How to Vote in Scotland as a European Citizen

Public Entrance at the Scottish Complex, Edinburgh. Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament. Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

The next Scottish parliament election is on 6 May 2021 – and the good news is: If you are a European citizen living in Scotland, you can vote as well! Unlike UK parliament elections, you can participate in regional ones. Continue reading to find out how to vote in Scotland as a EU citizen.


Can I vote after Brexit as a European Citizen?

On 20 February 2020, the Scottish government extended the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections. This means, that all those who live in Scotland with leave to remain, can still participate in Scottish elections after Brexit. You are allowed to vote if you have settled, pre-settled or refugee status. Other than that, you have to be 16 or over to vote in the Scottish parliament election.


How to Register to Vote

The first thing you need to do is register to vote. Once you have moved to Scotland and have a permanent address, you will receive a letter from the Joint Valuation Board. The letter will tell you to register online or to send the letter back with your details.

You might not receive the letter straight away. For example, if you are a student and don’t pay council tax, then the valuation board might not be aware of your address. You can simply use the same link to register online or to contact your council’s board.

It’s important that you register to vote by 19 April 2021 to be able to attend the next Scottish parliament election on 6 May 2021.


How to Vote on Election Day

Before the Election Day, you will receive a poll card telling you to which polling station you have to go. If you don’t receive that, you can easily find yours by doing a quick Google search for your council area and where your polling place is.

On the actual election day, you don’t need to bring your poll card, ID, or proof of address. The staff at the polling station will simply ask you for your name and address, and then they’ll give you a ballot paper.

On the ballot, you’ll have to elect your constituency MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) on the lilac paper, and your regional MSP on the peach paper. You can find more information on who you are can vote for on this Scottish parliament website


How to Vote by Post

Given the current Coronavirus situation, you might not want to vote in person on election day but by post. If you have already registered to vote a while ago, then you should have received a letter confirming your address and eventually sending you an application form for the postal vote. If you haven’t received such letter yet, you can download the form on this UK government website.

The deadline for applying for the postal vote for the Scottish parliament election 2021 is 5pm on 6 April. If you miss that deadline, you can still vote in person as long as you register to vote by 19 April.


Who should I vote for?

Well, this is all up to yourself. Currently, there are seven different parties in the Scottish parliament, that are represented by a total of 129 MSPs. One of them doesn’t have a party affiliation. So it’s really seven parties and one independent MSP in the parliament as of now.

If you want to get a feel for which party you should vote for, it’s probably a good time to follow some of the general online newspapers such as The Guardian or The Independent but also your local news. On this page you find more information on all the MSP’s that are currently in the parliament. Since you have to vote for a local MSP as well, you can filter the results by your postcode and gather more information about the MSP’s for your area. Once you start following news about them, you get a better idea of whom you should vote for.



We’ll work on an article summarising all the different Scottish parties, to give you a better overview on what they stand for and what their party programme is. Until then, you can start following local news and register to vote.

European Citizens – Differences between Settled and Pre-Settled Status

Are you a European citizen and living in Scotland or other parts of the UK? If you moved here before 31 December 2020, and want to live here permanently, then you should apply for settlement status. You can do so until 30 June 2021, but it’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible because it can take quite a while.

If you’ve already been through the whole process, you might ask yourself how each settlement status might affect you. At first, they both seem to be quite similar, but there are a few differences

and you should be aware of them. In this article, you’ll find an overview on both statuses and how they affect your rights as a European citizen living in the UK.


What is Settled Status?

If you have been a continuous European resident in the UK for five years or longer, you have the right to apply for settled status. With that, you have “Indefinite Leave to Remain” and don’t have to re-apply for your status anymore. You have the same rights to live, work, healthcare and welfare benefits as a UK citizen.

There are some differences to the actual British citizenship though. You can only leave the UK for a maximum of five years (four, if you are Swiss). You also can’t get British citizenship for your children if they’re born outside the UK. And you don’t get the blue British passport. But to be fair, we probably all don’t want to get stuck in the international queue when we visit our relatives in Continental Europe.

One of the more inconvenient disadvantages of settled status compared to citizenship is that you can’t participate in general elections. However, you can still vote in the regional ones.


What is Pre-Settled Status?

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than five years, you get pre-settled status. That is the theory. In reality, there are quite a few examples of Europeans who lived in the UK for more than five years and are still struggling to get settled status.

