Today we are going to speak a little about Scottish Geopolitics. It is not a simple subject in part because of the independence question. Last year, a majority of people answered "No" to the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?". But, even if the question has already been asked to people and if Scotland has chose to stay a part of Great-Britain, you had to know that independence is always concerning Scottish politics, and people still worry about it.
Few things to know about Scotland
- Scotland is a country of the UK.
- The "head of state" is thus the British Queen.
- The UK parliament is located in Westminster, London.
- Since 1990's, there is a system of devolution that allows Scotland some self-government measures.
- The Scottish parliament (about laws) and the Scottish government (about affairs) are separated.
- Nicola Sturgeon is the current first minister.
Main Scottish Political Parties
Scottish National party (SNP): The SNP is nowadays the most important party in Scotland. Their current leader is Nicholas Sturgeon. This is a nationalist and social-democratic party that supports Scottish independence.
Scottish Labour Party : The Labour party is lead by Jim Murphy since end 2014. It has entrenched the Scottish majority until recently, and relies heavily on its Scottish contingent in the UK. This party holds today 41 out of the 59 Scottish seats. It is on of the biggest in Scotland. This party is often see as unionist, but the Murphy insist that it is not.
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (Conservatives) : The conservative party is lead by Ruth Davidson since 2011. This is, as say in the full name, a conservative and unionist party.
Scottish Liberals Democrats : Their leader is Willy Renie since 2011. Between 1999 and 2007, this party was in coalition government with the Labour one in Holyrood Parliament. Nowadays, it is in coalition with Conservatives in Westminster. It is a federalist and democrat party.
We can also find the Scottish Green Party (pro-independance) and others minors parties, but they take a thin place in Scottish politics.
The Scottish Political map is changing
As said before, the SNP won votes and is, since recently, the main Scottish political party. Before that, the Labour party was in head. in may 2015, Scotland has voted for the seats repartition in the parliament. Scotland has in total 59 seats that have to be split between the main parties. You can see on this graphic how the political map is changing - found in a BBC article (http://www.bbc.com/news/election-2015-scotland-32635871).
We can see that SNP won 50 seats, and Labour lost 40 seats. That shows how politics evolve in Scotland. SNP is a growing, increasing party that conduct a pro-independance ideology. It's image is the modern party, that is good for "future" of our children. Labour are more seen as the traditional party (because it has been the main one for few years in the past). On this campaign of SNP, you can analyze the image that SNP conveys.
As you might know, United-Kingdom is really famous for its Charity Shops and its solidarity politic. Charity Shops are social shops that use donated second hand goods (as clothes or furnitures) to resale it at low prices and help a good cause. These shops are mostly staffed by volunteers. I have choose this subject because I was working as volunteer in a truly influent charity British Heart Foundation the last 3 months. In UK, charities are usual, there are more than 9 thousand charities in UK and Ireland all together.
A new and innovating way to help people :
To innovate in this sector of social and solidarity, a new kind of charity has been created in 2011 on the model of a social business. On their official website, Josh and Alice, Social Bite's creators, say that they have been inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize earned by Mr. Yunus. Yunus described in his book what is a social business and what are his goals.
Alice and Josh, giving food to homeless people, Christmas 2012
To put it in a nutshell, we can say that a social business aims to "solving social challenges" rather than making money. The money the cafe earns is helping homeless people. Furthermore, Social Bite's employees are local homeless people. Social Bite therefore try to help them by giving them a second chance to work, and have a professional and social life. It inspires positive changes.
One of Social Bite's add campaign
I made here a little sum-up of what is Social Bite and why it does exist, but if you are more curious, fell free to visit their official website ! It is fascinating (that's were I find the informations above !) and it is just here : http://www.social-bite.co.uk !
Alice and Josh are speaking about their social business: Social Bite
The news of April/May 2015 : George Clooney is coming at Edinburgh to support Social Bite
The awaited news is here : George Clooney, the famous american actor is coming here, in my Scottish city, in the street I live, to visit Social Bite and support them. Indeed, Clooney is a co-founder of an international charity named "Not On Our Watch" and is thus really sensitive with charity experience. I think that this innovation in charity world makes him curious, but most of all, Clooney wants to help Social Bite to be known by people and attract customers or donators. Then, when he will come (we don't have the exact date at the moment but it should in November), somebody will have the chance to dine with him in the cafe. To participate, people have to donate at least 5 pounds to Social Bite. It is a way to make people donate more, and help the cafe to become famous and develop itself.
