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The UK is now a Tory heartland - where do we go from here?

The UK is now a Tory heartland - where do we go from here?

I don’t think I need to tell you why I spent an hour this morning crying like a fucking baby.

It wasn’t even just the fact that a party whose austerity measures have killed 120,000 people according to Medical Journals managed to win (in a First Past the Post system) by a landslide. It’s also that I don’t really…understand. I can’t articulate what happened. I’m an over-thinker and if I don’t have an answer to something, I’ll find one. My brain usually creates one, but my brain isn’t getting any further than “some people really do like the idea of Brexit, aye?” The polls said the Tories would probably win it, but that a hung parliament was likely. Boris is a racist, a homophobe, and a snob who wouldn’t even agree to TV interviews (I might not agree with the other Tory MPs but at least they’ve never hidden in a fridge).

If you’re here for a hot take on what went wrong, I don’t have one. My brain is fried from all of this (and I was up all night at the Glasgow count). My only conclusion is that we (including myself) underestimated just how many people wanted Brexit (given that the Conservatives made gains in places with a high Leave vote). What I am going to talk about is what we do moving forward.

But, hey, at least Jo Swinson lost her seat (but I was in the fucking toilet when it happened!).

If you have a political party that you truly believe in, join them

I’ve been a member of the Scottish Green Party for over 5 years. Not only that, but I was elected onto the Glasgow Greens Committee as an Ordinary Member a few months ago. If you join a political party, you don’t need to be as involved as I am. Plenty of members just donate their yearly fee to help with the finances. If you do want to get involved though, there are plenty of ways to do so as political parties and their local branches need a variety of skills sets. This includes marketers, data analysts, election organisers, candidates (!!), secretaries, event organisers, treasurers and confident extrovert types to knock on doors!

Or join a campaign or pressure group

They also need people with a variety of skill sets. 

Consider donating time and money

I still 100% believe that you should be talking to your friends and family about their vote. This includes posting on social media. Saying that, unless you are a public figure or influencer with a wide reach, you might only change the minds of a handful of people.

I know not everyone can, but if you’re in a financially comfortable situation please consider donating money to your candidate or party of choice in the next election - in order to help reach a wider audience. If you also have a particular skill set that could be of use during a political campaign, get in touch with your local organiser to find out how you can get involved.

Don’t think Scottish independence is in the bag

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media today claiming that Scottish independence is now inevitable.
Hold on a second.

The SNP did make big gains last night in terms of the number of seats won – but their share of the vote was 45%. While this is an impressive number, it isn’t high enough to start running around screaming Freedom. 

I support Scottish Independence and in the event of a referendum being called, I will 100% be out campaigning. With a smart campaign, the Yes side may swing it (and remember, we only need to convince the electorate once, Better Together need to keep convincing voters over and over).

I know the thought of Scottish Independence is what’s keeping people going right now. Unfortunately, this could lead to complacency where we think we’re going to fix this mess by leaving. It’s not that simple. Public opinion still looks like it hovers around the 50% mark.

If you want independence, you'll need to restart the campaign. Don't wait for it a new Independence Referendum to be announced either. A lot of Scottish people still need convincing (more on that later!).

Start laying the groundwork for Holyrood 2021

The next election in Scotland will be Holyrood 2021 (but who knows if another General Election will be called, I’ve voted in more elections in the last few years than I’ve had foreign holidays). The political parties are gearing up for this already, with candidates selected and members collecting voting data at counts across the country. 

The Tory vote share in Scotland last night was 25%. Do not kid yourself if you think Scotland doesn’t like Tories, because they came second in both terms of seats and vote share. We have over a year until we decide who is elected at Holyrood (with a form of proportional representation), and if you want it to be a left-leaning government (yes please) then now is the time to start educating people around your on why the left is best (or donating time and/or money).

Use the time between elections to talk about the issues

One problem I did spot during the campaign period was just how much voters aren’t really clued up on the issues. It’s hard to convince people during a snap General Election on why broadband for all is a good idea, why the Greens are the only party who really have a plan for saving the planet, why Universal Credit must go, that there is a lot of economic research that supports socialism, other countries have already proved that equal societies are possible (English voters were saying that free university tuition is far-fetched despite Scotland having had it for years?), why Trident is a waste of money, why the Monarchy has no place in modern society, and that immigration is not the threat to the working class that they’ve been made to believe that it is.

That’s why, between now and Holyrood 2021, we should be raising awareness of issues and educating those around us. Closer to the time we can start campaigning along party lines, but if we want to reduce the number of Tories in Scotland we need to start shifting public opinion towards the left in general.

Understand the root cause

As I said, I don’t really understand what went wrong last night. In order to fix it though, we need to travel into murky waters to find out. What makes a working-class person vote Tory? Why do people want Brexit, when there is no economic justification for it? Why are people ignoring that we only have 10 years before climate change is irreversible?

