Monday, December 30, 2013


As many of you will know, I've been a fan of Michael Schumacher ever since he came on the Formula 1 scene in 1991. You can imagine  how I'm feeling this morning as the news from Grenoble sounds ever grimmer.

I know that it's par for the course for news to be progressively scarier in the days following a severe brain trauma. Things get a lot worse before they start to get better. I know from my own experience with a friend that when hope appears lost, recovery can come.

My thoughts are with his wife Corinna and all his family and friends. Let's hope that by the time of his birthday on Friday, we are looking at a much calmer, better prognosis.

I've found the tweets from former Formula 1 doctor Gary Hartstein very helpful in understanding what's going on.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Alison McInnes: Scots law is not safe in the hands of the SNP

As the Scottish Parliament continues to debate the removal of corroboration from our legal system, I thought it would be a good idea to publish Alison McInnes MSP's speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in September which gives a good summary of the arguments why this may not be a good idea. Alison is as committed as I am to ensuring justice for victims of domestic and sexual assault, but she doesn't think that removing corroboration will help.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to move this motion today.

A number of key principles must always underpin any justice system.

·         It must be impartial.
·         It must be proportionate.
·         And it must be fair.

Corroboration is the requirement that each crucial fact in a criminal case – namely that a crime was committed and by the accused - must be supported by two different, but mutually enforcing, pieces of evidence.

Now, ours is the only criminal justice system in Europe to require corroboration. So why should we be precious about it?

For hundreds of years, since the foundations of our Scots law were laid, it has been established that that no individual should be convicted of a crime based on the testimony of a single witness.

But I don’t defend it because of tradition.

Rather, I defend it because it protects against miscarriages of justice. The fact is that the word of one person, regardless of their status or perceived character, is not enough.  Similarly, a sole piece of forensic evidence should not be enough to convict.

You cannot remove this pillar of our justice system, without making the whole structure unstable.

In other jurisdictions, in the absence of a corroboration rule, there are a whole series of checks and balances to protect against wrongful conviction.   

For example, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have

·         greater regulation of police investigations.
·         Preliminary hearings to test the quality of evidence.
·         Judges have the power to exclude poor quality or prejudicial evidence.
·         Unanimous verdicts are required in the first instance.
·         And there are wider grounds for appeal following a verdict that could be deemed unsafe.

We do not have any of these necessary safeguards.

But the SNP intends to remove corroboration without ensuring that there are sufficient alternative safeguards in the trial process to give that protection.

Indeed taken with their other reforms – changes to double jeopardy and proposals on the admissibility of evidence of bad character or previous convictions, and we should be very worried. This is a profound change – sweeping aside centuries of well-established Scottish legal practice.

Conference, Scots Law is not safe in the hands of the Scottish National Party.

In Scotland the Crown prosecutes in the public interest. We must guard against any shift towards prosecuting in the victim’s interest. That would be at odds with our fundamental liberal belief in the need for a robust, transparent and independent justice system.

We need to defend the principle of the presumption of innocence and safeguard against false accusation, wrongful conviction and miscarriages of justice.

The SNP’s proposals will mean that someone could be convicted on the basis of the testimony of just one person, even if five of the fifteen jurors believe that they are innocent.

Witnesses can be honest yet mistaken. Their evidence persuasive but wrong.

And, unfortunately, witnesses do sometimes lie to the police and in court- out of earnest to ensure that the accused is convicted, because of the strength of their convictions or through spite.

I am concerned that scrapping corroboration could mean that false accusations could become more common. The Law Society of Scotland warns that trials could be reduced to “a contest between two competing statements on oath”.

Corroboration should not be seen as a cumbersome requirement that blocks cases being taken to trial.

It does not simply deliver a quantity of evidence. It is ensures the quality of it. It reinforces facts. It confirms facts. It is a way to test the reliability and credibility of evidence. It is key to determining the guilt or otherwise of the accused.

We cannot allow trials to hinge on lesser evidence. Wrongful convictions bring the law into disrepute. Justice Scotland has said the removal of corroboration will risk “justice being undone”.

The SNP claim that corroboration is a barrier to justice, particularly for those victims of sexual crimes.  But the research they rely on is scant - a cursory desk top study carried out by the Crown Office. In the absence of clear in-depth evidence, it would be reckless to proceed in blind hope.

Now, Conference, I am sure that you will agree with me that conviction rates for rape remain stubbornly low.

Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly share the aspiration to improve conviction rates.  No one should be beyond the reach of our justice system. We must strive to ensure that the victims of rape, sexual assaults and domestic abuse receive the justice they deserve.

There are a number of ways to tackle that – for example a much more rigorous approach to the gathering of forensic evidence, and we could examine the idea of rape victims being represented by a lawyer in the court, something that happens in Belgium. 

However, contrary to the SNP’s claim, there is a real danger that scrapping corroboration could actually reduce the chances of victims of these crimes securing justice.

We might get more cases into court, but there is no evidence that we would secure any more convictions. The alleged victim could face a much more aggressive cross examination in the absence of supporting evidence. Juries are less likely to convict on the say so of one piece of evidence. More acquittals or not proven verdicts in these cases will not help anyone.

There’s a long list of those who warn against losing this vital safeguard.

·         The Senators of the College of Justice.
·         The Law Society of Scotland.
·         The Faculty of Advocates.
·         Justice Scotland.
·         The Scottish Human Rights Commission

The Justice Secretary would be foolish to ignore all those voices.

Like you, I am proud to say that I joined the Liberal Democrats because I believe in a just, free and fair society.

It is therefore a privilege to be my party’s justice spokesperson, to have the opportunity to champion these values, and to lead the fight against a succession of ill-considered and botched reforms from Kenny MacAskill and the SNP.

In the face of their dogged desire to centralise services, increase ministerial control, and push reforms through without hesitation or due consideration, we need strong liberal voices at Holyrood and across Scotland.

They abolished our local police forces. They are closing our local courts.  And now, through the Criminal Justice Bill, they want to get rid of corroboration.

We are on a slippery slope, not to independence but to injustice. 

If our justice system fails to uphold the right to a fair trial then it also fails to serve victims of crime. It fails to serve Scotland.

