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After Nicola Sturgeon, what’s next for Scottish independence?



In the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise resignation, it cannot be overlooked that she became leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) after it had suffered a double blow. 

Salmond led the SNP from the fringes to power and was often credited with its success, much as Sturgeon is now. Sturgeon, the deputy leader, had the difficulty of becoming the leader of a party whose primary purpose was independence just after it lost a referendum on the subject. It was not until after the UK voted for Brexit in 2016 (with a majority in England and Wales but not Scotland) that the SNP was able to reengage with its primary purpose.

However, with a surge of new members after 2014 and her high profile during the referendum campaign, Sturgeon had very high approval ratings after she became SNP leader. Her political rallies sold out large venues and she led her party to win 56 out of 59 seats in the Westminster election of 2015.

She also led the SNP in the cross party discussion which resulted in the Scotland Act of 2016. This granted Scotland more devolved powers over taxation and health, and was a win for the SNP, arguably taking Scotland a step closer to independence. Indeed, under Sturgeon, independence became a more popular governance option than devolution.

Sturgeon’s daily briefings and communication skills during the pandemic allowed her to continue as an asset to her party. And it showed in the 2021 Scottish elections, when the SNP won nearly half of the seats.

After nearly nine years, Sturgeon leaves her post with a still high approval rating, though it has taken a bit of a blow in the wake of the row over policy for transgender prisoners in Scotland. Her personal popularity and her signficant role in her party’s recent success raises the question of whether her successor will be able to deliver the same growing enthusiasm for independence.

But we should be careful of attributing too much importance to individuals in Scotland’s political landscape. When Ruth Davidson was Scottish Conservative leader, she did very well in the 2016 elections. Commentators thought the Conservatives would do worse without her in 2021, but they won the exact same number of seats.

Certainly Sturgeon was an asset in past elections for the SNP, but public opinion in Scotland has been divided along constitutional issues since the 2014 independence referendum. Her departure alone is unlikely to change this.

The SNP is not just a party of government, it is also the largest party of the pro-independence movement. The fate of both are linked. When the SNP government performs well, support for independence can increase. The high levels of support for Sturgeon and the SNP during the pandemic coincided with record levels of support for independence, up to 58%.

In choosing a successor to Sturgeon, the SNP needs to consider how to balance its quest for independence with effectively delivering policy. The next leader has to both lead the Scottish government and be able to convince “soft nationalists” (voters who are generally sympathetic to independence but are unsure about its potential impact on them) that they should support independence.

Sturgeon leaves behind an SNP that is still by far the most popular party in Scotland. It has the most seats in the Scottish parliament and local councils, the majority of Scottish Westminster seats and a large party membership.

The litmus test for the new party leader will be how convincing their strategy for achieving independence is. If they are able to deliver successful policy that helps (or at least does not undermine) their aim to build support for independence, they could reinvigorate not just the party but also the wider independence movement. Among other issues, this will involve avoiding damaging public sector strikes and honing a new approach to the gender recognition bill.

Sturgeon’s “plan C” for independence (which was looking more likely after the UK supreme court’s November ruling) was to treat the next general election as a de facto referendum. But this plan was not supported by all in the SNP, so will need to be revisited with a new leader.

The wider question, though, for any new SNP leader and first minister, is about how to both win support for independence and unite a country that is evenly split. Under Sturgeon there has been too much focus on processes of how and when a referendum should be held, and less on convincing voters.

If a new leader can galvanise a consistent and clear push for independence over a sustained period, a future UK government could agree to a referendum to recognise a new settled will in Scotland. The impact of the 2014 and 2016 referendums has been to create, for the first time, a potential pro-independence majority. The challenge for a new SNP leader is to harness support and make that majority consistent.

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Top travel tips to avoid jet lag



These travel tips will help you reduce jet lag the next time you travel abroad

We all love a holiday but, unfortunately, when you’re travelling long distances it often comes with a side of jet leg.

So what causes it and are there any ways to avoid that drowsy feeling?

After years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, people are finally back in the skies and venturing to destinations right around the world.