One of the biggest shifts in my own personal political beliefs was Scottish Independence. I used to be a hard-lined Unionist (and a Liberal Democrat hahaha hahaha oh god) and changed my mind with only two months to go. Shockingly enough, it was not the Twitter Nats shouting off about Unionists being cowards that made me change my mind (imagine that). It was, and this is random, attending a Republic Scotland debate covering what Scottish Independence could mean for the monarchy. I was really taken by what the Green representative said and that night I walked home feeling the shift in me. I joined the Scottish Greens after the referendum and maybe would have never voted Yes had it not been for the alternative Green Yes campaign. 

Granted, I had been questioning my Unionist beliefs in the months leading up to this (with so much discussion going on around me it was hard not to) but this was the moment where I crossed over the line. Later on in the campaign, the straight-up media bias and lies would become apparent (remember when the BBC claimed that Alex Salmond didn’t answer a question but a foreign journalist uploaded a video of his answer in full?) and I was a Yes for good. Nothing was going to convince me otherwise after that.

One of the reasons the Yes campaign was so successful (it might not have won but it did rapidly increase the support for Yes) was that it covered everything. There was the white paper, the tv debates, books, the Green Yes campaign, Radical Independence, English for Yes, and the other offshoots that represented different demographics. Almost no stone was left unturned. It wasn’t enough to convince everyone, but it turned this once staunch Unionist into a Yes voter. 

As someone who knows what's like to switch sides on a massive issue, I can tell you a few things. Don't be a dick to people. Share your opinions in a well-researched manner. Understand why people vote the way they do and then build a campaign around it.

Look after our most vulnerable

I want to pay more tax. I’ll happily take home slightly less money if it means a fully-functioning NHS, that the Masters I’m thinking of doing can be paid for by the state, cheaper (or free!) public transport, a good care home for my parents (I don’t live near them and can’t look after them myself), and a safety net waiting for me if I was to fall ill and couldn’t work (I have savings that I'd ideally use for buying a flat but I'm still hesitant to part with it in case something happens).

I’m making a commitment to donating to charities and food banks. The extra money that I would pay in tax is still going to be directed towards society’s most vulnerable people. My political opinions are firm on the redistribution of wealth (not that I’m wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, I’m just comfortable) and I’m planning to put my money where my mouth is.

I’m not going to pretend that the result of the General Election last night wasn’t fucking disgraceful. It’s disgusting that a large percentage of the UK population (and that includes Scotland!) wants to see disabled people on the streets or children only eating one cooked meal a day.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but if no one takes action (in a strategic way) then this is very much the future we are looking at. Start having a think about where you can help the cause in your own beautiful way: whether that's through using your expertise in your profession to pen thought-pieces, talking openly about how Tory rule has impacted you, donating money to a campaign you really care about, sharing your skillset with a campaign group or political party, volunteering at a local charity or your community council. 

It's bleak right now, very fucking bleak. But it's been bleaker before and society has - in many ways - made leaps and bounds even in my own lifetime. It's not over yet.  

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morag | mo adore
Why Scottish Green Party supporters don't owe the SNP their vote

Why Scottish Green Party supporters don't owe the SNP their vote

My Twitter feed has been filled with politics recently, and with good reason. The UK is having a General Election on the 12th of December.

This General Election is more crucial than usual due to the looming monsters that are Brexit and the Climate Emergency (you know that in 10 years time climate change will be irreversible, right?). Not to mention that the Tories have thrown some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens into the gutter.

Oh, and we have a bumbling buffoon as a Prime Minister.

Emotions are high (mine certainly are) and political Twitter has been, shall we say, contentious. It’s darker here than it usually is.

For me personally, the deepest darkness has been from SNP supporters coming out in force to attack the Scottish Green Party for daring to partake in democracy by standing in an election.

Who on earth do we think we are? A political party standing in an election? How preposterous!.

Their argument essentially is “you’re splitting the vote” (with no actual examples or statistics to back it up). I’ve become used to the bile that Twitter nats sprout about the Scottish Green Party over the years, but this time it has been more forceful than usual and has left me shaking in rage.

The thing is: this is a democracy, and if the Scottish Green Party wants to stand then they should. Nobody owes anyone their votes. This includes all parties since I have also spotted Labour voters annoyed at the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, the Tories annoyed at the Brexit Party, and the Scottish Socialist Party voting not to stand candidates to avoid splitting the socialist vote.

But “splitting the vote” is a tired excuse and an affront to democracy, and here are 13 (!!!) reasons why (using the SNP vs Greens as my primary example since that is the debate I’m closer to).

We’re a different party with different policies

This feels like the most obvious point, so I’m going to get it out of the way first.

The Scottish Green Party might agree with the SNP on Scottish independence and Brexit. However, the two parties disagree on a lot of other issues.

First up is climate change. The SNP’s approach to climate change is to do just enough to for some good press and to appeal to voters who think banning plastic straws is the answer (it’s not) - while still keeping their mates in the oil industry happy. Case in point: their recent climate conference was sponsored by BP and Heathrow Airport, those famous beacons of environmental concern.