I urge members to join me in voting for this motion. Join me in sending a message to the SNP that it cannot cut corners when it is dealing with those issues that matter most to us as Liberal Democrats - justice, freedom and fairness.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Here be many spoilers, so if you haven't watched The Time of the Doctor, do not read any further

I've watched it twice now. And I think I probably need to watch it a few more times before I properly understand it. I can't come out and say that I loved last night's Doctor Who Christmas special. That was never going to be on the cards, though. I've loved Matt Smith as the Doctor, however much I've occasionally been annoyed at the directions his character has taken. That's not his fault, though. He acted the scripts the writers gave him with more flair, quirkiness and originality than even they could possibly have imagined. His last show was always going to be an ordeal, an assault on my emotions. Even 4 years on, I cry whenever I watch David Tennant's regeneration. And 8 years on my reaction to Eccleston's isn't that much easier.

And so we come to Steven Moffat. His ears must have been burning last night. Twitter exploded, evenly split between outrage and adoration for the episode. How very Twitter. I'm quite happy to criticise Moffat and his predecessor as head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies when I think they get it wrong, but let's get a bit of perspective here. 25 years ish ago, Michael Grade took Doctor Who from its safe Saturday tea time slot and put it up against Coronation Street in the hope of killing it once and for all. In 2013, fresh from the triumphant 50th anniversary episode, Doctor Who went up against Corrie on Christmas Day and whipped its backside. And that's down to great writing, great acting and great production values. Moffatt is the guy in charge and he deserves gratitude and credit for his part in the sustained revival of the show I feel in love with when I was just 7 years old.

Just as an aside, I have Corrie recorded and I know I'm going to howl my eyes out at that, too. The authenticity and tenderness which David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh bring to Hayley's terminal cancer storyline is phenomenal. The real mix of emotions, from anger to poignant moments of joy to shock and fear just jump out at all of us.

But back to Who. Last night's episode, for the hardcore fan, was going to be a very different beast from last month's The Day of the Doctor. In that one, Moffat managed to satisfy fans with lots of in jokes and a secret kept - the appearance of Tom Baker as the Curator - and appeal to new audiences too. That was never really on the cards for the Christmas Special. For a start, he had to tie up the loose ends in stories that some of the fandom didn't like anyway. He did it, although he had to use a pretty big shoehorn at times.

This episode had action, drama, pathos, creepiness and comedy all packed into an emotional adrenaline-filled hour. That bit towards the end when you went from the noise of a battle scene to the poignant and tearful regeneration. We all knew it was coming, but Moffat managed to mess with our heads enough, changing what has become the established pattern of a regeneration so that when Capaldi's head literally popped out of Matt Smith's neck in a flash, we were all surprised. Very clever.

Moffat is a bloody genius. No doubt about that. I do, though, have one huge plea for him in the new series. He has to learn how to write better female characters. Women seem to come in two types in his universe. River or Amy. I mean Tasha Lem was a "hello sweetie" away from being almost a carbon copy of River Song, right down to the alien takeover that she had to fight. And "hey babes" isn't really that far away, is it? I guess the excuse would be that the programming River was subjected to was based on Tasha Lem by the Kovarian line who went back to try to kill the Doctor before he ever arrived in Trenzalore. Not buying it, though. Orla Brady was brilliant, though. Pity she wasn't allowed to age, though, like the Doctor, because you couldn't possibly have a woman doing that, could you?

And then there was Handles, the cyber head he had picked up at the nicely named Maldovar Market, a tribute to the excellent Dorium Maldovar from A Good Man goes to War. Not sure I liked the way the Doctor slapped him when he got irritated, but as things which replace the TARDIS when the ship isn't available go, he was pretty good. A slightly mawkish ending for him, though.

The beginning of the episode was action-packed, although if you are being sensible you have to ask what the earthly point was of the Doctor going aboard all these ships when he knew perfectly well who was on them. But at least we got to see the Doctor in mortal peril from his sworn, ancient enemies.

We now come to the entirely gratuitous nudity.  It was funny on board the TARDIS, but, and this is a big failing of Moffat's Eleventh Doctor, why on earth did he think it was appropriate to turn up at Christmas Dinner with Clara's family in the buff?  The Doctor has learnt enough about humans in a millennium to know that's a pretty serious social gaffe. But then, it's entirely appropriate in a retrospective in which we are saying farewell to this character.

I wonder if, under Capaldi's tenure, we'll be able to have a non-Victoriana Christmas Special. The village of Christmas, snowy and romantic, would have been fine if similar hadn't featured so relentlessly. I mean, the Doctor has the whole of time and space at his disposal, yet what is allowed to depict Christmas is very narrow. Yea, I know he suits that period, but let's ring some changes, please. The truth field was brilliant, though. And the Weeping Angels were incredibly creepy. And did we all laugh at the reversing the polarity bit?

No sooner had the Doctor and Clara arrived than they found the crack that joined up the last 4 years' dots. And then, just like in Mercy, the Doctor appoints himself the Sheriff.

There was a symmetry with the beginning of his tenure, leaving a child waiting again, just like he did with Amelia Pond. And of course he was kept waiting by the TARDIS this time, who had Clara clinging to her in the time vortex.

You have to wonder, though, why when he returned there the second time, with TARDIS in tow, why he didn't just take all the people of Christmas somewhere else and left Trenzalore to the daleks. That would have been way too easy.

Steven Moffat said at last month's 50th anniversary convention that Matt Smith's performance in this episode was the best of any Doctor ever. He was pretty darned good, especially as he aged from young, to old, to ancient.

And what of the time lords? Back, but off-screen back. You can bet your life that the new regeneration cycle is for their benefit, not the Doctor's. Maybe the events of the Day of the Doctor made them nice people, but I'm too much of a cynic to believe that it was done purely out of altruism on hearing Clara's heartfelt plea. The Doctor is their passport back. What will they want him to do for them? There are endless scenarios as to how this could play out. They won't all come back at once, I bet. One or two will get out at a time, with different motivations. And if one nice lot has given the Doctor a new life cycle, what's the chances of another lot doing the same for the Master?

The last 6 weeks have been an unprecedented time in the life of the show and the character. It's strange to think we've had 3 regenerations in that time, all of them different. McGann's to the War Doctor was induced by the Sisterhood of Karn. The War Doctor's to Eccleston took on the form we've become used to, beacons of light streaming from the limbs. That's what we were all expecting. But no. We get the flashy bit, complete with triumphal cry of "Love from Gallifrey, boys," then Clara opens the TARDIS door, not knowing who she's going to meet in there, and it's all familiar. He's young Eleven again. That's when it gets teary. Karen Gillan's brief appearance and "Raggedy man, goodnight" had me howling. Then there was the tenderness of that last "hey" to Clara before Capaldi appeared in a split second.

