Cataclysmic climate change? Just roll with it!

Cataclysmic climate change? Just roll with it! The all-new Toyanka Wastelander. Gas-guzzling SUV driver throws rubbish at a walker while potentially fatally close-passing a cyclist.
The all-new Toyanka Wastelander. Bull Shit, Orkney. Pen & ink, 2019.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governer of California in 2003, he was criticised for claiming to care about the environment whilst driving around in a Hummer (of which he owned six). This incredibly masculine status symbol gets around 10 miles to the gallon, and is the exact opposite of what anyone that actually cares about the environment should be driving.

In 2019, in Orkney, it seems that everyone now drives the equivalent of a Hummvee: 4×4 SUVs and pickup trucks such as the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lwhatever, etc., are everywhere. These vehicles are so obnoxiously huge, they stuggle to stay on one side of the road. They are also an environmental disaster.

As engine technology has supposedly become more fuel efficient (notwithstanding vehicle manufacturers cooking the figures and illegally colluding to retard development of emissions reduction technology), the public has responded by buying larger, heavier, less efficient vehicles.

The above cartoon was drawn to accompany an article written by Fiona Grahame of The Orkney News for iScot magazine, which states that Orkney has far more cars per head than the Scottish average:

At the last count Orkney had 753 cars per 1,000 people compared to 385 in Edinburgh and a Scottish average of 533. It is not that Orcadians are richer or lazier than the folks of Edinburgh , in fact Orkney has a low wage economy but to get to work you most likely will need your own transport.

https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/03/31/pedal-power/

The unfortunate necessity of private vehicular transport does not justify the choice to drive the most environmentally destructive vehicle that money can buy.

There is also a chicken-and egg problem in that few people in Orkney can rely on public transport because public transport in Orkney is totally inadequate, but the reason it is so inadequate (and expensive) is in part because almost everyone chooses to drive everywhere!

The benefits of cycling to an individual’s health, the environment, and consequential knock-on financial benefits to the public purse (e.g. the NHS), are enormous. So enormous that Professor John Parkin of Bristol University, author of “Designing for Cycle Traffic“, stated in an interview with Carlton Reid on the Spokesman podcast that he thinks government officials often simply don’t believe the figures!

Air pollution, including that from petrol and diesel engines, is thought to be responsible for the deaths of 64,000 people per year in the UK. In addition, according to the UK Government, in the year ending June 2018, 1,700 were killed in road traffic accidents, 26,610 killed or seriously injured, and 165,100 sustained some injury.

Thanks to the volume of vehicular traffic and the aggressive, dangerous, and inconsiderate behaviour of people behind the wheel, cycling on the roads of Orkney, like most places, is a scary, life-threatening, experience.

A broken exhaust pipe seen at the side of the road in St. Ola, with a bicycle in the background.
The revolution will not be motorised.

The Patron Saint of Cringe

St Andrew is crucified on a saltire. A Roman legionary says "He said a crucifix was too good for him", to which another replies "Christ Almighty!". An evil cherubic Britannia hovers over Andrew with a trident and Union-flag shield. Caption reads "The Patron Saint of Cringe."
The Patron Saint of Cringe. Cartoon for the November 2018 edition of iScot magazine. Pen, ink & gouache.

Andrew: the patron saint of Scottish Cringe

This cartoon was created to accompany the Orkney News article in the November 2018 edition of iScot magazine. The article is about St Andrew’s Fair Saturday 2018, which is a day of events promoting positive social change throughout the world. It is a response to the unsustainable consumerism embodied by Black Friday.

According to Biblical legend, Roman senator Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus sentenced Andrew the Apostle to death by crucifixion in Achaea (Greece). Andrew supposedly didn’t feel himself worthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus Christ, and the fair-minded Lucius had him bound to an X-shaped cross (crux decussata) instead.

Centuries later, Óengus mac Fergusa, King of the Picts, is said to have selected the saltire as the emblem of Scotland following a successful battle against the Angles (and a vision of the crux decussata in the sky).