Very recently, the Scottish Parliament passed a Climate Bill, which was drafted by the SNP and backed by all other parties aside from the Scottish Green Party.  The reason the Scottish Green Party didn’t back it wasn’t because we don’t want to reduce emissions, but because the bill was very weak on how to go about it. Targets can be moved around and while the targets do make good headlines, they don’t mean anything if the SNP keep allowing oil companies to drill in the North Sea.

Nicola, if you’re reading: we’ve only got 10 years to save the world, so get a move on.

The Scottish Greens, on the other hand, have launched the Green New Deal. It focuses not only on reducing emissions but refocusing Scotland’s economy in a way that can save the planet (I repeat: we only have 10 years to fix this) while still protecting workers who make a living in engineering, oil and gas etc. It is based on a report by the New Economics Foundation that is available here.

Another recent example of the Scottish Green Party going up against the SNP is the Gender Recognition Act. The planned update to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 would allow trans people the right to legally self-identify, as opposed to medical professionals deciding for them (a process that many trans people have described as traumatic and stressful).

The SNP shelved it after giving in to pressure from TERFs but that’s not all, they have “gender critical feminists” in their highest ranks, such as MP Joanna Cherry (for Edinburgh South West) and MSP Joan McAlpine (South Scotland region). So much transphobia, that a trans SNP councillor in Dundee quit the party, citing the party’s “institutional transphobia” as his reason (and let’s not forget the problematic Women’s Pledge).

This is in direct contrast to the Scottish Green Party. The Scottish Green Party is committed to the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and our policies are voted on at our conferences. When Patrick Harvie spoke in support of trans rights in his speech at the Autumn Conference in 2018, the crowd cheered, when we passed a motion supporting trans rights at the same conference, it passed without a blip.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: the SNP’s failure to reform the Gender Recognition has been utterly disgusting. I am a bisexual woman, and I forever and always stand with everyone who falls under the LGBTQI+ banner. That includes trans people, and their right to decide their legal gender for themselves.

The SNP’s treatment of trans people is the number one reason why I can’t just hold my nose and vote for them (especially since I don’t even live in a risky seat, but we’ll get to that). The climate emergency and Scottish independence are both complex matters - politically, scientifically, and economically. There’s a lot to flesh out and it’s going to be a long journey. But respecting a trans person’s right to live their life as their chosen gender? Why is this even up for debate? This isn’t complex economics, this is basic human dignity.

Not that long ago the SNP were standing for Westminster knowing they couldn’t win

The earliest election I ever remember was the 1997 General Election when Tony Blair achieved his landslide. I’m still under 30 so in the grand scheme of things this election wasn’t that long ago.

In that election, the SNP stood 72 candidates but only won 6 seats. In the 1992 General Election, they also stood 71 seats and won 3. Within my own lifetime (and I repeat: I am under 30) I have seen the SNP grow from a fringe party with a handful of seats to a political powerhouse. And you know how they did it? Their own determination for one but also because people were willing to believe in them and voted for them even when they were told that it was a wasted vote. Where would the SNP be if they’d listened to all those Labour campaigners telling them not to split the anti-Tory vote from 1935 until 2015?

The Scottish Green Party are just doing exactly the same thing a generation later and would appreciate the same level of respect.

Scottish Independence isn’t the only issue on the table (and we’re not going to win an independence referendum anytime soon, anyway)

I get it: the SNP’s central policy is Scottish independence and if you’re a candidate, member, or supporter of the SNP then Scottish independence is probably high on your political priorities.

And you have every right to make that choice.

But so does everyone else, and Scottish independence isn’t that important to some voters. Yes, I support it but I have other issues that are more pressing right now (like, uh, stopping the world from imploding). I don’t support Scottish independence in principle. I support it because the UK is a hot mess of a country and I believe that Scotland is being held back by Westminster.

But if the UK stopped being so wild, I’d maybe change my mind. Who knows.

However, the main reason why I’m not putting Scottish independence higher on my priorities is this: we probably wouldn't win a referendum at this point. Polling (depending on who’s doing it) still hovers around the 50% mark. Even if we did get a mandate for a referendum, there’s a real chance that it would still be a no.

We’re going to have to be patient. Support for Scottish independence is higher amongst the younger generation, and it feels naturally inevitable. Yes, support seems to have increased since Brexit but it still isn’t high enough. And if being pulled out of the EU against our will, a blonde rubber duck as a Prime Minister, the Eton elite as his backing dancers, the dismantling of the NHS, and the rise of the far-right still haven’t convinced voters that Scotland is better off as an independent nation - then I’m not entirely sure what will.

You know what is inevitable? The planet overheating. An overwhelming majority of scientists have said that we have 10 years to fix this mess or the damage becomes permanent (and we die). We literally do not have time to be sucking up to the SNP’s mates in BP. There is a deadline here. Scottish independence doesn’t have a deadline. We’ll get it when we get it (which we probably will, eventually, after the planet is officially dying).