I was thrilled to hear his Scottish accent as he mouthed off about colour schemes and kidneys. He still seems a bit like Malcolm Tucker in the TARDIS, but that will change as we see him properly get in to the role.

I doubt I'll ever be able to say I loved it. My emotions are still wrecked. My hopes are high, though. That's all you really need from a regeneration episode, surely?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

So this is what being a floating voter feels like...

I've never gone into a polling booth wondering how I'd vote. Even that time in 90s Edwinstowe when my choices were Labour and the Tories. There was no way I could ever vote Tory so I crossed my fingers behind my back, clicked my heels three times and ticked the red box. I had to have a shower afterwards but I'd had my say.

Even in party leadership elections, when I've wanted them to be scrabbling for my votes, I make my mind up far too soon then throw myself into the campaign of my chosen one.

But tonight, I approach the Strictly Come Dancing final, for the first time ever, with not a clue of which of the fantastic four finalists I want to win. They are all lovely and they are all very good. I can't wait for 6:30 to come. I just wish they could all win. I feel energised and enthusiastic.

I've only occasionally watched The X Factor or I'm a celebrity this year because I was significantly underwhelmed by the contestants. Neither show grabbed my attention, not even with Vincent from Strictly in the jungle.

I know that tv show polls are not the same as elections but even so, there are lessons here for political parties and referendum campaigns. None of it is rocket science. It's basic stuff around being likeable, engaging and connecting with people. Or not. 

The scratchy, grumpy independence referendum campaign is definitely more X Factor than Strictly. And so will the 2015 election be if we don't all pull up our socks and present a worthwhile choice with some properly radical ideas. 

And now I am going to talk dance with a brief summary of each of the Strictly finalists

Abbey and Alijaz

I never expected to like Abbey, which is really rubbish of me as all I'd heard abut her was viewed through the omnipresent prism of media misogyny. She's lovely, though. Warm, funny, hard-working, talented, she's partnered with a talented choreographer in Alijaz. Their quickstep to Walking on Sunshine was so bright and scrumptious.

Because of her lower profile, she is unlikely to have the core vote available to Natalie (Corrie) and Susanna (BBC). That's ended her up in the dance-off. She has been over-marked at times. Too. 

Natalie and Artem

Natalie gets a lot of stick online cos people think she's a professional dancer. Ballroom and Latin are completely new to her. She is an incredibly funny and pleasant person. She was replying to tweets from me long before she was in Strictly. She's also had some real struggles with illness and injury on the show, missing one week after collapsing in rehearsals. 

Artem's choreography is unique but I don't always like it or the music mash ups he has been known for. I just regret we didn't see their jive. 

I don't think their regular position as judges' favourites helps.

They were, shockingly, in the dance off last week after topping the leader board. I had voted for her every week till then but took the tactical decision to vote for Susanna and Sophie to keep them out of the dance off. I knew if Natalie got into the dance off against anyone, she was guaranteed a win so I needed to keep them out.

Sophie and Brendan

Brendan's choreography has been original and so creative - and difficult. Those lifts in last week's American Smooth were beautiful and showcased Sophie Ellis-Bextor to perfection. 

There is nothing I don't love about this partnership. Sophie's biggest enemy is her nerves but her fragile grace and sense of rhythm are such a delight to watch. There is nothing I wouldn't do to see their Charleston again. They must go through to the final 3.

Susanna and Kevin

Susanna Reid from BBC Breakfast and her partner ubiquitously known as Kevin from Grimsby are the pair we can all identify with. They are very down to earth and while their dancing may not be technically perfect but they've given me goosebumps more than anybody else. I love them. 

Good luck to them all. It'll be a brilliant final. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Federal Executive report 9 December 2013

This week's meeting of the Federal Executive could have been a fractious affair as we were discussing both the future of Spring Conference and the future of the interim peers' panel. In the end, it was very consensual and amicable. We also passed next year's Federal Party budget, talked about membership (growing) and the S/AO Group, of which I'm a member, reported on its work. We are trying to develop a tool kit to help S/AOs along the lines that they've been feeding back to us that they would like to see. We're also wanting to be more proactive about communicating with S/AOs and keeping in touch with what they are doing.

Obviously, there are limits to what I can say on a public blog about FE's deliberations, but if you are a party member and you have questions, please contact me privately on Facebook, Twitter (@caronmlindsay) or by email caronsmusingsATgooglemailDOTcom.

Even those who had initially advocated a big change to the format of Spring conference noted that the consensus in the party was opposed. Both Federal Policy Committee and Federal Conference Committee had rejected the idea of reducing the event to one day as had the majority of the responses to the consultation. We decided in the end to look at ways of encouraging digital engagement to allow more people to take part and at ways of reducing costs without altering the format.

I had been very keen that no changes should be made without Conference's say so. It would have been ludicrous for us as FE to have made a decision about Conference in 2016 when there was plenty time to take that to Conference. The point was made, though, that those who couldn't go to Conference wouldn't have a say in that. In all the years I couldn't go to Federal Conference, I never once thought it shouldn't happen. Affordability wasn't the major issue for me, although it was certainly part of the story.

On the interim peers panel, a motion from the FE will be brought to Spring Conference in York. I can't tell you the wording because it's going to be redrafted taking into account the views expressed at the meeting. I think that Sue Doughty's committee have done some excellent work on this, balancing all the views they've had from across the party. They've come up with something that should make the system more democratic and that the leader is more likely to use. I spoke in favour of wording that gave the leader slightly less wiggle room. However, Nick has shown more willing on this than any leader before him and I'm sure that he will embrace the new system once it's up and running. I just wanted to make sure that any future leader would get the message that the party values this method of choosing our peers.I also feel that there is a very strong case for appointing a much greater proportion of women to help redress the appalling imbalances elsewhere.

Anyway, here are mine and others' tweets from the occasion, collected in a nice Storify thingy.

Did Government misrepresent Professor Harrington's view on Employment and Support Allowance rollout?

I've written many times about the problems with the Government's Work Capability Assessment, the tool, implemented by ATOS, used to decide who qualifies for Employment and Support Allowance.

The WCA was first introduced by Labour for new ESA claimants in 2008 and its flaws were immediately clear. It took no account of fluctuating conditions or mental health conditions and even after reviews still bore little resemblance to assessing someone's actual fitness for work.