Having its roots in a story about St. Andrew’s feelings of unworthiness, the saltire seems an appropriate symbol for a people afflicted by the ‘Scottish cringe‘. Many a self-proclaimed Proud Scot resists the idea the people of Scotland have the wit or resources to govern themselves

Happy Valley – tribute to Edwin Harrold

Edwin Harrold riding his bicycle fast with his pet rook flying beside. Plants grow in his wake and a little boy waves at him.
Edwin Harrold, 1907-2005. Creator of Happy Valley. Pen, ink & gouache, 2018

A tribute to Edwin Harrold

Cartoon created for The Orkney News column in the July 2018 edition of iScot magazine, written by Fiona Grahame.

The quote, “What you don’t have, you don’t miss,” comes from an interview with Edwin Harrold’s former neighbour Ruby Spence, as outlined here.

Edwin Harrold was by all accounts quite a character. He lived a simple life at Bankburn Cottage off Bigswell Road, Stenness, in the West Mainland of Orkney. There he re-routed the Russadale Burn to power a small hydro-electric system to cover his modest electrical needs.

The area around Edwin’s house was landscaped to create a small woodland escape of a kind which is uncommon in Orkney. Visitors were welcome, and the magical-sounding Happy Valley no doubt left a lasting impression on many a young Orcadian.

Happy Valley is now maintained by the Friends of Happy Valley, a charitable organisation.

For more on Edwin Harrold’s life and work, read this months iScot magazine.

Cartoon – The Wreck of the Crown of London

cartoon showing praying covenanters in the hold of the ship 'The Crown of London'. One says "Lord, let us not die slaves in an English colony." In the next panel a William-Blake inspired God sinks the ship and says "I really should just drown this entire Me-forsaken country."
The wreck of the ‘Crown of London’. Pen & ink, 2018.

 

Cartoon created to accompany The Orkney News article in the June 2018 edition of iScot magazine, about the Orkney connection to the Scottish Covenanters. The drawing references the dark artistic vision of William Blake. The figure of Urizen represents an aspect of God in Blake’s personal mythology.

The Covenanters were a 17th Century Scottish Presbyterian Christian sect. They were evangelical and militaristic, effectively governing Scotland for a time during the War of the Three Kingdoms. They also fought in the English Civil war, where they were defeated by the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell.

The Covenanters did not recognise the Divine Right of monarchs to lead the Church, only Jesus. This caused them to fall foul of a succession of Kings – Charles I, Charles II, and James VII, who all tried to suppress their religious and rebellious activities.

During a period called The Killing Time, many Covenanters were executed or captured. 1200 of them were defeated at the Battle of Bothwell Brig, and 250 of these put aboard the Crown of London and sent into a life of slavery in the English colonies. They never made it. In 1679 the ship was wrecked in a storm off the coast of Deerness, in Orkney, at a headland called Scarvataing.

As the people were slaves, they were treated as cargo. The captain would be recompensed for their loss if they died, but not if they escaped. Therefore the hatches were ordered closed even as the ship foundered. One crew member did use an axe to break free some prisoners, and thanks to his efforts 47 of them survived. Most were recaptured, but some escaped and it is said their descendants still live in Orkney.

 

References

Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association, 2018. Who were the Covenanters? Available from http://www.covenanter.org.uk/whowere.html

The Reformation, 2018. The Bishops Wars and Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1646)? Available from https://www.thereformation.info/bishopswars/

Towrie, S., 2018. The Covenanters and the Crown. Orkneyjar. Available from http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/covenant.htm

 

Orkney Library receives a surprise visit

Pen and ink cartoon of JK Rowling riding a broomstick above the Orkney Library. She says she has rowled in to see if Orkney Library was a victim of Tory austerity, and references her statement against Scottish independence. An orangutan librarian shakes his fist at her.
Cartoon for The Orkney News column in the March 2018 edition of iScot magazine. Pen & ink, 2018.

 

Since 2012, as a result of the ideological austerity programme being pursued by the Conservative Government at Westminster, at least 449 public libraries have closed across the UK. Scotland did not vote for this. The Scottish Government has to spend valuable time and resources trying to mitigate Tory cuts within the limits of a budget set by Westminster.