And even if we did magically win a referendum, we wouldn’t become independent overnight. The 2014 Independence Referendum had an 18-month campaign period and in the SNP whitepaper, it was suggested that the process of leaving the UK would take 18 months. That then leaves us with 7 years post-independence to save the planet (bearing in mind that even more damage might have occured in that time). Saving the planet will require a complete overhaul of our infrastructure and energy sources. Not a ban on plastic straws or whatever else the faux-eco warriors are suggesting these days. A change in infrastructure is not a simple process and certainly can’t be done overnight. If we want to save the planet, we have to act now (not when we get independence because by that point Scotland might have already sunk into the North Sea).

Before I say my next point I want to make it clear that I say this as a person and not a Scottish Green Party member: I believe that referendums that propose a big constitutional change (such as Scottish Independence and Brexit) shouldn’t rely on a simple majority. If I was in parliament drawing up an independence referendum bill I’d be looking for a supermajority, somewhere between 60-70% of the electorate. Just look at Brexit as an example of what happens when a referendum that demands constitutional reform wins by a small margin.

I’m also going to share a little tidbit about the Scottish Green Party that you might not know about. The Scottish Green Party is officially a Yes Party, by virtue of having voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence multiple times at our conferences. But we are okay with our members voting no. No one will get chucked out if they choose to campaign for Better Together. There are probably a small number of no-voting Greens (albeit I don’t have data) who are very unlikely to vote SNP purely on constitutional grounds, never mind our other points of divergence.

Finally, some people vote SNP because they like the candidate or the party’s social democratic policies. Not necessarily because they want independence. How people decide to vote isn’t as simple as “independence = good, UK = bad”.

The Scottish independence movement needs alternative voices 

I might be pro-Scottish Independence now, but I used to be a hardline Unionist (sad trombone I know). What made me change my mind?

The Green Yes campaign.

I had always found (and still do) the mainstream Yes Campaign to be a bit lacklustre, and only strives for an independent Scotland that would be mildly better than the UK. The Green Yes movement, however, offered a vision of a country that I want to live in - but makes the clear point that Scotland can’t become a progressive beacon for the world while still ruled by Westminster.

If you want the support for independence to grow, you need to stop shouting over the top of other pro-yes voices. The SNP aren’t the only voice in the Scottish Independence movement (and thank god, because some of us would have never been convinced otherwise.)

You lost seats in the last General Election...and the Greens only stood three candidates

I have two tables below showcasing the overall vote share in Scotland in 2015 and 2017 General Elections. Have a look at them.

Do you see it?

Do you see that the SNP lost votes in the 2017 General Election?

Do you see that the Scottish Green Party stood in fewer seats in 2017?

According to SNP Twitter logic, the SNP should have performed better in the 2017 General Election, since the Scottish Green Party were standing in fewer seats and weren’t “splitting the vote”. But that didn’t happen.

What the SNP should be doing right now (instead of harassing Green candidates and voters on Twitter) is working out what went wrong in 2017, so that they can perform better in 2019. Why did you receive fewer votes despite fewer parties standing?

Scotland doesn’t have a big impact on the outcome of elections

It’s well documented that Scotland doesn’t have much of an impact on which party forms the UK government. There are 650 constituencies in the UK, but only 59 are in Scotland. So in percentage terms, that means that only 9% of MPs are elected by Scotland. Even if Scotland sent down 59 SNP MPs something really bizarre would have to happen in the rest of the UK for the SNP to become a Westminster powerhouse.

If you want to block Brexit, Labour is your best bet

Labour can be just as bad as the SNP-ers in regards to complaining about “splitting the vote”. In reality, both parties should respect democracy and campaign on the positives of voting for their party.

However, I can understand Labour’s logic. You can’t vote for the SNP in other parts of the UK, so if you want a pro-Remain majority in the House of Commons, well, it might be best that Scotland holds its nose and sends down 59 Labour MPs.

If the SNP won’t consider standing aside for Labour, then the Scottish Green Party shouldn’t stand aside for the SNP.

(P.S. I wrote this post before there was talk of SNP backing Labour).

Glasgow Central won’t elect a Tory

On a personal level, I live in a constituency where a Scottish Green Party candidate is standing. So I’ll be voting for them and before you claim that I’m splitting the vote, let’s look at some stats from my own constituency.

In the 2017 General Election, the SNP candidate won with 44.7% of the votes. In the 2015 General Election, the same SNP candidate won with 52.5% of the vote. Labour came second in both elections, and then the Conservative party were third (but a very far behind third).

By voting for the Scottish Green Party in Glasgow Central, it’s very unlikely that I’ll be letting a Tory through. In fact, I would pay good money to see a posh Tory knocking on doors in the area I live in.

If Greens can’t vote Green they won’t necessarily vote SNP

First Past the Post is an unfair system that lends its hand to tactical voting. As much as I don’t like tactical voting, I sometimes do it and if I was living somewhere where a Tory might slip through, I’d consider voting for the lesser of the evils (even if it meant not voting Green).

However, my vote might not necessarily go to the SNP.