One of the most prominent examples is Damian Wawrzyniak. He is a Polish chef who lived in the UK for 15 years and is probably the best European Citizen flagship the home office had to deal with. He had no gaps in his employment, and even cooked for the royal family. However,  his application for settled status was rejected.  

The good news is: Damian appealed and received settled status in the end. If you lived in the UK for more than five years and only received pre-settled status as well, you should double check if this correct. Find more information on how to appeal your pre-settled status.  


How does Pre-Settled Status Affect My Rights?

At first, pre-settled status doesn’t seem to be too different from settled status. You have the same rights to live and healthcare as someone with settled status. Unfortunately, the situation changes when it comes to welfare benefits.

For example, if you lose your job, then you have to show your “right to reside” under the EEA regulations. The irony is, that you can only show your “right to reside” when you have a job. Citizens Advice offers help on how to prove you have a right to reside if you don’t have the right evidence.

Another important aspect of pre-settled status is that you can’t leave the UK for longer than six months within a year. If you do that, your period of “continues residency” resets to zero. If you leave the UK for two years, you will lose your status completely. So if you ever consider a long trip abroad, make sure that you return to the UK in time. Especially during the Covid-19 crisis you should be careful that you don’t lock yourself out of the country in case the borders shut again. Otherwise, you have to start from the bottom again before you can apply for settled status.

See the diagram below from the the3million who summarised the main differences between the statuses.


How do I Move to Settled Status?

You can only apply for settled status after you have been a continuous resident in the UK for five years. Once you reached the time threshold, you have to renew your status and proof your residency period. You can already do that before your status expires. The expiration date on your home office letter is usually the date five years after you have applied. For example, if you moved to the UK in 2018, and applied for pre-settlement status in 2019, then your status will be valid until 2024. That means, you can already apply for settled status in 2023.


Useful links with more information on European Citizens’ Rights:

Long Live The Kale

Long Live The Kale: After the first frost, Northern Germans celebrate the kale with a long walk and a festive meal

When the cool winter wind is blowing around your nose, and the temperatures drop towards freezing point, it’s time for most cultures to spend time in their cozy living rooms.

Well, not exactly so in the Northern part of Germany. The inhabitants of the flat regions above the Harzer highlands get very excited once the kale season starts. In theory, you can grow kale throughout the whole year. However, it can taste very bitter during the summer months. The first frost ensures that the bitter components of kale disappear so that the green leaves are more delicious. Then, it’s time to pack the Bollerwagen and walk through the snowy countryside to celebrate this event.

A Bollerwagen is a wooden vehicle that is particularly popular among fathers and those who eventually want to become one. On Ascension Day, the self-declared Father’s Day in Germany, the male species fill their Bollerwagen with plenty of beer and walks through the fields, bawling songs that you can hear from afar.

The Bollerwagen is also the perfect vehicle to pull the annual Christmas tree behind you, or to go on trips with kindergarden kids. Or to march through the fields at minus 3 degrees to celebrate the cabbage.

Between November and February, there is such a thing called the cabbage walk in Germany. The concept is very simple: You meet up with your friends to walk to an Inn that serves kale. In order to make the walk entertaining, Northern Germans often play Boßeln, a sort of street bowling. The aim of the game is to throw a metal ball over a specified distance with as few throws as possible.

Once the group reaches the inn, it’s time for the traditional Grühnkohlessen. The meal consists of kale, Pinkel (a smooked sausage), and potatoes. As simple as that. The food itself may take a while to get used to, as it’s not the most aesthetic looking dish. But as soon as you get past the sight, it tastes delicious. Especially after walking in the cold for hours. The person who manages to eat the most, is the cabbage king. The traditional cabbage meal also involves a lot of dark beer. The event usually ends up with lots of drunk Germans and can be quite a wild celebration.

The cabbage walk would be a great thing to introduce to the Scottish culture – especially for the looks of other people when you play street bowling. If you mention that you will soon be coronating a cabbage king, Scots will probably not take you seriously anymore. But particularly the relatively hilly roads and the lack of a Bollerwagen, wouldn’t make the cabbage walk feel the same. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t have the dish by itself.

Kale is very healthy and nutritious – and is a seasonal product that doesn’t need to be imported from other countries. It might take some work to convince the Scottish folk to have kale by itself, but there are plenty of recipes out there that make the cabbage tasty and less…kaleish. The original Pinkel sausage might be harder to find here but have a look at an Eastern European shop as they usually have a good choice of Continental sausages.