The Coalition had everyone who was claiming the old Incapacity Assessment put through the Work Capability Assessment. This has led to some really quite appalling decisions. I'm sure many of you will have your own examples, but one which was cited to me was of a man with severe agoraphobia, who hadn't left his home in quarter of a century being pronounced fit for work.

The Government has set great store in claiming that it's been following the recommendations of former independent reviewer Professor Malcolm Harrington. Prominent welfare campaigner Sue Marsh could never understand why Harrington had agreed to a system that he found to be flawed to be rolled out to assess the most complex cases before the changes were implemented. So she decided to do find out - by asking him.

Her post here on her Diary of a Benefit Scrounger blog contains, shall we say, inconsistencies between what Tory minister told the Commons in February 2012 and what Harrington told Sue just recently. Have a read and judge for yourself.

If that's the case, then it makes me even angrier than I was already about the treatment of our most vulnerable sick and disabled people. I know of one friend whose benefit was stopped as they had had ESA for more than a year and was told they were fit for work. It was patently clear that they were not. Over a year on, a subsequent ATOS medical has decided that they should be in the support group. Ok, so they made the right decision, but my friend doesn't get that year of poverty and stress back.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Autumn Statement - 5 quick thoughts from me

I don't pretend to be an economist so don't expect any commentary on debts or deficits from me. I want to take a very quick look at some of the practical aspects of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

I'm not taking any marriage tax break

If Liberal Democrats hadn't allowed the Tories their awful marriage tax break, we'd have been breaking the Coalition Agreement in the same way as the Tories did over Lords Reform. I would have preferred we hadn't agreed to it in the first place. We won't be voting for it, at least but that's no small comfort to seeing £700 million that could be used so much more effectively (see Don't Judge my Family's wonderful Advent calendar) being frittered away as a sop to the Tory right.

My husband and I could benefit from this, but we have decided that we won't because it's insulting and discriminatory.

Priority housing status for workers is meaningless if there are no houses

So, if you need to move to take a job and you live in social housing, you'll get priority on the lists. We'll leave to the side the fact that you may be jumping the queue ahead of people who have been waiting for years for a house that meets their needs. Priority status means nothing though if there isn't enough social housing. Councils already can't house the people with high priority. How on earth does Osborne expect them to be able to house workers?

I'll grant you that the Coalition has made a start on ensuring more affordable housing is being built, and Liberal Democrats have policy that would result in 25,000 more council houses being built in England. This is a drop in the ocean to what's required. It's about time all parties stopped being so timid and worked together to make sure that in 21st century Britain everyone has access to a decent home. That surely isn't too much to ask.

Scotland gains - but will the SNP government put its new money where its mouth is?

Scotland is to get an extra £308 million over the next two years. The SNP Government could choose to spend it on the childcare it says is so critical but they would only be able to do after independence. Well, they have the power to do it already. It's over to them. Alistair Carmichael made that pretty clear that the choice was theirs:
The Scottish Government can now plan to spend this money in line with its priorities.  The rest of the UK is already ahead of Scotland in providing childcare support, free school meals and, with this Autumn Statement, support for the high street too so that the shops we value and rely on get a little money back to help them succeed.
 The Scottish Government has been given the money to do these things too.  They can match the help that families and businesses are getting in other parts of the UK. They could crack on with childcare package they announced last week, but are making conditional on a yes vote to independence.  They can do these things, or they can spend the money elsewhere.  These are the choices that they must make.
Let's just say I'm not going to be holding my breath.

More measures to help young people into work

Employers' National Insurance Contributions will be abolished for under 21s. This is a good thing. I'd have liked to have seen it accompanied, though, by equalisation of the national minimum wage. Often, under 21s do exactly the same work as those over 21, yet their is a £2.59 per hour difference in what they are paid. But, of course, these large profitable companies that employ young people on the minimum wage couldn't possibly afford that, could they?

And while we're on young people, Osborne did make a lot of the fact that the applications for university from people from poorer backgrounds were at highest level. This issue is painful for us, and rightly so, but the assertions from Labour that no poor young person would ever be able to go to university again were clearly nonsense.

Why do MPs have to behave like brats?

If you aren't a political anorak, chances are the only time you'll see the House of Commons on tv is for the big set-piece occasions like Prime Minister's Questions, the Budget and the Autumn Statement. You are therefore likely to come away with the idea that MPs are a bunch of rude, uncouth, loud, unpleasant brats who can't just sit nicely and listen to what is being said. As Nick Robinson said on the Daily Politics, it's done on purpose to put the speaker off, to make them look all red-faced and flustered. Ed Balls was dying on his backside perfectly well without the rabble from the braying Tories.

Seriously, though, people think that politicians are like that all the time when actually, when you take them out of that bear pit, most of them are decent human beings who you could happily have a pint with. It's not good for politics when they behave like that. The economy isn't just about numbers and debts and deficits. What they are discussing has a direct effect on people's lives in many ways every single day, whether it's the amount of pay they take home, or how much it costs them to fill their car or heat their homes. The very least they could do is take it seriously, especially when so many people are really struggling. MPs should think about this the next time they descend into juvenile banter.
Again, I won't be holding my breath.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's all kicking off in Calderdale...aka how to beat your Labour opposition in 140 characters

Recently, Alisdair Calder McGregor was selected as the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Calder Valley. His articles on Liberal Democrat Voice on the energy price freeze and the living wage have been widely read and well received.

Last night, he ended up having a Twitter conversation with his Labour opposition and the excellent Jennie Rigg made a Storify thingy. BTW, I have shamelessly nicked the photo of Alisdair form her blog. I hope she doesn't mind.

The reason I'm putting her Storify thing up is because I think we can sometimes be a bit too timid around Labour people. Remember this is the party who started an illegal war, introduced control orders, wanted to lock people up for 3 months without charge, whose Chancellor knew fine they'd have to raise VAT if they'd won the election, who wanted to have us arrested for taking photos of buildings and profiled as potential terrorists if we had a vegetarian meal on a plain. Oh, and they left us with no money and thought it was ok to leave a letter bragging about it.

Alisdair sliced through all of that, explaining what liberalism was all about to him and how we had not much time for either authoritarian party.

Read, enjoy, remember. We need to be doing this sort of thing a lot more in the next 18 months. Or 17.5 months.

3 ways you can try to save #isamuaza's life

I am reeling from the fact that a government with Liberal Democrats in it is on the brink of crossing a major humanitarian line. Not content with standing by while Isa Muaza starves himself to death in protest at his treatment within an immigration detention centre, tomorrow morning they are planning to deport him. He can barely stand, and as this report from the Guardian states, he has numerous health problems. If he survives the flight, what are they going to do to someone in such a weakened state? Dump him in the arrivals lounge and head back home? What reputable airline would do that? This one, Air Charter Scotland, apparently.