This is what some SNP-ers don’t seem to grasp: if the Scottish Green Party didn’t stand that doesn’t mean that they’ll vote for the SNP.

Let’s nip back to my own constituency of Glasgow Central. The Scottish Green Party stood someone in the 2015 General Election, but not in 2017. If you were to apply SNP theory, this means that the SNP vote share should have increased because Green voters naturally flock to the SNP when they don’t have a Green candidate on the ballot paper.

Reader, the SNP vote in Glasgow Central dropped by -7.8% between 2015 and 2017. On top of that, the vote share of Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats all increased. This is despite there being five fewer parties on the ballot paper. Granted the turnout was higher in 2015 (maybe because there was a wider option of candidates and we’d just held the Scottish Independence Referendum?). But their drop in vote share has nothing to do with the Scottish Green Party (because we didn’t even stand).

I’m also going to point out that the Scottish Green Party isn’t standing a candidate in Glasgow North East, a constituency served by Labour MP Paul Sweeney. I feel roughly the same way about Labour as I do the SNP (in that I can tolerate them), but I do have soft spots for certain figures within the party. Paul Sweeney is one of those people. He is a capable politician who shares a lot of my values. I know Greens who live in his constituency who are happy with his performance and intend on voting for him. If I was living in his constituency I’d also be “lending” him my vote.

The Green voice is always important, and it shows people care about climate change

Honestly, I’d be shocked if Glasgow Central sends a Scottish Green MP to Westminster. I’m not going in there actually thinking we’ll actually win.

What having a Scottish Green candidate on the ballot paper (and at debates and at local hustings) does is helps keep green issues on the table for discussion. If people vote for the Scottish Green Party knowing that they can’t realistically win? Well, that just proves that there is an appetite for green policies that can’t be ignored. It might encourage other parties to increase their own commitment to climate change (which no other party is doing).

Keep abusing us on Twitter, and we might not ever vote SNP again 

One of the most common threats I keep seeing on Twitter is that SNP voters will no longer vote for the Scottish Green Party on the Regional List (a few of them have even said they’ll vote for the transphobic Wings Over Scotland instead, Lord give me strength).

That is a risk the Scottish Green Party need to be willing to take.

However, this works both ways. The SNP is sometimes lent votes from the Scottish Green Party supporters. In the 2017 General Election, I voted SNP and I vote for Nicola Sturgeon on my constituency ballot in the Scottish Elections (I have my issues with the SNP as a party, but I believe Nicola to be a solid leader).

The Council Elections have a much fairer voting system where we rank candidates in preference. I always vote Scottish Green Party first (and Allan Young in my Govan ward is a very solid councillor) but after that, all bets are off. Councils have diddly squat influence on Scottish independence and Brexit, so those issues don’t influence my decision in an election about play parks and bins.

Maybe some SNP voters will never “forgive the Scottish Green Party” for potentially splitting a vote. But you know what? The Scottish Green Party candidates and their supporters won’t forget the vile we’ve been receiving on Twitter in a hurry either.

If you want to win, get out there and win fair and square

Sometimes when you’re campaigning for a party, you do need to point out the failures and problematic policies of other parties. In a constructive way. Heck, I do it myself. But, as I said, in a constructive way.

SNP voters: if you want people to vote for you and not the Scottish Green Party explain to us why in a constructive manner. Don’t angry tweet us complaining that it’s personally our fault if Scotland isn’t independent within your preferred timeline.

Scotland voted Remain

It’s well documented that Scotland is being dragged into Brexit by other parts of the UK. As a nation, Scotland largely voted to remain.

So when Scottish voters come at me with “this election is about Brexit and I don’t want to let through a Leave party” I like to remind them that this mess was caused by the other parts of the UK, and Scotland can’t do much about it.

We are relying on England to vote for the Remain parties in order to stop this national embarrassment. Maybe take to Twitter to try and persuade English voters to vote Labour? I’m followed by a lot of English people on Twitter and I regularly post political content that is more relevant to them than my Scottish followers.

The alliance with the Green Party of England and Wales is about cooperation, not shutting someone out

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party of England and Wales have created a Remain Pact to keep out MPs who support Brexit and that is great. I am not against it.

(Though I could go on a rant about the Liberal Democrats being untrustworthy).

What makes this different from the Greens “splitting the vote” is that the SNP is not interested in working alongside the Scottish Green Party to keep out Tory voters - they are straight up just telling us not to stand. That is not the same thing as the Remain Pact.

It’s just not democratic

Bottom line: asking a party to stand down because you want their supporters to vote for your party (even though there is no evidence that they would) is a slap in the face to democracy.

If you want your party to win the election, then get out there and earn those votes and if the Scottish Green Party (or whoever else) is “splitting the vote” that you feel undemocratically entitled to, then your party needs to attempt to understand why people would rather vote for them than you (especially if it’s for a party that won’t realistically win).

That’s how democracy works. You’re not entitled to anything.

That includes my vote.

