bookmark_borderScotland should have 109 MPs, not 52

The Tories and the LibDems are reducing the number of seats in the House of Commons from 646 to 600. As part of this, the four nations’ representations will be equalised to the same number of voters per seat (until now, the smaller nations have had smaller seats than England); for instance, Wales will see its number of MPs drop from 40 to 30.

Most people seem to think this is fair, and many English MPs are even calling for a further reduction in the number of Scottish MPs to cancel out the effect of Scottish devolution.

However, according to the Penrose method, also sometimes described as the square root formula, each nation should get allocated seats according the square root of the population to achieve equal voting powers for all people represented.

Here’s a table showing the figures for actual and calculated numbers of MPs:

Country Population Actual 2015 seats Square root seats
England 52,234,000 502 344
Scotland 5,254,800 52 109
Wales 3,006,400 30 83
Northern Ireland 1,799,392 16 64
Total 62,294,592 600 600

The square root method has been suggested for allocating seats in the European Parliament (although the current method used there results in similar results).

I guess it all depends on the status of the four nations of the UK. If they’re just seen as electoral regions of a single country, the CoLD coalition’s proposal makes perfect sense (but then devolution should probably be abolished); on the other hand, if the Westminster Parliament is seen as a supranational parliament for the union of the four sovereign nations of the UK, the Penrose method should be used.

If Penrose isn’t used, I presume it means Scotland will have more influence as an independent country, so unless the No parties put Penrose on the table as an alternative, I would strongly suggest voting Yes to independence.

bookmark_borderThe Tories just don’t get Scotland

David Cameron
Originally uploaded by Nick Atkins Photography

Some of the likely consequences of David Cameron’s nasty little idea to abolish housing benefit for under-25s are bad in general. For instance, people with abusive parents will find it hard to get away from them for much longer.

Also, if it was removed for everybody, including people with children, it could lead to some unfortunate kids being raised in extremely cramped conditions; on the other hand, if young parents still got it, it would create a strong incentive to get children at too young an age to be allowed to leave home.

However, whereas these consequences would be the same everywhere, the idea was clearly conceived in the London area, where it’s more or less feasible to commute from any home to any workplace. However, a significant number of people live in very remote places in Scotland, such as the Highlands and islands. For many young people from these areas, it’s essential to be able to move away to get an education and a career. Preventing them from leaving their parental home until their 25th birthday would completely undermine this. (See also Andrew Page’s take on this.)

It just shows again how many English people — and especially the Tories — simply don’t understand that Scotland is different. It would be such a relief to know that the Tories couldn’t impose their nasty ideas here. Just another reason to vote Yes in 2014!

bookmark_borderScotland’s foreign policy

Wales as part of Englanti
Originally uploaded by hugovk

Scotland hasn’t had a foreign policy since the Act of Union in 1707, and to some extent not since the Unions of the Crowns in 1603. It is therefore interesting to have a look at what kind of international outlook an independent Scotland is likely to have.

First of all, every country is to a large extent focused on its neighbours. Whereas from London the neighbours listed by a combination of closeness and size are France, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the list of the neighbours as seen from Edinburgh goes something like England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, France, Netherlands and Belgium. In other words, Scotland is likely to pay much more attention to especially Norway, Denmark and Iceland than the UK; on the other hand, Scotland will probably not be as preoccupied with France, although I’d expect the relationship to be very friendly, perhaps even to some extent reviving the Auld Alliance.

Secondly, Scotland is likely to have a very close relationship to Canada, the US and other countries with significant numbers of citizens of Scottish descent. According to Wikipedia, there are almost 10m Americans and almost 5m Canadians of Scottish descent, which is likely to make these countries close partners. Other countries with significant numbers include Australia (1.5m) and Argentina (100k).

Last but not least, the UK’s foreign policy is to a very large degree defined by be effects of the British Empire. Scotland would be much less tainted by this (although of course Scots played a full part in the Empire). So whereas the UK has a difficult relationship with Argentina because of the Falklands and with Spain because of Gibraltar, there is no reason why an independent Scotland shouldn’t enjoy cordial relations with both Argentina and Spain. Scotland would also be a normal member of the UN without a veto in the Security Council and without nuclear weapons, so there would be less of an incentive to formulate a policy vis-à-vis all the countries of the World.

To sum up, I expect Scotland’s foreign policy to be focused on Scandinavia and North America, and to be friendlier and less global than the UK’s.

bookmark_borderDisengaging from the UK

Union Jack
Originally uploaded by ul_Marga

Until about a year ago, my beloved wife and I used to watch Andrew Marr every Sunday morning, and as any regular reader of this blog can witness, I have often blogged about UK affairs.

However, I’ve noticed I’ve been gradually withdrawing over the past year, as it has become clear that there will be a referendum on Scottish independence soon.

Basically, when I watch a story on Andrew Marr about reforming the House of Lords, or I read an article in an English newspaper about the Falklands, I increasing feel that it’s foreign news. Obviously it’s foreign news from a place I know well, so I might glance through the article, in the same way as I do still pay some attention to what’s happening in Denmark. However, I’m not really interested: It’s their news, not mine.

I really hope Scotland will vote Yes to independence, because it’d be really hard to reengage with UK politics again after a three-year hiatus.

bookmark_border“Real” cheesecake

I’m sure I’ve often enough been bemoaning the fact that I’ve never succeeded in baking a cheesecake like the ones you can buy in Scottish supermarkets.

However, I’ve now found the real thing on YouTube:

The base is too thin, and the cake itself is enormous, so next time I’ll probably halve the amounts for the filling.

Here’s the recipe converted to metric:

250 ml digestive biscuits, crumbled
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
1140 ml cream cheese
250 ml sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp vanilla
250 ml sour cream
4 eggs
4 1/2 tbsp seedless strawberry jam

1. Heat oven to 165°C. Line 33×23-cm pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Mix biscuit crumbs, sugar and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 min.

2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust. Gently drop small spoonfuls of jam over batter; swirl with knife.

3. Bake 40 min. or until centre is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours. Lift cheesecake from pan with foil handles before cutting to serve.

bookmark_borderBuchwider Bräu γ₁

Buchwider Bräu ??
Originally uploaded by viralbus

I bottled my third brew — Buchwider Bräu ?? — a few weeks ago.

It’s a German Maibock. At least, that’s the theory, but it’s not really strong enough to warrant that label (4.6%).

However, it’s really nice. I definitely think it’s the most pleasant of the three Buchwider Bräu beers (although ?? is perhaps more interesting).

My next project is an Irish ale — I have all the ingredients, so I might brew it sooner rather than later.

bookmark_borderBlog topics

In connexion with my recent posting about the languages used on this blog, I also had a look at the topics used:

I’m not entirely sure what to conclude. Politics (top, red) has obviously been my favourite topic ever since the beginning of this blog. However, most other topics seem to come and go. Linguistics (second from top, orange) is probably the most stable of the other topics, but there have been several months without any mention of it. Most other topics disappear for many months at a time.

I guess the only thing that’s safe to conclude is that the Widmann Blog contains a bit of politics and a lot of everything else. 🙂