Here are the two recipes for the traditional way to prepare kale:

German recipe:

https://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/237101096472618/Gruenkohl-wie-ihn-Mutter-kochte.html

English recipe:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/gruenkohl-pinkel-kale-kale-sausage-recipe-1447074

Enjoy!

Christmas Shenanigans in Eastern and Central Europe – Part 2

Christmas Decorations

Only four days left and its Christmas! Yes, in Continental Europe we celebrate Christmas on the 24th, not the 25th. To get us into the final Christmas spirit, we light the fourth candle of our advent wreath today and start wrapping the first presents.  

While Scotland might have the better Christmas songs, we enjoy the many traditions we have before and after Christmas. In one of our previous articles we already introduced you to the many traditions we celebrate during the first four December weeks. In this article, we’ll show you how we celebrate Christmas and that it doesn’t end on the 24th.


24th December

Finally, the big day arrives on the 24th of December. Yes, we do Christmas before you guys. In the morning, people usually decorate their tree with ornaments inherited from distant relatives. Average age of a bubble is about 45 years and they are in all sorts of forms and shapes from various birds to chimney sweepers. Although it’s our Christmas Day, there’s one big annoying thing about 24th. Which is that you are expected to feast until dinner. As a child, you are told that those who manage not to eat anything the whole day will be rewarded by seeing zlaté prasátko (a golden pig). I can tell you that this is a straight-up lie. There’s no such thing as zlaté prasátko. It’s just your grandpa, creating a reflection with a small mirror hidden under the table. It took me about seven years to find out.

But don’t get annoyed, there are all sorts of actives that you can get entertained with while you starve! I chose the top four for you:

1. Cutting an apple – take a fresh apple and cut it horizontally into two halves. When you look at the inside of the apple, the seeds should form a little star. This means you will be in good health for the next year. No star means… no health, I guess? Adult supervision highly recommended.

2. Molybdomancy – my personal favourite! A technique of divination using molten metal, practised on Christmas day to reveal your future. Most people melt lead in a tin and then drop it into water. Great fun when supervised by an adult. Potential fire hazard.

3. Throwing a shoe – take a shoe and throw it over your shoulder. If it lands with its tiptoe facing the door, you will leave the house within the next year. If it lands with the heel closer to the door, you’re staying with your parents. Previously used to forecast marriages (for girls) and university studies (for boys). You can use any shoe you like, in my experience slippers work the best because they fall flat and don’t end up on the side as often as trainers. No supervision needed.

4. Walnut boats sailing – you will need some walnut shells, small candles, skewers or thin wooden sticks and a large bucket (you can also use a bathtub). Create little boats by attaching candles into the shells (light on a candle and let a bit of wax drip into the shell, then position the candle on the hot wax). Place your boat on the water and watch the way it sails – it’s behaviour will predict your life for the next year. Great fun, supervision recommended.

This molten piece of metal is better than any fortune teller



After all that pagan witchcraft, the big dinner commences around six o’clock. And here comes another shocker for you – the menu is nothing that you’d expect. First, a soup is served – there are no rules for the specific type as far as I’m aware. I’m from the mountains so we would have a chunky mushroom soup with homemade noodles. My mum grew up in the south, so she’d insist on having a fish soup with croutons (yuck!). Certain regions also have bread soup or sour cabbage soup. However, the main dish remains the same for everyone – breaded fish with potato salad. Imagine fish and chips, but you’re only allowed to eat it once a year. Of course, our potato salad is nothing like chips. First of all, it’s cold and full of all sorts of vegetables like carrots and peas. Each family has a secret recipe, for example, we use a few slices of apple to balance the harshness of raw onion. Gherkins are mandatory.

After the main course, everyone can have some Christmas cookies, but most of the participants under the age of sixteen are nervously twitching at the table. Another shocker for you – we can open our presents on Christmas Eve! I suspect it’s to make the kids behave during the dinner, but any Christian would tell you it’s because Jesus was born that very night. Which leads me to another shocker – in Eastern Europe, it’s not Santa who brings you present, but Baby Jesus. Which doesn’t really make sense considering the Czech Republic is one of the least religious countries in the world, but hey, we love our traditions. More east you go, more wild things get.  In Russia, they get their presents brought by Ded Moroz (Father Frost).