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morag | mo adore
REVIEW: The Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit

REVIEW: The Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit

"But I can't give up cheese"

This is one of the most common excuses you hear from vegetarians or meat-eaters who would like to be vegan but just...say they can't. I do sympathise, to an extent, as I was once a major cheese lover. In fact, I didn't make the full switch to veganism until Violife came onto the health food shelves. But since then many other brands have also launched new cheeses, some very similar to the dairy versions.

But if the (many) shop versions aren't doing it for you, there is another option: making your own.

A while ago the makers of the Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit* got in contact asking if I'd like to try their product. Obviously, I said yes. Between being a vegan who does miss cheese and someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, this sounded up my street.

The kit comes with six cheese recipes - and another six recipes showing you how to use the cheese in regular dishes! The six kinds of cheese this kit can make are mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, halloumi, feta and parmesan. The kit also includes a muslin cloth, a thermometer, and some of the ingredients you'll need: Anhydrous Citric Acid, Organic Sea Salt, Agar Powder, Tapioca, Nutritional Yeast, Dried Basil, Dried Paprika, Lemon pepper. All the cheeses are nut-based, and you will have to buy the cashews and macadamia nuts yourself (along with plant milk).

The cheeses themselves are simple enough to make, but you do need to be above intermediate in the kitchen and own a powerful blender. You also need to set time aside because you will need to soak the nuts overnight to soften them (or quickly boil them in hot water, that does the trick).

Out of all the cheeses, my favourite was the feta. In fact, when I crumbled the feta into my Greek Salad (a recipe that came with the pack) it tasted the same (and I used to love a Greek Salad!). It's probably because feta has a dry, savoury taste anyway so this nut-based recipe worked well as a substitute.

The parmesan was a close second, as it was very believable.

I also liked the mascarpone and ricotta recipes but (there's a but here) I can't remember eating the dairy versions. So I'm the wrong person to ask.

I also enjoyed the Halloumi. But (big but here) it didn't resemble dairy-based halloumi, as it lacked the squeakiness. Saying that it was still delicious - but in its own way.

The only cheese I didn't enjoy was the mozzarella. Not only did it not really resemble mozzarella but it also didn't really work as its own unique thing.

Now, I love cooking and experimenting with tricky recipes but the negative of this kit is that it was just a bit of a fuss. I have made each recipe only once and it is a bit of a novelty. And there are more and more pre-made cheeses coming out that are very believable and tasty. In fact, the only time I'd whip out this kit in future is if I was wanting to show off at a dinner party or was making something for someone with allergies where I wanted to be really sure there were no harmful ingredients.

Do I recommend this kit? It depends. You need to really love cooking. And have a bit of time on your hands. Maybe if you're retired, or you have a partner who you split up the household chores with (someone marry me and take on all the cleaning, and I'll cook every meal for you for the rest of your life). As mentioned, it might also be a good shout for people with allergies who really want to be sure their cheeses have no trace of dairy. As a vegan, I think there are some really good cheeses on the market now so I'd only go for this kit if you really don't like anything store-bought and like to know what's in your food.
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morag | mo adore
I watched all the Friday the 13th films and here are my thoughts

I watched all the Friday the 13th films and here are my thoughts

I love horror films - specifically, slasher films. As much as I have a place in my heart for creepy girls climbing out of a television or, uh, experimenting with a crucifix, it's the slashers that have my lifelong love.

Primarily, it's the slashers that were created between the mid-90s into the early 2000s that I love the most. With Scream being not only my favourite horror franchise - but just one of my favourite franchises, period. But I know that those films wouldn't exist without the golden oldies.

But I've not watched that many of the old slasher films, because I'm a bad horror fan. I've seen about half of the Halloween series (but let's be real: that franchise got wildly out of control), a few of the Nightmare on Elm Street films and only half of Psycho because I didn't actually like it. Until very recently, I had only seen two Friday the 13th films (the first one and Freddy VS Jason). That changed when I randomly stumbled upon the entire Friday the 13th series on NOW TV. So if you've not seen me recently and thought I had died, that is actually what I was up.

My perception of Friday the 13th before this was...meh. I had seen the original and Freddy VS Jason and had never quite taken to Jason. Personally, I prefer my villains to have more complexity, with a backstory, and the ability to talk. So I never gravitated towards the man-child that is Jason.

But, I am a big horror fan. And as a big horror fan I have still always appreciated that Friday the 13th was one of the earliest slasher films created and that, without it, many of my favourite films would not exist. Many of the horror tropes used today were developed from Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Here's the thing though: despite its commercial success, critics hated it. And fair enough. From a critical and artistic standpoint, it's a pile of shite. Even Betsy Palmer, who played Pamela Vorhees, didn't expect it to be a hit and only took the job because she needed money for a new car! It's not a good film, in the technical sense. But what people who graduate from film school don't always understand: what is good from an academic or professional standpoint isn't always what audiences want.

And that's where marketing comes in. Or, more accurately, understanding supply and demand. The creators of Friday the 13th admit that they wanted to create something similar to Halloween (largely regarded as the film that created the slasher genre). Audiences wanted more and the creators saw the gap in the market; there was the demand but not supply. A large part of Friday the 13th success was the right time and the right place.

