Grab your pompoms and start dancing, as this years European Cheerleading Championships will be held in our fair city of Glasgow. Nearly 3,000 competitors from 34 countries are expected at the city’s new Emirates Arena for the competition at the end of June and the event is expecting to attract over 2,000 spectators for the two day spectacular.
The grey, monotonous appearance of Scotland’s largest city doesn’t scream ‘green energy.’ Quite the contrary – the noise pollution during rush hour traffic, the smog you see rising from factories, the litter lining even the loveliest lanes of the West End all point to Glasgow being a fine candidate for mankiest place to live.
If you have read a paper, watched the news, or been on campus at all over the past few months, you will be aware of both the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns involved in the future of Scotland. The facts are these: there will be a referendum on Scottish independence towards the end of 2014; if successful, Scotland would become independent by 2016. The question will be ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’
North Korea is one of only five officially communist countries left in the world, and it’s certainly one with a confused image. Despite the country being parodied and caricatured in popular media, in reality it is in a dire state, with famines so severe that there are persistent rumours of cannibalism, while the military continue to spend billions on new weapons.
The few who still believe that there can be a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours were struck another blow in the Israeli elections on January 22nd. The largest party remains Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning Likud-Beitenu party who took 31 of the 120 seats up for grabs. Though since 2009 Mr Netanyahu has failed to push for negotiations with the leaders of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s economy has weathered better than many others and although his party lost almost a quarter of their seats the most likely situation is for Mr Netanyahu to retain his place as Israeli Prime Minister. Unfortunately, what may be keeping him in power is an unpleasant new set of allies, even less keen than the outgoing coalition was on seeking a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
There’s been some, although not a lot, of talk recently about the Queen and price Charles use of the royal veto. The royal family have been shown through the release of Cabinet Office papers to have amended or vetoed at least 39 bills in recent years. (It should be noted of course that the cabinet office tried their very hardest to stop this information from being released.) As well as an affront to democracy this revelation highlights the downright absurdity of the British Houses of Parliament. These traditions are largely archaic, unnecessary and all representative of a house of commons completely out of touch with the people. Below you will find some of the more bizarre traditions of the British institution.
Ever wondered why your fingers turn wrinkled and pruned in the bath? Well now we know why, thanks to the new research done by scientists at Newcastle University. According to the study that the team of evolutionary biologist have published in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters, pruning fingers helped our prehistoric ancestors gather food from wet vegetation or streams.
Dictatorships across North Africa and the Middle East have been rocked by the waves of revolution, coming under the catch-all term of ‘The Arab Spring’. Although it’s been represented as a single body of rebellion, the reasons behind these uprisings couldn’t be more different.
The first country to start revolting was Tunisia. The catalyst was an unemployed Tunisian national setting himself alight to protest against joblessness in Sidi Bouzid, southern Tunisia. This kick-started similar incidents, widespread protests and a social movement demanding change and better job opportunities. Eventually President Ben Ali was overthrown, ending his 23 years in power. This was the starting pistol for peoples across the world to band together and rebel against their respective governments. Despite the dissolution of the government, the country is still rocked by protest in the south, with crime rates skyrocketing. This has sparked fears that sources of Western influence, such as embassies, will come under attack from a growing Islamist presence in the country.
Inspired by the people of Tunisia, many began to protest in Egypt. They demanded political reforms and in particular the removal of their dictator, President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled over them for nearly three decades. Notable in the Egyptian protests was the newly adopted method of using social networking sites such as Facebook to arrange mass protests. The focus of the protests became the famous Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where, after 18 days, protestors heard President Mubarak had reluctantly resigned. Since the fall of Mubarak the country has been trying to form a new government. An election timetable has been created, but candidates’ declarations are met with protests, as well as regular protests after prayers on a Friday. Egypt is still awaiting a successful end to their revolution.
Protests in Libya started in the East and the suburbs around the capital, Tripoli. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had ruled since 1969 and had not improved the lives of Libyans despite the country’s oil wealth. As the weeks turned into months it became clear that Gaddafi was not going to back down with ease and the UN initiated discussions for him to step down peacefully. He also had a loyal police force and army who defended their fearless leader. Gaddafi, insistent that his people still adored him, released questionable footage of his supporters protesting for him. Eventually Gaddafi loyalists started to either abandon their posts or change sides altogether. The protests ended with Gaddafi’s assassination by opposition forces before a trial could take place. Today Libya remains very dangerous. Tribes have become very powerful in the power vacuum and weapons from the conflict have fallen into the hands of criminals. The only people in Libya who are not allowed to have weapons are foreign security officials. Further violence is possible and could erupt with little warning. Libya has ground to a halt, with infrastructure ineffective after the government’s collapse. The Libyan people are no longer afraid of an oppressive dictator but they now have to contend with armed criminals in a lawless country.
Bahrain’s Shi’a Muslim population saw what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt and rose up against the ruling Sunni elite, protesting a corrupt regime as well as their religious differences. A focus for protesters’ anger is the prominent al-Khalifa family, who hold most of the governmental and ministerial positions (including President). Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain to quell protests, raising further anger. This is reportedly due to the Saudi Royal family also being Sunni Muslims, crushing the revolution in Bahrain would keep their influence strong within the region. Saudi had also been having their own small areas of unrest in the Eastern region which is heavily populated by Shi’a Muslims; they used this opportunity to show the protesters in their own country how much force would be used against them if they tried to revolt. There are still many anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain and an on-going crackdown on opposition activists. The smaller Shi’a tribes around the capital, Manama, are still continuing to protest however it is unlikely that large scale unrest will be seen in the near future.