The dinner is eaten, and the presents are opened. Now everyone’s off to watch the premiere of the latest Czech fairy-tale on the TV. Needless to say, they are usually rubbish, but an honourable mention goes to Anděl Páně (An Angel of the Lord) which is class (we’re really not that religious, I swear).


25th & 26th December

The next day, which is the UK’s Christmas day, is something we call Boží hod vánoční, and it’s usually filled with family visits, mulled wine and friends you’d meet at the local Christmas market. You can just let yourself drift on the Christmas atmosphere without the stress of the previous day. The following day, which is Boxing Day in the UK, is actually called Svatý Štepán (Saint Stephen’s Day). As far as I know, there are no particular traditions associated with this day. Our family tradition was to go ice skating or cross-country skiing to “release the potato salad energy”.


31st December

Although the following days are not considered the national holiday, most people are off work and spend time chilling before the 31th of December. Traditionally, many people would travel to the mountains to celebrate Silvester (Hogmanay or New Year’s Eve) with their friends at chat (cottage). This adventure usually includes a lot of skiing and a lot of alcohol. There’s no such year starting off a New Year with a terrible hangover on a ski slope.


6th January

Hold on, this is not the end. Christmas is officially not over until the 6 January. Tří Králové (Three Kings’ Day, or Epiphany) commemorates the Three Kings’ visit of the Baby Jesus. Also, the superstition says that you shouldn’t leave Christmas decorations hanging after this day. On the day, people’s houses are visited by the Three Kings who bless their homes and chalk the door with their initials. One of the more extreme traditions is Tříkrálové plaván – an outdoor Winter swimming. January is the coldest month of the year, and temperatures tend to fall to minus 20 degrees during the day, so you can imagine that it’s not an overly popular tradition. Unless you’re Russian.


 

And that’s all. I’ll be spending my Christmas in Glasgow for the sixth year in a row, having a stuffed turkey and a nut roast, happily opening my presents on the 25th. I might miss some of the traditions we have back home, but who says I can’t make some cukroví and wash it down with my whisky eggnog? Cause it the end, it’s not about where you are, but who you are with.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone! – from the Continentals in Scotland.

Popular UK Christmas Songs That Are Rather Unknown in Europe

The UK have a various mix of Christmas songs that even include Rage Against The Machine

It’s already mid-December. It feels like we’ve just skipped over summer and somehow already ended up in winter. Even though Christmas feels very sudden every year, it’s somehow a pleasant change now as it represents some sort of activity that we can do while we are stuck at home during Covid-19.

Usually, we put up a Christmas tree at home around this time – however, we already decorated the flat a week ago as it felt exciting to change the style of the living room we spent the last eight months in. Our neighbours put up their tree in mid-November. That was too early, even for my taste.

Last year, my work created a Christmas playlist that we would play in the office – this year, that is obviously not possible. So my colleague created a Spotify list in which we all fired our favourite Christmas song, just to be played at home. I had already discovered last year that Melanie Thornton’s full version of “Holidays Are Coming” is a complete stranger to Scottish people. And also this year, there are still some songs that I didn’t know before.

So in case you want to get into a Christmas mood and learn some of the most popular songs in this country, we collected some of them in this article.


The Pogues – Fairytale of New York

This song took me a few attempts before I started to like it. It just sounded to me like some song I would potentially listen to in a pub, and I didn’t find it Christmassy at all. The song is about an Irish immigrant who sleeps in a prison cell after being drunk on Christmas Eve.

A song about lost youth and ruined dreams is probably not what you would listen to in Continental Europe. Most German songs are either highly conservative church songs or made for children in which we sing about baking cookies. And we certainly don’t shout “You’re an old slut on junk”. My Silesian great grandmother would roll over in her grave.


Elton John – Step Into Christmas

A song that can’t be missed on any Christmas playlist is Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas”. It was one of the UK’s most popular Christmas songs in the early 2000s despite being released in 1973.

Elton’s positive energy, powerful piano tunes and the unusual strong bass in the background make you dance around in the kitchen and is great to get you up from the couch.


Chris De Burgh – A Spaceman Came Travelling

Compared to Elton John’s powerful Christmas song, Chris De Burgh’s Spaceman is perfect for a hot chocolate on the couch. Although the title doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with Christmas, De Burgh imagined the star of Bethlehem being a spacecraft when he wrote the song. It never became a hit in the UK but is now a popular Christmas song every year.