Lord Roger Roberts wrote a heartbreaking post on Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday describing his visit to Isa, who has now not eaten for 90 days, and making the case for clemency.
Even before this protest began – and before he ever came to the UK – Isa Muaza was a deeply vulnerable person. He fled Nigeria fearing for his life at the hands of the terror group Boko Haram, a group he says have already killed several members of his family and as he told me yesterday, if returned this week he will have no one to meet him off the plane. He is penniless, blind and incapable of standing on his own. In his current state this on its own is a death sentence.
In deporting Mr Muaza on Friday the Home Office seems to be seeking to avoid another death in immigration detention. But the Home Secretary cannot – and should not – escape responsibility for her actions. In this case, for forcibly detaining a man the system so evidently could not care for. Those held in the thousands of beds in immigration detention centres across the UK are some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Striking out at them is not the sign of a strong immigration system, but a desperately weak one.
So what does a fair society do when faced with someone on hunger strike? There are some people, like Theresa May, who think it's just a way of playing the system. For three months? To the point of a long drawn out horrible death? For me, it's the sign of a very sick system that nobody going through it has any confidence in it to treat them fairly.

We need to be working on prevention. Isa originally started his hunger strike because his clinical and dietary needs were not being met. Taking someone's liberty is drastic enough. We don't need to have their dignity too. If someone is being detained, which should not be a common thing at all, they should have all the support and health care that they need and the respect as a fellow human being that they deserve.

We generally are pretty helpless in these situations, but that doesn't mean we should sit and do nothing. There are times when we should make our voices heard and this is one of them. Here are 3 things you can do:

1. Sign Julian Huppert's and Roger Roberts' e-petition.

2. Tweet or email Air Charter Scotland and ask them not to transport Isa Muaza.

3. If you are a Liberal Democrat party member tweet or email Tim Farron, Party President, to ask him to continue to press Nick Clegg to intervene. He has met with Nick's team today and urged them to do so and he has also signed Julian and Roger's petition. The more people he can say are annoyed about this, the stronger his case will be. Although, bluntly, it shouldn't take us being annoyed to move Nick to action on this.

We already knew that the asylum system was inhumane and put people through horrid indignities while not giving vulnerable people enough time to get representation and present their evidence properly. It was bad enough under Labour, and the Conservatives have, seemingly unchecked, made it worse. What are we there for if not to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves? We need to start making a tangible difference, and soon, to the way people are treated. It's already bad enough that a Liberal Democrat minister has been restricting access to Legal Aid so that women can't get legal representation, for example, if they are trying to get a place in a mother and baby unit. That's heartbreaking enough, but we're talking about a matter of life and possibly imminent death here.

Liberal Democrats are there to protect people from the excesses of the state. I accept that there are limits to what we can do when we make up just a fifth of the Government and I know that Labour and Tories have no such concern, but we need to do it firstly because nobody else will and secondly because it's right.

Nick Clegg is wrong on EU benefits - his words and actions don't match up. We might save peanuts, but we lose so much more..

So, all these EU citizens from poorer countries coming here and claiming benefits. A huge problem? Actually, not so much. My Liberal Democrat Voice co-editor was bang on the money yesterday when he said:
So, for all the uproar and shouting, 94% of overseas nationals entering the UK do not claim out-of-work benefits within six months – c.6% do, compared to c.13% of UK natives. That’s not nothing, but it puts the issue into perspective, doesn’t it?
That’s also the most charitable explanation I can come up with for Nick Clegg’s decision to go along with the Tory proposals, describing them as “sensible and reasonable”. If he’d said the proposals were “blatantly populist but unlikely to have much effect beyond further stoking the public perception that immigrants are to blame for all our ills” he’d have been closer to the mark.
 Regular readers will be familiar with my "Lock me in a cupboard with a bottle of gin" list of things that I really cannot stand about this coalition. Things already on it include time limiting Employment and Support Allowance, the Bedroom Tax, secret courts and cuts to legal aid. There is, of course, also a list of fantastic stuff we've done, like the Scotland Act, ending child detention for immigration purposes, giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school having a health minister who knows what he's doing about mental health and a pensions minister who has given the biggest cash rise in the state pension and put them on a fairer and more secure footing. But every time something else goes on the Gin List, the glow of the Good List diminishes.

I'm not saying that Santa Claus will be putting a lump of coal in Nick's stocking this Christmas, but I am well displeased with him for agreeing to Cameron's benefit restrictions. It will save the UK peanuts, but we will lose so much more. If you look at the big picture, what you see is the liberal voice you thought you could depend on to challenge the awful UKIP/DailyMail/Tory anti immigrant rhetoric ceding ground. It's all very well for Nick to say on Call Clegg that he's speaking for the majority of British people, but if the majority of British people are wrong, misinformed and have a view that's contrary to our core values,he should be challenging them to think differently. He should be pointing out where their facts are wrong and giving them evidence to the contrary.

What he shouldn't be doing is giving the forces of xenophobia and conservatism the sort of shot in the arm that was in his email to members last night:
Let others flirt with the prospect of European exit in order to pander to the right. We remain passionately committed to staying in the EU for the sake of British jobs, security and influence in the world.
That does not mean that we are indifferent to the need to reform the EU. On the contrary, pro-Europeans urgently need to reclaim this territory. Otherwise we surrender this debate to the populists and xenophobes – the people who want to pull up the drawbridge and pull Britain out of Europe.
For that very reason I am urging all pro-Europeans to back the changes to the access European nationals have to UK benefits announced by the Coalition Government today. It is precisely because I want Britain to remain an open and outward facing nation that I am delivering these reforms.
Freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the European project and millions of Brits benefit from it every year. But years of mismanagement of the immigration system have undermined people’s confidence in it and this loss of faith must now be addressed. That is the only way to preserve this nation’s warm and welcoming nature. If we are to protect the right to move and work in the longterm, we must ensure it does not become an automatic right to claim benefits.
The trouble is he is legitimising the populists and xenophobes by ceding our ground to them. He says one thing and does another. It's just not right.He might use moderate language, but he will be associated forever with David Cameron's more bombastic approach. That is not what you want from an advocate of liberal values.