When talking about slasher films, especially the older ones, the book Men, Women and Chainsaws will come up. I actually own this book and read it several a years ago. And in it is the answer to why audiences loved the low-budget slashers of the 80s: they were simple, accessible, and lacked pretentious art school vibes. So pretty much: the very reason film experts hated them was the same reason mainstream audiences loved them. The book also calls Silence of the Lambs a "slasher film for graduate students" and I've always lol'd at that. I love the Silence of the Lambs film (it's actually a favourite) but let's not pretend that Hannibal Lector isn't a pretentious snob.

Regardless, Jason became a horror icon. Which is strange to anyone who has seen the Friday the 13th series and/or the opening sequence of Scream:

Maybe I love Scream so much because I don't mind spoilers.

Jason didn't actually show up until the sequel, which I knew because of my aforementioned love of Scream. But what did surprise me while watching the series is that (spoiler alert) he doesn't get his iconic hockey mask until the third film. And even then it's not until a good chunk of the way through the film. All that iconic imagery that I had been familiar with since my teenage years showed up later in the franchise.

But I love this scene. Not just because he obtains his mask, but also because of the nonchalant way he waddles back to the house.

And then he uses the hockey mask to cover his disfigured face for the rest of the franchise.

Speaking of the entire you want to know which of the films I actually liked?

The one that stood out for me, and a lot of horror fans, is the 6th film: Jason Lives. Yes, it's very random that six films in they created something that received some positive reviews from critics. It's slightly humorous in a passive way, the kills are gory, and there is more characterisation. While it was released in 1986, it's humour and meta dialogue make it look like a film that could have been made in the late 90s in a post-Scream world. And I love Scream. Scream in the best.

It's also the film where Jason is resurrected and would remain immortal and powerful for the rest of the franchise.


Who doesn't love watching a bunch of annoying company execs being killed in the woods?

The other film I really liked, and I might get some flack about, is Jason X. Some fans really hate this film. Like, really hate it. But I like it. It's Jason in space which is a ridiculous idea, but the film knows that it's ridiculous so, in my opinion, they get away with it. And Jason gets a make-over and becomes futuristic Uber Jason. Okay, I know that's probably why people don't like it. As mentioned, slasher flicks started out as simple films without anything too out there. So sending Jason ino space and having him become half-robot was going to anger the purists. But, I like this film. It's silly.

Sadly, Uber Jason was only seen in this film and Freddy VS Jason decided to old old-school Jason.

And while Jason Takes Manhattan is probably the worst film in the franchise because HE SPENDS MOST OF IT KILLING PEOPLE ON A BOAT that one scene where we see Jason standing in Times Square was incredible. And I just love that people don't bat an eyelid because...New York. That city sees dressed up weirdos all the time.

One of the main criticisms you hear about the Friday the 13th films is WHY SO MANY BOOBS! The whole franchise has a lot of naked chicks, and this has been up for academic and feminist critique. There's a horror trope about "sluts dying first" that really needs to get in the bin (and has done so, to an extent). But the Friday the 13th series is probably one of the boobiest horror franchises out there.

My opinion: the critique on the naked chics being mostly young, white, conventionally attractive, thin women is valid. When you're going to have sexualised characters, have a bit of variety. But also: stop being prudes. It's not just about the "male gaze". I'm a queer woman and I'm not going to pretend I didn't enjoy the boobs. Boobs are nice. And I like hot naked chics as much as any straight dude.

Though race: the third film has black characters...but they are gangstas. Okay then. I was hoping for a tiny bit of diversity. Thanks to Scream 2 we know that horror is a white-centric genre:

You tell them, Jada Pinkett Smith!

My main bug bearer about Friday the 13th is small, and pedantic. I was wondering how big Crystal Lake actually is? And how many houses can you fit around one fucking lake? And how did Jason hideout in the woods that long with no one finding him? And in the ninth film, there's a Vorhees Estate that fell into the hands of a random half-sister? Half-sister I can believe but this massive mansion? Why did Jason live in the woods when there was a mansion that was rightfully his? Blah blah blah artistic license blah blah blah.

Would I say that the Friday the 13th franchise is going to become a personal favourite? No. But I did enjoy my binge, even if it was only from an I'm a Horror Fan and Really Enjoy Watching All the Horror Movies Because I Just Love Horror That Much sort of way. For me, my binge was a massive geek sesh.

P.S. you can buy a Camp Crystal Lake candle.

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5 things that helped me accept that I am bisexual and come out the closet

5 things that helped me accept that I am bisexual and come out the closet

A flashback to a selfie taken around about the time I came out. My face says everything about how I was feeling at that point in my life. 

Last week I wrote a long, rambly 4000+ word post about my decision to come out as bisexual two years ago, and what life has been like since.