Aled Jones – Walking In The Air

You may have come across the famous Irn Bru advert with the snowman and may have suspected some deeper storyline behind it. The advert is based on “The Snowman” which is an animated television film from 1982. A young boy becomes friends with a snowman, and together they fly above famous Scottish land sights. Halfway through, Peter Auty starts to sing the song “Walking In The Air”. Aled Jones covered it three years after the film came out and his cover reached the UK’s top 5 charts.

If you haven’t seen the snowman yet, you can find the Youtube video below – “Walking in the Air” starts at 15:25. And please don’t forget to watch the Irn Bru advert as well. Even though the drink tastes like chewing gum and will probably never be part of a Continental household, we must appreciate that the advert is pretty clever.  


Rage Against The Machine – Killing in the Name

Yes, you read that correctly. When my manager put that song in our playlist, I was probably equally confused as you are right now. After some research, I found out that “Killing in the Name” became the Christmas number one song in 2009. The reason why it peaked is one of the reasons I love the culture here.

Before Rage Against The Machine shook up the UK’s Christmas’ charts, X-Factor used to lead the charts for five years in a row. This was obviously enough for some folk. An English couple launched a Facebook group and encouraged people to download “Killing in the Name” so that X-Factor won’t win the charts again. Never forgotten will be the BBC 5 radio performance in which the band promised not to swear. You can probably imagine how that went.


Obviously, there are a lot more Christmas songs than the ones mentioned above – especially from the 50s. While Christmas songs in Continental Europe can sometimes be a bit cringeworthy, there are beautiful English ones for all sort of music tastes. Even when they were not intended to be for Christmas in the first place.

Christmas Shenanigans in Eastern and Central Europe – Part 1

On 6th December, children receive presents from Saint Nicolas if they have been nice – in Germany they get them in their shoes.

Everyone loves Christmas, that’s a universal thing. The way people celebrate it, not so much. In Western Europe, it all starts with Halloween. When all those (not so) spooky decorations go down, everyone knows there are about three weeks of a slow transition period which culminates with the first festive cheer of early December. In Europe, our Christmas period is much more organised. Some rules and traditions will make the British six-month-old Christmas pudding feel like the most boring thing on Earth. We prepared a short overview of important days and dates you should know if you ever decide to spend the festive period in Eastern or Central Europe.


4 Weeks Before Christmas

According to the ancient unwritten law, thou shalt not mention the festive season before Advent. Did you think you could get away with hanging your decorations mid-November? Shame on you. Everyone knows you can first start talking about the festivities on the fourth Sunday before the big day. Nevertheless, you are always meant to have your Advent wreath ready by that time. For those who never seen such thing, the Advent wreath usually sits on your dinner table and has four candles symbolising four Sundays before Christmas. Each Sunday, you light another candle. By the time all four candles are burning, you are ready to start panicking about not having your presents wrapped.
Make sure you put your Advent wreath on a non-flammable surface as it is the second most common cause of fire in Czech households during December. After sparkles on Christmas trees, obviously.


4th December

Another important spell of festivities comes on the 4th of December. It’s the Saint Barbora’s Day and the name day for all Barboras/Barbaras. On this day, you are meant to put your snow boots on and go cut off some tiny cherry branches from the nearest cheery tree. What you must do is put these branches called Barborky into the water and wait. If they are in full blossom by Christmas Eve, you’re definitely getting married next year. No blossom means no marriage. Although traditionally it was considered a strictly girls’ business, I was brought up in an unusually egalitarian household and my brother was always allowed to have his own Barborky. He got married before me, so that shows you.


6th December

Just a day after the wholesome celebration of nature, Eastern Europeans have one of their first properly festive holidays. The sixth of December is Saint Nicolas’ day. And that’s when shit gets serious. The way it’s celebrated differs a region from a region, so the following description is specific to the area where I grew up – the mountains in the east of the Czech Republic

Every year, Saint Nicholas, or Mikuláš as we call him, visits house after house with his two companions to check up on the children, and to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year. Good children are given sweets by his kind friend Anděl (angel – usually a lovely lady in a blond wig). Bad children get to meet Mikuláš’s other companion Krampus or as we call him – Čert. Let me tell you from a personal experience, you don’t want to meet Čert. Often described as “half-goat, half-demon”, Krampus is the definition of evil. He has a big smelly bag, where he puts naughty children before taking them to hell. I had the pleasure to have my head inside of that bag several times, and while hanging mid-air, I managed to confess every sin I committed that year. Even the ones I didn’t. Compared to Krampus, Spanish inquisition was a bunch of losers.