Sarah Teather, who has been consistently critical of the coalition's immigration policies, had this to say:
Once again we have an immigration policy announcement that has nothing to do with reacting to fact and everything to do with reacting to anti-immigration rhetoric-driven polling. Instead of providing political leadership and tackling immigration myths, these proposals target a problem that doesn't exist while stoking public anger and distrust towards foreigners.
Politicians are often far too afraid of talking about the benefits to the UK and its residents of being part of the EU project, which has freedom of movement at its heart. Over 2 million Brits live in other EU countries with tens of thousands of British citizens claiming benefits in their host countries, a fact many opinion formers seem to conveniently forget.
Reading today's proposals you would think that all EU nationals have unfettered access to the benefit system and that people from all over Europe are flocking to the UK in their millions in order to abuse our hospitality. Yet the reality is far different.
EU migrants already have to have to go through a process of registration before being able to claim benefits, which in itself takes several weeks and requires a fixed address. Plus the Government's own data shows that EU migrants are far less likely to be claiming out of work benefits than UK citizens.
If Nick is looking at a problem about immigration that actually needs solving, he would be well advised to look at what's happening to Isa Muaza at the behest of his cabinet colleague Mrs May. The Home Secretary is about to deport a man who is close to death, who hasn't eaten for 90 days in protest at the inhumane conditions we keep those who seek sanctuary in our country. The medics say that he isn't fit to fly, and even if he survives the journey, what's going to happen to him when he lands in Nigeria when he can't stand and can barely speak? I feel such utter shame and fury that my government is behaving so unethically and immorally.

The party is going to be debating immigration at Spring Conference in York in March. If you feel that we need to have a liberal immigration policy, please register here and come along to have your say. If your local party hasn't had its AGM, go along and stand to be a voting rep. If there are spare voting rep spaces, make sure that you organise that soon as the cut-off date will be some time in January.

Now is not the time to be running scared of the Daily Mail. There are more than enough people clamouring to put an illiberal point. Nick needs to get on the stage and loudly proclaim the liberal argument. He is not doing so at the moment. And it's abundantly clear that if he won't, nobody else will. There are vulnerable people who need us to stand up for them. If we let them down, we let ourselves down too.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In full: Willie Rennie's speech in Holyrood independence referendum debate - Scotland is unique and the stakes are high

Willie Rennie and the recently ennobled Jeremy Purvis wer ein fine form today.  Jeremy whipped Pete Wishart's backside on Politics Scotland this afternoon, pointing out that it isn't that long since the SNP were talking about banishing all vestiges of the British state. Of course, in order not to scare too many horses, they are pledging to keep the pound and the Queen now.

Purvis added that the only differences between the National Conversation document produced a few years ago and the White Paper is where the SNP disagrees with its previous position, for example on membership of NATO.

He simply asked why we would want to create barriers in a union that was working and in which we were playing our part. 

And then Willie Rennie just knocked Alex Salmond out of the park in the independence debate at Holyrood this afternoon. 

It's not that Alistair Darling has done a bad job or said anything particularly wrong over the past 24 hours. He can't help it if he comes across a bit like a head-teacher who's moonlighting as an undertaker. The pro-UK case needs smiles and optimism and normal language and humour and passion to go alongside the boring bits. Purvis and Rennie delivered all of that today. Here's Willie's opening speech from the debate in full. 

It is day two of the happy clappy sect – nationalists for the white paper. Starry eyed optimism.  Worshipping the god of positivity. Alex Salmond – the patron saint of blind optimism.
I loved the optimism on childcare.  It’s what I have been asking the First Minister to endorse week after week after week after week.  But only when it can aid his campaign for independence does he listen.
They are letting down a generation of young people if they don’t act now with the powers of devolution they once trumpeted but now deride.
The childcare package was one part of a wider offer that insisted there would be no downsides to independence.
In the white paper there was not one single example of anything that may even be slightly difficult.
This omission is quite striking.
It makes you wonder why all states in the world are not immediately breaking up based on the compelling case put forward yesterday. Perhaps now the white paper is out the independence revolution will engulf the world.
I can’t think of any examples of modern, successful countries that have broken themselves up.
The former soviet bloc nations or the war torn countries of Africa were hardly modern, successful countries with much to lose. Hardly examples for a modern, successful Scotland to follow.
The Scottish independence movement is not normal.
So Scotland is unique and the stakes are high.
And yesterday’s white paper didn’t move us on.  It didn’t reduce the risk. It didn’t help answer the serious questions raised about this colossal step.
The First Minister said that Scotland is better prepared for independence than any other country in the world.
But being prepared normally means being prepared for all eventualities.
So let’s look at some of the possibilities.  I want to establish if the SNP have even considered what happens if their assertions about what will happen – don’t.
What if the remainder of the UK says we can’t use the pound as part of a currency union?  Is there a back up plan?
What happens if we form a fiscal pact with the UK but they insist we can’t borrow or spend any more?
What happens to the Clyde if the MOD orders go elsewhere?
What happens to funding of our Universities if the UK funding dries up?
What happens if the UK doesn’t want to buy our energy?
These are serious and reasonable questions that most people would have hoped the SNP would answer in the white paper. But none of these reasonable options have even been considered – and they are not sharing them with us.
The SNP believe they are right on everything and everyone else is wrong.
It’s based on an assumption that the UK will agree to every single demand from a newly independent Scotland.
The SNP believe that people in the UK will take orders from us even though we will have spent three years condemning them before declaring we want to be independent from them.
If we slam the door in their face they may just lock it from the other side.
And that is just the UK.
The SNP expect other countries of the EU and NATO will take our instructions too. It seems as if Scotland will be a new super power.
At least the SNP have admitted that membership of the European Union will not be automatic. But that opens up many more questions:
What if other EU countries make it difficult to join?  We know that many have their own separatist movements that they oppose.
I am not sure if putative Foreign Secretary Angus Robertson has delivered his instructions to Germany, Spain, Italy or France.
And whether he or any of the Government’s ministers has had any answers, views or responses to those orders.
So what if just one of the 27 countries of the EU says we can join the EU but that there will be no rebate?
What if just one insists that we join Schengen and have open borders with the EU?
What if one says we can join but only if we start on the path to the Euro?
It just takes one to say no and Scotland could be out in the cold or forced to agree to conditions they have previously rejected.
Because independence is a colossal step that is not normal we need the answers to these serious but reasonable questions.
Perhaps the SNP can use today to start answering.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

First reactions to #whitepaper on independence and three initial questions from me

For months, years, even, whenever we've asked questions about independence, after we've been accused of scaremongering, we've been told to wait for the White Paper.

