Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why shouldn’t Scottish prisoners get to vote?


With the referendum for Scottish independence upcoming, my question has three possible contexts of application: it could be about the position of Scottish prisoners as nationals of the United Kingdom in political elections; it could be about Scottish prisoners under independent Scottish jurisdiction; or it could concern the say of Scottish prisoners in the decision on which of those other two contexts applies after September.  This last question is particularly interesting because it opens onto some deeper issues about what it means to be part of the Scottish people at this time of potential constitutional change.

I was prompted to this reflection following a recent group visit to HMP Shotts, at the invitation of prison governor Jim Kerr, to learn about the nature and conditions of prisoners’ work there. (It was an enlightening experience, as Liz Cooper has described in her blog).  The topic of voting didn’t come up, but more substantial issues about prisoners’ relations to the wider society did. Continue reading

Is conflict-free fair enough?

My role at the university is about working conditions and workers’ rights in university supply chains, to date referred to as ‘fair trade’. I was, therefore, interested to see two events organised by Politics and International Relations colleagues exploring questions of fairness in the extraction and trading of raw materials. On 26th February 2014, the university hosted ‘From Conflict Minerals to Fair Phones? A Roundtable on Resource Governance’, and on 27th February 2014, the Scottish Parliament hosted ‘#Britain and Africa after 50: Fair Trade, Fair Extraction, Fairplay?’, with both events bringing together practitioner and academic expertise on ethical questions related to mineral extraction and trade in Africa. Fair trade is not always a popular term, and is not always taken seriously, but whatever label we use, initiatives working to increase income levels and improve livelihoods for poor people around the world are clearly important.

conflict minerals parliament discussion Continue reading

Investment in reality

[Here we re-blog the third of Tim Hayward’s pieces for the Global Justice Academy on what socially responsible investment means for the university.]

To think about the fundamental principles that should guide a responsible investment policy it is helpful to get back to conceptual basics. So I shall start with a moment of philosophical reflection.

Reality is all of what we apprehend, in our human lives, under the forms of space and time.  Our lives themselves have objective aspects (what we observably do) and subjective ones (how we interpret our experiences).  Investment is, in the broadest sense, a putting of oneself into some venture or commitment: we invest our energies and our time in activities whose objective fruits yield what we apprehend, subjectively, as benefits.  Where an abundance of those benefits is achieved, we have a circumstance that can be referred to as wealth.  This has both objective and subjective elements: what has been objectively assembled is subjectively appreciated.  But what of investment in a narrower sense, that of bestowing money on others that they may in due course return the sum and, hopefully, with more besides?  Is this a special case of the general idea or something rather different? Continue reading

The Crimean crisis: justified secession, Russian aggression or both?

The current standoff in the Crimea raises a number of philosophical problems.  The first is whether regions within countries have a right to secede and if so under what conditions.  In their condemnation of the deployment of Russian troops, Western politicians have been keen to stress the importance of Ukrainian territorial integrity.  But why should we judge Ukrainian territorial integrity so important?  Most people seem to think that if the majority within a defined region wish to secede, that region has a right to secede, perhaps especially if has a history of independence and if the majority of its inhabitants are of a distinct ethnic or national group.  Thus most people seem to think that David Cameron was not only right, but also obligated, to sign the Edinburgh Agreement that paved the way for the Scottish independence referendum.  In their view, Scotland has a right to secede.  As I indicated in a previous article, I am far from convinced, but if we assume the truth of this pro-secessionist sentiment, the implication seems to be that Crimea also has a right to secede.  Continue reading