As we have a lot of free time at Napier University, I try to invest myself in some activities outside the university. I work in a charity shop and I also volunteer in a Primary School for scouting. Today, I will make you discover this second activity as I really like doing it.
It is really interesting to see how the education is different here compares to France. We often see people in uniform in the bus, but most of the time these people are around 13 years old, not less. The child I take care of are between 6 and 8, and they also wear uniforms for the scouting. Their team is called "The Beavers".
At the first approach, the education seems really stricter, because of the uniform of kids and leaders. However, I don't think the education is really different about the values, exempt that it is more religious. The scouts have one promise their must know and respect:
"I promise to do my best
To be kind and helpful
And to love my God"
Every day start with a ritual :
- Children and leaders make a circle and hold their hands.
- The leader scream "WHO ARE WE ?"
- The children answer together "WE ARE BEAVER ! Can't you see ?"
- They squat, "B, E, A, V, E, R"
- They jump "Beaver !"
This is really nice and kids, as well as leaders, love this time.
When kids grow-up and learn some new values or have new experiences, they get badges and they stick it on their uniform. You can see on this picture how does the Beaver uniform look like :
Then we do some activities like drawing, singing. Sometimes we do special things, for example last tuesday the fire and rescue service comes to the school and makes the children test the fire hose and visit the truck. They get a new badge for this experience !
Here is some pictures of our fantastic experience, I have not put every pictures because I cannot publish kids pictures or video on internet if we recognize them.
Hope you've like this "typical day with Beavers",
See you soon for more stories,
Now that I know Scotland better, I would like to talk to you about some of social rituals, here the food and drink uses. I will speak about fried food because it takes a big part of Scottish eating habits. It is really different from our french uses and lot of my friends considered this fried food as a disgrace for "real food". I pass through this idea and try a lot of things, here is those which haven't let me indifferent...
Irn Bru is often described as the Scotland's national drink. This drink has been produced for the first time in 1901 by A.G. Barr, in Glasgow. Irn Bru has a lot of direct competitor as Coca-Cla or Pespi, but it's still the first one selling soft drink in Scotland thanks to its innovative marketing campaigns as you can see on the picture.
In the pub or even on the street, you can find fried food everywhere in Scotland. As you know, the most famous is the fish and chips. Fish and Chips is here often serve with peas and tartar sauce in pub. In the street, you can add vinegar or other sauce. I find it really nice !
An other popular street food is the Beef Pie. I tried it and I didn't really like it but some people loved it.
The last but not least fried food I want to show you is the Fried Mars. Yes, as the man who holds the kebab under my flat says "Here, we fry anything !". So, you can fry chocolate, sweet, pizzas … That's really funny ! Well, i tried fried Mars.
When I saw it, I was afraid to test it ! It is really unusual for me ! I though I have to pass through my prejudice. And I LOVED IT. It is weird, it is hot, it is unusual and really fat. But it is great !
See you in some time for others news !
I am away since now two weeks. You may be curious about my new environment and integration ! Scotland is a wonderful place, with lovely people. But, let me tell you more about my first week at the university ...
First day at Napier University
Just so you know, I am a new student at Napier University of Edinburgh, one of the main university in Edinburgh. I had my integration day on the 7th january, that's when I had a first look of where I will be studying next 4 months. This day has consist on a small presentation of the university and its campus. We were separate in two lecture halls : one for the european union students, and one for the others. We are a majority of german and french student for this trimester !
We also have choose our modules on the afternoon. I choose 3 modules : Exploring Cultures, Scottish Culture and Society and Creativity, innovation and Enterprise. I will explain you more about my courses after the university presentation !
Napier presentation & history
Napier University has three campus in Edinburgh : Sighthill, Merchiston and Craiglockhart.
Sighthill is the campus of health, life, and social sciences. Merchiston faculty is for computing and creative student industries. The student hub, to get student's papers and informations is also there. The Craiglockhart campus (which you can see on the picture) is the business school of Napier. That's where all my courses are ! We call this oval grey building "the egg", because of its form ! That's quite funny.