Additionally to being scared to death, some kids also put their special stockings beside their windows or front door before going to bed on that day. Overnight, Saint Nicholas fills the stockings with gifts and sweets or alternatively with coal and potatoes.


7th – 23rd December

After the horrors of Saint Nicholas, you have about two weeks when you can relax and spend time baking some Christmas cookies called cukroví. Controversially, there are people who would tell you that cukroví is actually superior to the Christmas dinner. Some families pride themselves on having up to 18 different types of cukroví prepared in advance. Which is a complete madness if you ask me, but each to their own. The most common ones are vanilkové rohlíčky, linecké, perníčky (gingerbreads), pracky, pusinky (meringues) and anything filled with rum or marzipan. My dad also makes his own vaječný likér (eggnog), which can only be described as a sumptuous creamy mixture of rum, slivovice and condensed milk of around 40% abv. There’s no such thing as Christmas without an eggnog hangover.

Another highly popular festive event of this period is getting your Christmas tree. While most of the people who live in bigger cities simply go to the nearest supermarket or flower shop, my dad always insisted on doing it the old-school way. His old-school way consisted of us venturing to the woods looking for lesní školka (forest kindergarden), where local forest rangers annually sell young Christmas trees. Each dad would be armed with a small saw and a flask of slivovice. While kids run around searching for their favourite tree, dads are free to degustovat (get merry) with some other dad’s plum vodka. In the end everyone leaves with a tree and three units in their bloodstream.


While Christmas is very well structured in Eastern and Central Europe, Scotland has more Christmas songs than it has traditions. Look out for our next blog post on Christmas Shenanigans, Part 2, in which we explain you on which date we celebrate the festive event – it’s not the 25th. And it’s not just about opening presents, they are quite a few other traditions that go beyond the actual Christmas date.

Scotland, why are you so messy?

Random fridges are not an unusual sight in Scotland

Scotland, we need to talk about recycling. You are a country with such formidable nature and heritage that is admired throughout the world. And yet, whether you hit the town on Sunday morning or drive along Loch Lomond to the north, there’s litter everywhere. So, tell me, Scotland, why are you so messy?


Growing up in the 90s in an eastern European country, I’ve witnessed how quickly things can change. In the space of ten years of my childhood, we came from having illegal wastelands in woods and omnipresent litter in towns to having clean streets and every small village enjoying its own recycling containers. Almost every small town now operates a recycling centre where its inhabitants can dispose of everything from old furniture, electronics, clothes to old batteries or bikes.

Try throwing a piece of paper on the ground in my hometown. I can assure you at least two people will appear from nowhere, telling you to pick it up (or swear at you and then pick it up themselves, depending on their age). Thanks to the massive educational campaign, partly backed by the state, recycling became a national sport and a part of our mentality. Because why would you want to, pardon me, “shit where you eat”? Sure, you’ll still find people who are not bothered about flattening their plastic bottles before placing them into a yellow container (yellow for plastic, blue for paper) but their numbers are getting smaller and smaller by every year according to the official statistics.

This is why I was so surprised when I moved to Scotland seven years ago. At first, I thought this might be an isolated Glasgow issue. But my first ventures outside the city proved me otherwise. Seeing all the empty cans and pieces of plastic scattered along the train rails on my way to Edinburgh, reminded me of the sadness I felt as a small child with the end of winter. Not only that my favourite season was coming to an end, but the melting snow revealed the ditches next to the road being full of miscellaneous dirty items that someone threw out of their car. And there’s nothing more depressing than slushy, brown snow exposing bits of old litter scattered around like frozen corpses on Mount Everest.


I remember when Glasgow City Council introduced the first recycling scheme for businesses. Back then, nobody at my work (I worked as a bartender in the city centre) knew how to recycle. I spent months fishing out cans of Irn Bru from the general waste and placing them into the see-through recyclable bin bags. And explaining to my colleagues that little sachets with sauces, although considered food by some, do not belong to the food waste.