The term “jet lag” describes the physical and cognitive symptoms people experience when traveling quickly across several timezones.

Before you leave, you’re synchronised to your local time and once you enter a new timezone, your body’s rhythms are thrown out of whack.

The experience of jet lag varies between people because we all have our own internal rhythm.

Most have a natural daily cycle of about 24.2 hours.

But some people have slightly longer cycles than others, and this could play a role in how a person experiences jet lag.

Research shows if you have a longer cycle you might adjust quicker to westward travel.

We also get a little less resilient as we age, so the older you are, the worse the jet lag may be.

So does the direction of travel matter? Scientists think so.

Many people find westward travel easier. This is when you, essentially, gain time.

But that’s not always possible – so here are some tips to help you through the pain, or even avoid it, in the first place:

1. If you’re trying to shift your body clock, you should start on the plane. Do this by setting your watch to your destination’s timezone and line up your activities, like sleep and meals, accordingly.

2. Next, keep your caffeine and alcohol intake low on the journey to help aid both sleep and hydration.

3. When you arrive, try your absolute best to sleep during the local night time and rest during the day as needed.

4. You can take a nap – but make sure it’s 30 minutes or less.

5. If you’re prone to or experience tummy trouble while traveling, stick to small meals and only eat when you’re hungry.

6. Finally, you should also expose yourself to sunlight throughout the day when adjusting to your new timezone.

Happy travelling! #trending #featured

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Young people join protest in France against pension reforms



Young people are taking to the streets in France as Macron pushes ahead with raising nation’s retirement age

Huge crowds have gathered in France in recent weeks to protest a controversial rise in the country’s pension age by two years to 64.

Some of the marches have turned violent.

While the reform is most relevant to those approaching retirement, many young people are also taking to the streets.

But why might that be?

The French youth have joined the protests in growing numbers since the government bypassed parliament to push the plans through.

Every night for the past few weeks, 18-year-old Charles Chauliac has been making his voice heard. Not just for his parents, but for himself.

“I am against this reform simply because I have two parents who are killing themselves at work and damaging their health and I don’t want to see them die at work. My father, he works every day, he gets up to get on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport at 5 a.m. to load the planes. I find it difficult to imagine myself at 64 getting up at 3 a.m.”

Chauliac is part of groups started by university students to organize unauthorized demonstrations, which are usually carried out in the evenings.

While a few protesters have been seen torching bins and throwing rocks at police, Chauliac insists he hasn’t.

Opinion polls show a wide majority of voters are opposed to the pension bill.

They are further angered by Macron’s leadership style and the government’s decision to skip the parliamentary vote.

“For young people like me, we grew up with the hope of being able to influence our society. And when we see that decisions are made without consulting the people who make up this society, that takes away the possibility of being able to change things.”

Many students, like Chauliac, have been joining private groups on social media which help students mobilize for spontaneous protests.

He says they help prevent the groups being noticed by police.

But does Chauliac worry about the repercussions, should the demonstrations get out of hand?

“I wonder about that, because I know what can happen to us too, we see the images and we see what happens to fellow protesters, but that wouldn’t prevent me from demonstrating, because I’m so outraged that it surpasses potentially endangering myself.”

Macron recently said he would press ahead with the reforms.

Unions have called for regional action, and the continuation of nationwide strikes and protests. #trending #featured

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Facial recognition has been used a million times by U.S. police



Controversial facial recognition has been used a million times by police to help track criminals

As facial recognition becomes more prominent, the founder of tech firm Clearview says his company has run nearly a million searches for U.S. police.

It’s also been revealed the company has scraped 30 billion images from platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, taken without users’ permissions.

The company has been fined numerous times in Europe and countries like Australia for breaches of privacy laws.

In the U.S., critics say the use of Clearview by authorities puts everyone into a “police line-up”.

The company’s high-tech system allows law enforcement to upload a photo of a face and find matches in a database comprising of billions of images it has collected.

It then provides links to where matching images appear online.

The tool is considered to be one of the world’s most powerful and accurate.

While the company is banned from selling its services to most U.S. companies, there is an exemption for police. #trending #featured

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