105 libraries closed in the year following Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s much-publicised surprise visit to the Orkney Library in March 2016.

In her public statement on the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, published in the Telegraph, Rowling said

“I came to the question of independence with an open mind.”

 

However, according to the Guardian she had made clear to the BBC that she opposed independence in 2012.

Rowling’s statement is full of mischaracterisations, Better Together talking points, and dubious assertions.

She sets up a straw-man target in the fringe nationalist who judges her “insufficiently Scottish”. The pro-independence Yes campaign embraced anyone who was “Scots by choice”, regardless of where they were born. Everyone living in Scotland was permitted and encouraged to vote in the first indyref (in marked contrast to the Brexit referendum, from which EU nationals living in the UK, as well as 16-17 year olds, were excluded).

Another common fallacy, which Rowling repeats, is the conflation of Scottish independence with “Alex Salmond’s ambition.” A Yes vote would not have installed Salmond as dictator in perpetuity, but restored the sovereignty of a nation and its people. This transcends individual careers and party politics. Dislike of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, or anyone else, is not a valid reason to consign a country to the dustbin.

Rowling went on

“I’ve heard it said that ‘we’ve got to leave, because they’ll punish us if we don’t’, but my guess is that if we vote to stay, we will be in the heady position of the spouse who looked like walking out, but decided to give things one last go. All the major political parties are currently wooing us with offers of extra powers, keen to keep Scotland happy so that it does not hold an independence referendum every ten years and cause uncertainty and turmoil all over again. I doubt whether we will ever have been more popular, or in a better position to dictate terms, than if we vote to stay.”

 

Since the No vote the following things have happened:

  • The infamous “Vow” was broken on the first day.
  • The British Government enacted English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) legislation in the British Parliament. MPs from Scotland were already out-numbered and out-voted 10 to 1 – now they have fewer voting rights as well (as do the Welsh). Everything the British Parliament does has ramifications for Scotland.
  • The Scotland Bill denied numerous new powers to the Scottish Government, falling far short of the promised “extensive new powers.”
  • The Brexit vote threatens to drag Scotland out of the EU despite every single part of the country voting against it. According to Better Together, voting No was the only way to guarantee Scotland’s place in Europe.
  • Scottish brand identity is under attack, as “One Nation” British nationalism leads to Scottish produce being rebranded, thereby losing its unique signifier of quality. #keepscotlandthebrand
  • With the Continuity Bill, the governments of Wales and Scotland are now fighting to prevent a power grab by Westminster upon exit from the EU. The existence of the Scottish Parliament itself looks increasingly under threat, as Unionist MSPs actively work to undermine it.

If Scotland were a spouse who decided to give things one last go, it has been betrayed, humiliated, and ignored. All promises made by the supposedly equal partner have been broken. An open mind might question whether or not staying in this relationship was the right decision.

I ken whaur ye bide, beuy

Pen & ink cartoon by Martin Scott Laird for iScot Magazine, showing some immigrant geese and a local shooter.
“I ken whaur ye bide, beuy.”

 

I ken whaur ye bide, beuy.

This cartoon was drawn to accompany Fiona Grahame’s The Orkney News column in iScot magazine for December 2017. The subject of the article is the problem of goose management in Orkney, but the cartoon has a different subtext. It was inspired by a recent incident of racial abuse in which an incomer to Orkney was ordered to leave the islands, along with his family. “I know where you live” is threatening in any dialect.

With a population approaching 22,000, Orkney is a still a relatively small place. The inhabitants like to think of themselves as good people and most of them are. However there does exist a xenophobic dark side which occasionally rears its ugly head. There will be few “ferry-loupers” living in Orkney that have not experienced some degree of intolerance in person, however slight.

Orkney has very high rates of fuel poverty and an average income below the Scottish average. On the other hand, 3.5% of houses are second homes, and 6.9% are empty. Demographics have shifted to the point that an Orcadian accent is virtually unheard on some islands. This does not excuse xenophobia or resentment of incomers, but may go some way towards explaining it.

Some Orcadians can trace their lineage back to late Norse times, but it’s worth remembering that the Vikings were themselves immigrants to the islands (and not peaceful ones).