In that post, I shared that my decision to come out was directly related to my decision to end some questionable platonic relationships. While this was the critical moment that pushed me over the edge, it wasn't the only thing that had happened in recent years that would get me closer to accepting what I had known since high school. Here are five other things that helped me accept who I really was, and result in me coming out of the closet!

1. Open-bisexual public figures

While I was growing up, there weren't any bisexual public figures to look up to. At least not any who were explicitly bisexual. I've known for decades that Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore are bisexual - but their sexuality is not well publicised.

Fast forward to the last few years and there are two prominent bisexuals in the media who everyone knows are bisexual: Kristen Stewart and Cara Delvigne. I mean, sorry if this is how you found out but anyone who follows celebrity gossip even slightly knows that these two ladies love people of any gender.

Bi-erasure is still a problem. Cynthia Nixon is one of the most prominent examples. She's been married to a woman for 11 years and has to correct people who assume she is gay. I mean, she was with a man for 15 years (which was during her Sex & The City fame) that you think would be a giveaway - but nah! I've even had to personally correct someone on Cynthia Nixon's sexuality. 

People, not even public figures, should never feel pressurised to be loud about their sexuality if they don't want to be. And they shouldn't really have to, in an ideal world anyway. But having celebrities who are loudly bisexual was a turning point for me.

2. LGBT+ people coming out in later age

I came out a month before my 27th birthday. And part of my fear was people asking me why it took me so long - or, god forbid, using it as a reason to not believe me. Any, yes, I was asked by people why it took me so long. Not all of us get it done the first day of university, okay?

In 2015, YouTube sensation Ingrid Nilsen came out as gay at the age of 26. Granted this was two years before I would eventually come out myself but it did serve as a small nudge that it's okay to come out in your late 20s.

A slightly more low-key coming out story was from local Glasgow blogger Sophie. Sophie is a friend these days, but at the time they were no more than someone I followed on Twitter. But seeing someone who was my age publicly document their coming out story was the second most important thing that helped me accept myself, only losing out to ending shitty friendships.

I came out of the closet a year after Sophie did, and their story was an important part of mine. Sophie sharing their story helped me rattle on the closet doors while ending ugly friendships was the thing that made the doors throw open. If I was to write a book about my life as a bisexual - from the moment I knew to the present-day - Sophie's influence would have a dedicated chapter.

And that's why I'm a fan of people sharing my own story. Sophie isn't a public figure. They were a random person on Twitter, albeit one that I would consider a friend now. In the past week since publishing my anniversary blog, I've had two bisexuals (one closeted) come into my DMs thanking me for putting into words what they've struggled to say. You never know who your story could help.

3. Online dating

I would like to give a friendly shout out to my good friend Tinder (and OkCupid) for making it easier to chat to girls when I still wasn't ready to come out publicly. How did queer people meet people back in the day? Especially those of us who don't look queer? And weren't confident enough to be out? Heck, I'm still rubbish at chatting up potentially queer girls in the real world.

4. Better bisexual characters

Again, growing up there weren't many bisexual characters in tv and films. Sure, there were characters who experimented or randomly came out as gay after having a healthy hetero-relationship (looking at you Willow Rosenburg). But those characters typically enforced negative bisexual stereotypes.

But a few years ago I got sucked into the Arrowverse and the bisexual character of Sara Lance. For the first time, I witnessed a bisexual character portrayed really well. She doesn't have a long-term partner on the show, so we see her date people of multiple genders - and she never "picks a side". And her sexuality is very rarely mentioned specifically - aside from an evil character here and there - it's just there. 

Since coming out I've dipped my toes into Riverdale, which boasts the bisexual characters Cheryl and Toni.

And while I haven't watched it, I've heard that Emmerdale of all things has a bisexual character now.

That's why I firmly believe in representation. Because when people can see themselves in things, it lifts them up.

5. My self-confidence

In last week's post, I shared that I struggled with self-confidence and anxiety while I was in the closet. But truthfully, my anxiety and my sexuality is a bit of a chicken-and-egg theory - which one came first? Because in the years prior to coming out my confidence had grown bit by bit. Yes, it grew exponentially the day I came out. But some of the work I did on growing my confidence since high school did lay the groundwork for me having the confidence to eventually come out.

And one thing that definitely did not help me get there sooner: 

People speculating about my sexuality

Despite being femme presenting and not obviously queer, I am more than aware that my sexuality was speculated about more than once. And I know the people who did so had their heart in the correct place, but it actually made me find a dark place at the back of the closet where no one would ever find me. The idea that people knew terrified me. Even on the odd occasion where I was specifically asked I laughed and denied it.

I won't name the family member specifically, in case I have the story wrong. But there is an older family member who has acted as if they have known since my mid-teens, but never directly asked. They did, however, start showing more of an interest in LGBTQ+ issues and stopped teasing me about boys. And that was the way to do it. Allowing me to know that they knew, they loved me regardless and would be there for me when I was ready.

Coming out is a personal choice that should be made by the person. And one of the best ways to be an ally is to give them the space to figure it out in their own time.

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morag | mo adore

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