Well, that wait is over as the White Paper has now been published - or is it? Scotland's Future, it's called. That's profound. We have a future? That's kind of inevitable. It doesn't promise a bright future, or a happy one.

On the big questions of the day, such as the three on pensions, currency and cost posed by Alistair Carmichael two weeks ago, we are really none the wiser. We know what the SNP wants to happen in a perfect world, but everyone who has ever done anything in life knows that you can't, in fact, shouldn't get everything you want.

Obviously I haven't read all 670 pages, but I've had a good scan through and, frankly, I'm not hearing much I hadn't heard before. I'm variously annoyed, frustrated and uninspired.  The idea that we have to wait until independence to get decent childcare in place is a cynical ploy to attract women's votes. Why cynical? The SNP Government has all the powers it needs to put that in place now. And why doesn't it? 

Because, as Nicola Sturgeon said this morning, they want women back at work to pay taxes to an independent Scotland and not to the UK Treasury. Ah, so it's not about the kids and what's good for them, then. They are letting down every child who's two now or will become two before 2016.

Willie Rennie, who's been at them for a long time to deliver similar childcare to that which Nick Clegg has introduced in England had this to say:
It's difficult to believe the SNP wish list on childcare as the Scottish Government has the worst arrangements on the British Isles. In England thousands of two year olds have a nursery place today but the Scottish Government say children here will have to wait three more years.
Delaying better childcare until after the referendum won't convince families that the Scottish Government fully understands the urgent need for early education.
The SNP have the power to deliver better childcare now but their message to our children is: you will not get what you need until we get what we want.
In any event, that sort of policy can't be guaranteed as it will only stand a chance if the SNP are elected the government of an independent Scotland.
Alistair Carmichael was unimpressed, too:
This was their chance to level with people. They have chosen a different path and people will judge them on that.
For years we have been promised that all the answers on independence would be in the white paper. The big day has finally arrived and we have 670 pages that leaves us none the wiser on crucial questions such as currency, pensions and the cost of independence.
Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little.
People will draw their own conclusions that the Scottish Government have deliberately sought to ignore the uncertainties and difficulties of independence. We are simply expected to believe that everything will be perfect after we leave the UK.  We are asked to accept that ending a 300 year United Kingdom will be straightforward. We are told it will all be alright on the night.
We know that the terms of independence would  need to be negotiated with many countries including the rest of the UK and the EU. An honest assessment of the challenges and uncertainties of leaving the UK would have seriously helped the debate between now and September. Instead we have been given a wish with no price list. Today was their chance to level with people. They have chosen a different path and people in Scotland will judge them on that.
It is astonishing that the Scottish Government can sit in private discussing the costs of independence and then refuse to share those figure with the Scottish people. John Swinney’s leaked paper said it would cost £600m every year to run an independent tax system but today we saw nothing about that.
It looks more and more  like the Scottish Government will continue to keep these things private. If they had convincing answers then today really would have been the day to share them with everyone.
From now until September 18 we will keep making the positive case for the UK. It works well for Scotland. It gives us the best of both worlds. It offers us a better future. We will fight hard to preserve it against those who have been obsessed with independence for their entire political lives but now seek to disguise it.

My (first) three questions:

The White Paper mentions that "many" of the 30,000 UK Government civil servants will get jobs in Scotland's civil servants. What exactly does that mean? Who will lose their jobs and in what departments?

My passport's up for renewal. If I buy a new one from the UK Government for no small amount now, will I have to do the same for a new Scottish one in two years' time. Similarly, what about my driver's licence?

Apparently, an independent Scotland will share in the UK's Green Investment Bank (delivered by Liberal Democrats), the Royal Mint, the Monarchy, NHS Blood and Transplant, and Research Councils among other things. How so? Have they asked?

A risky strategy

The White Paper talks about a new constitution for Scotland binding the powers of the state. This is very strange coming from a government which treats the Freedom of Information Act like it is an optional extra and whose reaction to being found wanting on the European Convention on Human Rights was to insult the people making that decision.

Alex Salmond knows that every economic and practical argument points to it being best for  Scotland to stay in the UK.  What he hopes to do is to make it a fight between his Governnent, which he'll portray as fighting for Scotland against a nasty, unreasonable Westminster Government. It's desperate and divisive. You can see that from one revealing comment he made when asked about the division of assets between Scotland and the UK. He made it sound like he'd pick and choose which assets of the UK he kept and which liabilities he'd ditch, as if the rest of the UK would have no say in the matter. And he expects to conclude negotiations in 18 months? Will Scots really want that sort of confrontational, uncertain post yes vote strategy?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

If Ruth Davidson's speech on equal marriage doesn't win some sort of award, I'll be upset

It's not like me to hand out praise to a Tory, let's be honest.

I don't have much choice, though. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson's speech in Holyrood's equal.marriage debate last night had me blubbing actual, proper tears.

It was magnificent; well constructed, persuasive and heartfelt. In a week when the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address has got us thinking about our favourite political speeches, this one has certainly got under my skin. Watch it here.

The bit that had me blubbing was this one:
Last year, the University of Cambridge conducted a huge body of research called “The School Report”. The researchers spoke to hundreds of LGBT pupils from across the UK who were open about their sexuality. The majority said that they were the victims of homophobic bullying and that it happened to them in their schools. More than half of the respondents deliberately self-harmed. Nearly a quarter had attempted to take their own life on at least one occasion.
These are our children and they are made to feel so much guilt, shame and despair. We have an opportunity today to make it better for them. At the moment, we tell these young people, “You are good enough to serve in our armed forces. You are good enough to care in our hospitals. You are good enough to teach in our schools. But you are not good enough to marry the person you love and who loves you in return.” We tell them that they are something different, something less, something other, and that the dream and gold standard of marriage does not apply to them. They do not get to have it. That apartheid message, that “same but different” or alien quality, and that otherness is reflected in every hurtful comment, slander, exclusion and abuse, whether it takes place in the school playground, on the factory floor, or in the local pub.
That is why the bill matters to those people who will directly benefit from it, such as those couples who are eager to commit their relationship in marriage and who should be allowed to do so. More than that, it matters to the future nature of our country. We have an opportunity today to tell our nation’s children that, no matter where they live and no matter who they love, there is nothing that they cannot do. We will wipe away the last legal barrier that says that they are something less than their peers. We can help them to walk taller into the playground tomorrow and to face their accuser down knowing that the Parliament of their country has stood up for them and said that they are every bit as good as every one of their classmates. They will know that their Parliament has said that they deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reprise: A 13 year old writes about same sex marriage. MSPs please take note. #itstime #equalmarriage

This is a re-run of a post from May which I published around the time of the Westminster Same Sex Marriage Bill debate. As Holyrood prepares to vote on its own bill tomorrow, I thought it would be worth putting out there again. I'm going to send it to my MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of the Bill tomorrow. 