Napier University had been created in 1964 under the name of Napier Technical College at Mechiston. In facts, Napier is the last name of a famous mathematician, John Napier, born in 1950 at Merchiston (Scotland). He is the inventor of logarithms and decimal points !
Two years after its creation, Napier Technical College as been renamed as Napier College of Science and Technology.
In 1974, Edinburgh College of Commerce (based in Sighthill) and Napier College of Science and Technology (as said before, based in Mechiston) merged to become Napier College of Commerce and Technology.
In 1987 the third and last campus, Craiglockhart, open its doors.
In 2009, after a lot of change, the university choose its actual name : Edinburgh Napier University.
Last year, Napier has celebrating its 50 years ! (picture has been taken on the napier web site : http://www.napier.ac.uk/about/50/Pages/anniversary.aspx)
Welcoming & integration
For welcoming new students in the University, the Napier Student Association has organize a Welcome back week. It consist of different events like meetings in pubs and in clubs for all Napier students ! This week was really busy : my flatmates and I meet a lots of people coming from overseas ! Some of them were from Scotland, of course, but some were from Germany, Canada, Austria or even Caribbean. The contact is quite easy and free here ! Even I don't speak a perfect english, people takes the time to repeat and are truly understanding (we're all in the same situation !).
As I tell you before, I choose 3 modules.
The first one is Scottish culture and society. It consist of helping the international students (and some of Scottish ones) to understand scottish music, history, law and many other subjects. I think this course is essential in our exchange ! We have to be really open-minded and try to understand scottish way of thinking. It is also a good way to discover main monuments of Scotland ! In fact, we will do 3 visits :
- Edinburgh Castle
- Full day trip in Glasgow
- Half day trip to Linlithgow Palace
The second course is Creativity, Innovation and Enterprise. In this class, we work by group of two or three. We have to find a Scottish enterprise and do all our work on it. We have to make an oral presentation, a wiki page, and a report about the interview of an enterprise's member. All of this things are related to innovations process and ways to create new products / services. I think it will be really helpful in my studies because of the theme. it will also allow a good english practice (groups work and make an interview) and a knowledge of Scottish enterprises.
The last course is Exploring Cultures. The goal of this module is to explore cultures and understand how our culture influence our way of thinking. We have also group work and it is a really interactive course. In the same way of Scottish Culture, I want to discover a maximum of new cultures, new people and be open minded !
Cultural differences in the classroom
Napier University is an international university : 36,8% of the students are coming from all over the world ! In my classroom, we can feel this diversity. Scottish Culture and Society is a special course for foreigner students. That's why there is student coming from China, Canada, Luxembourg and so many other countries. It is really nice to talk with people coming from overseas : we can share our culture, our point of view, and sometimes laugh about our huge difference of education ! Creativity, Innovation and Enterprise is a business course. There is a lot of Scottish people, but also Austrian or Chinese students. The most surprising was the studies of students : a majority of them are studying social sciences or psychology at Napier ! They took this course by curiosity or because they want to start a business. Then, Exploring Cultures is a course with students coming from overseas. Even our teacher spend her childhood in Philippines Island and had travel all over the world.
Student integration and social life
When I arrived at Edinburgh, I was looking for a flat to stay during my semester. I start to look at with a Canadian girl, Pallavi. Then, she met another girl, Camélia, which is a French student coming from Lyon ! We start to search together and we find a nice flat in Haymarket. We are rally close to Princes Street and we connect easily everywhere with the buses. At home, we try to speak in english most of the time because Pallavi doesn't speak french !
Thanks to the Napier Welcome Week, I met a lot of students at Edinburgh. People are quite easy going. Furthermore, there is a lot of offers for students in Edinburgh : for instance there is discounts about 10% in shops and cafes. There is also a lot of free museums and beautiful places to visit. Edinburgh is a truly student city !
I am actually looking for a job or become a volunteer to meet other people and spend great time. For the moment, I volunteer for help scottish people in french at university. About sports, even if we can easily watch sport in the pub, I am looking for an equestrian center or a fitness / climbing club, because I prefer do sport than watch it !
You arrived on my blog, and I hope you will stay on it ! This blog will relate my journey in Scotland. I am an international student from France, and I'm going to Edinburgh for second trimester of year 2014 - 2015 ! Isn't it really exiting ?
My adventure will start on January 3rd. So, be there, and see what I have to share with you !
See you soon,
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