In Yemen the main protests took place in the capital, Sana’a, in a place called Change Square in January 2011. The initial protests were against government corruption, unemployment and distressing economic conditions. The protests were fuelled by the fall of the Tunisian President and the revolution increased in popularity but protestors met with a more heavy-handed approach to crushing the revolt. As protests against the regime increased President Saleh eventually signed a deal to transfer his office and all his power to his Vice-President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi in November 2011. The transfer took place on February 27th. Yemen is still in political turmoil; supporters of the old President still remain and they strive to destabilise the new government. An increasing problem is Al-Qaeda linked fighters infiltrating the lawless southern region of Yemen. They continue to blow up oil pipelines and cause major disruption for the country and its economy. I think it’s doubtful that Yemen will reach a state of peace in the near future.
There have also been protests in Oman. I lived in its capital, Muscat, for five years and have seen first-hand the changes that the ruler, Sultan Qaboos has made. He repeatedly raised the minimum wage and created a program called ‘Omanisation’, which required companies to employ a quota of Omani citizens. Protests sprung up across the country, demanding the abolition of taxes and the reduction of foreign workers in private companies, in order to create jobs for Omanis. Protesters set a police station on fire in Sohar, one of the smaller cities in Oman. Four protesters have been killed by Oman’s security forces during a crackdown on protests.
Protests in Kuwait began when Kuwaiti citizens were given a cash hand out and food grant to commemorate 20 years since its liberation from Iraq. However, this wasn’t extended to Kuwait’s semi-nomadic Bedouin population, causing them to protest demanding their right to full citizenship. What followed was many anti-government riots and calls for the Prime Minister to step down. Kuwait has experienced political troubles over the past six years with the resignation of seven different governments and the dissolving of parliament on four occasions. On November 28th the Emir of Kuwait accepted the Prime Minister and his cabinet’s resignations and elections were planned for February. There were still riots leading up to the election and the day before the election, tribes stormed a news station which was hosting one of the pro-government candidates. The election saw many opposition candidates win seats in the National Assembly and there have not been any major riots or protests since.
The protests in Syria began as public demonstrations around the country. The demands were the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the dissolution of his government and an end to nearly five decades of the party’s rule. The Syrian government deployed its army to quell the uprising, but this only fuelled the protests more. The situation has come to a deadlock, with both sides vehemently refusing to back down. In contrast to the situation in Bahrain, the ruling elite in Syria are mainly Shi’a Muslims and the opposition are Sunni Muslims. This means the opposition are supported by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while the government is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. The aim of this collaboration with the government is to create a corridor of Shi’a Islam stretching from Lebanon to Iran across the top of the Arabian Peninsula. The protests in Syria are still very much in the public eye; the UK media reports on it more regularly than other countries mentioned in this article.
The UN had demanded that Syria cease all armed violence, however neither side has backed down. Therefore the UN has unanimously decided to send military observers to Syria in order to keep an eye on the ceasefire. There are still many issues and protests gutting the Middle East even now, and they aren’t being called to our attention by the media. The ‘grouping together’ of all the revolts led to them being assumed to be a homogenous, pan-Arab movement, which simply isn’t the case. Yes, they were all spurred on by the initial protests in Tunisia but the reasons behind the protests had varied from religion to economic reasons. This brings me back to my main issue with the catch-all term ‘Arab Spring’; it insinuates that there was a fixed period of time and reason that these protests took place. This isn’t true and the media shouldn’t forget about the people who are still suffering. In future we should make sure we take the time to really find out more about what is going on and don’t just trust the media.
[Mhairi Elaine Bruce]
One of the youngest councillors ever to take a seat in Glasgow, Liam Hainey, faces losing his seat in the City Chambers, after an uncounted ballot box was found.
Contained within the ballot box are roughly 380 uncounted ballot papers, potentially enough to swing the result to the second SNP candidate for Langside, Alex Hewetson, who lost out by only 121 votes, on the 7th stage of counting.
Councillor Hainey, currently Honorary Secretary of the Queen Margaret Union and a Scottish Literature student completing his Junior Honours year, was behind Hewetson up until the Liberal Democrat candidate, Glasgow Party leader Paul Coleshill, dropped out. At this point he scooped up enough Lib Dem preferences to bypass Hewetson’s challenge.
According to information from the Scottish National Party, Hewetson has been resident in the Battlefield and Old Cathcart neighbourhoods for some 40 years, and the ballot box recovered is one from a Battlefield polling place. Whether this will give him the edge remains to be seen.
The ballot box itself was registered as containing 0 votes. The most important question here is not perhaps whether a council seat will change hands on Thursday, but how nearly 400 papers were misplaced for nearly a week after the count had ended. This mishap has occurred just days after the Electoral Office and the Council were congratulating themselves on a smooth count and job well done.
The biggest worry for sitting Councillors is that losing candidates may be perfectly within their rights to demand a recount of any other ward, but so far the Council appear to be insisting this is the only ward this could have happened in. Quite how they can be sure remains unseen. qmunicate can confirm that one losing candidate for East Centre has already launched enquiries into requesting a recount “in the interests of democracy”.
It was originally thought that the impact of these votes will not be known until Thursday with Councillor Hainey continuing his duties until a clarification of the result. However, Thursday is the same day as the first scheduled full meeting of the council, and had the possibility of leaving Hainey as one of Langside’s three representatives in attendance at the meeting, only to lose his seat hours later. The rerun of Langside’s count will now take place on Tuesday.
The delay between the error being discovered and a rerun of the count taking place is due to court approval being required before any recounts can take place.
Both the SNP and the Greens have suggested that the uncertainty, both for Councillor Hainey, and the residents of Langside is notuseful and look forward to the matter being cleared up as soon as possible.
Predictions from Glasgow City Council suggest that unless the voting pattern in this box differs wildly from all the others in the ward, Hainey’s seat is safe.