I had a bit of a proud Mummy moment last night when I discovered that at the time, an RE teacher had republished it, saying it was a very good read. 

Unfortunately, and to her great disappointment, Anna won't be with me at Holyrood tomorrow. That inconvenient school thing kind of gets in the way, but she'll be with us in spirit. 
Anyway, here it is as I wrote it then with some typos cleaned up:

Yesterday Anna told me she'd received full marks for a school essay on same sex marriage. She had been told to write a persuasive essay on any subject of her choice, so she wrote about something she feels really strongly about. With her permission, I'm publishing it below. It would be nice if MPs read it. She is not always tactful, and she challenges deeply held beliefs - but she's pretty perceptive and shows off both compassion and a passionate sense of justice. If you read no further, at least read her conclusion:
A place where same gender couples are treated as legally equal to heterosexuals is a place one step closer to destroying homophobia before it destroys many more lives.
Here's the whole thing:

Marriage can be an important milestone in a person's life, so naturally unmarried people of all ages fantasise about their own wedding - them and their beloved, the perfect bride and groom, committing to each other. Their parents crying through the ceremony, so proud of their baby. No fear of being disowned, nobody to call their relationship "unnatural", "illegitimate" or even morally wrong.

In 2015, same sex marriage is set to be introduced in Scotland, giving any two individuals, regardless of gender the right to get officially married instead of the "separate but equal" option of civil partnership. While this idea has rounded up a lot of support, those who disagree with it are perhaps the most vocal.

The number one reason for an individual to hold "traditional" (read: homophobic) marriage values is that their religion forbids it. The the infamous Leviticus 18:22 that may homophobic Christians love to call on. "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is an abomination." Upon hearing these words, every rational human being should be able to constantly pick out the holes in this flawed and overused quote. The first being that the Bible is a very old book that was not originally written in English and this particular verse can be translated in several different ways, eg elderly men not lying with young boys. The second is that some of the laws of the Old Testament are invalid. The same people who condemn homosexuality are rarely seen forcing victims of rape to marry their rapists (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) or killing those who work on Sundays (Exodus 35:2). While the Bible can provide solace and teach some wonderful lessons, some early books are not to be taken word for word.

However the most important reason religious arguments fall apart in this case is this: In the UK, we are not a theocracy. While everyone has the right to use their religious beliefs to govern their own life, it is not fair to use your religion to restrict someone else. It is not an exercise of religious freedom to try and prevent marriage equality. If you disapprove of same gender marriages, the noble thing to do would be to let those involved in such marriages live their lives in peace. Your homophobia cannot be justified by religion, your bigotry is no less awful with a quote from a holy book.

Unfortunately, religious reasons are just a small section of the motivation behind people's closed-mindedness. One of the other frequently used arguments is perhaps even more preposterous, even more illogical, and it is this: most couples of the same gender cannot have children. 

While this can tie in with religious arguments "Go forth and multiply, Genesis 9:7) it is often just used on its own. It is difficult to see why this argument is so often used without a religious statement when  a simple look at some statistics render it entirely invalid: over 900 million people in the world are starving. There are over 15,000 children in care in Scotland alone. In a world with so many people and not enough resources, or rather not enough co-operation from wealthy countries to share said resources), surely having a child is not the sole reason a marriage is formed - and f people who cannot have biological children wish to adopt, they are helping an already existent life instead of creating a new one.

Discussing whether a couple can have children or not in relation to marriage equality makes even less sense when you consider the real facts. A menopausal woman or infertile person can still get married, the possibility of a child is never picked on in these cases. Besides, many couples marry and do not desire children, whereas many children re born to unmarried parents, proving that marriage and reproduction are by no means mutually inclusive.

This argument falls apart again when you realise that just because the two people of the same gender cannot get married to each other, they are not immediately going to leave each other to enter a heterosexual relationship and have children. The two people will stay together anyway so allowing them to marry will not prevent the births of any children.

Many will say that as civil partnership exists as a near identical alternative for couples of the same gender, granting them the right to marry is not necessary. While it is true that the same benefits are granted to couples in a civil partnership, marriage holds certain emotional and cultural significance and connotations. Young children dream of one day getting married, not getting "civilly partnered". 

Another reason it is harmful to separate them into two different institutions is that many people will try to delegitimise a civil partnership by saying it is not a true marriage and does not count. This could be very hurtful to the civilly partnered couple and would give people more reason to say bigoted things about how same gender couples cannot truly get married and therefore their relationships do not count.

In any case, the concept of "separate but equal" has proven itself to be a flawed argument many times throughout history. Separate does not mean equal. Calling it equal is something only the accepted, privileged people can say safely, while the other group feels inadequate, like their "equal" separate thing is a rip-off of the original.

There is one argument in particular that does not even try to hide its utter and blatant homophobia and the people who use it do not seem to realise how harmful the thing they are saying is. I am of course referring to the argument that marriage equality would "promote the homosexual lifestyle" and make people accept same gender couples as normal. This argument is often used by closed minded people who cannot grasp that how people are able to express their relationships does not revolve around one individual's personal views.

This argument, along with "gay people are disgusting and unnatural" has no basis. All these arguments can be easily exposed as illogical with no back-up for the argument whatsoever. I could just as easily say that society's unwavering acceptance of marriage between one man and one woman suggests a "heterosexual lifestyle" and give no reasons why this is a bad thing but still oppose such marriages.

Apart from the obvious homophobia, this argument perpetuates that sexual and romantic orientation is a choice and excludes bisexual people in same gender couples.

In conclusion, marriage equality is certainly a good idea because it would improve the general quality of life for same gender couples while those it does not directly affect would suffer no ill effects. It would make the institution of marriage fairer and contribute to reducing prejudice by normalising same gender relationships. The only arguments against this are from self-centred individuals who cannot respect the rights of other people to be treated equally. A place where same gender couples are treated as legally equal to heterosexuals is a place one step closer to destroying homophobia before it destroys many more lives.


Related Posts with Thumbnails