your leaving and saying good buy are not the same thing. When the time comes, take heed of the song, be brave and stay true to your word – ‘nae back sliding here’!