Their reaction was mixed. Some said this wasn’t explained to them properly by the management (which is true, a printed A4 sheet of paper in the staff room will give you next to nothing), while others simply didn’t care. Forgive me, if this isn’t true, but one of my Scottish friends once presented me with the following theory, posing the issue in the context of cultural mentality. That is, no matter what your work position, education or social status is, people here sort of expect/are taught that “someone else will clean after them” or “it’s someone’s job to do that”. I’m not sure to what extent this might be true, nevertheless, it presents a complex idea behind the notion of Britishness and how that relates to contemporary Scottishness.

And then some actually listened and learned. If anything, I’ve left that place after five years with a warming feel that I helped at least thirty people with their recycling journey (we had a high staff turnover). So here I am, writing this article, hoping that someone will find it helpful the next time they need to bin something, and they might not be just quite sure what bin (or container) to use.

The following advice relates to household rubbish management, specifically in the area of Greater Glasgow. So please, bear in mind that things might be slightly different where you live.

 

What Belongs In Which Bin

Mixed recycling – Blue Wheelie bin

Plastic: cleaner and detergent bottles, milk and drinks bottles, toiletries and shampoo bottles

Cardboard: cardboard egg boxes, cardboard fruit and veg punnets, cardboard sleeves, cereal boxes, corrugated cardboard, toilet roll tubes

Paper: brown envelopes, magazines, newspapers, shredded paper, Yellow Pages

Metal Packaging: aerosols, drinks cans, food tins

General waste – Green Wheelie bin

Food waste – Silver Wheelie bin (Flats & Tenements) or Brown Wheelie bin (Kerbside Households)

Bread, cakes and pastries

Dairy products – cheese and eggs

Raw and cooked fish and meat (including bones)

Raw and cooked fruit and vegetables (including peelings)

Rice, pasta and beans

Teabags and coffee grounds

Uneaten food and plate scrapings

Glass bins – Big Wheelie bin (Flats & Tenements) or regular Purple Wheelie bin (Kerbside Households)

Glass bottles and jar

Garden Waste – Brown Wheelie bin

Flowers

Grass cuttings

Leaves

Plants

Prunings and twigs

Weeds

 

Common items that do not belong into the household waste and should be taken to a recycling centre:

Kitchen Oil – cooking oil and fat shouldn’t be poured down sinks as it can cause blockages. They can be put into a sealed container and taken to your local recycling centre.

Batteries – they are made from trillion different materials and need to be taken apart. Instead of chucking them to your general waste, take them to a recycling centre or a collection point in a supermarket.

Electrics – same as batteries. Although your old kettle seems to be made of plastic, don’t forget about the wiring and the heating element. Some local authorities collect small electrical items as part of their kerbside collection, otherwise, you can recycle these and larger items at selected retailers and at your Recycling centre.

Mattresses and old Furniture – consider selling them or simply donating them if they are in a good condition. If not, most furniture can be recycled at your local recycling centre and some local authorities may also provide a collection service.

Shopping bags – Many larger supermarkets accept your carrier bags as well as other plastic films – look for the message ‘recycle with carrier bags at larger stores – not at kerbside’ on the label.

Pay attention to what you put into your recycling. It actually makes a big difference:

“When the wrong items are put in a recycling container or bin it causes various issues along the way. First of all, it slows down the sorting process as these items then have to be removed by hand and the wrong item can then potentially damage machinery as it is not designed for this type of material.

Then, if too many of the wrong items end up in the recycling material stream and the contamination is deemed too severe – as it would take too long to sort by hand – the entire load is diverted to landfill or incineration meaning the time and effort put into recycling in the first place was wasted.” – Zero Waste Scotland

To know what to put into your recycling, always check the product’s packaging. Most of the items include packaging labels and recycling symbols that are usually self-explanatory. If you are still unsure, have a look at this handy article from Zero Waste Scotland.

 

Recycling centres (Glasgow):

Polmadie (425 Polmadie Rd, Glasgow G42 0PJ)

Shieldhall (Renfrew Rd, Glasgow G51 4SL)

Dawsholm (75 Dalsholm Rd, Glasgow G20 0TB)

Easter Queenslie (90 Easter Queenslie Rd, Glasgow G33 4UL) – van friendly

Household Waste Recycling Centres are open 7 days a week, 8-4pm (last entry at 3.45pm).

All centres now provide a full waste disposal service, accepting the following waste types:

  • Bags of household waste
  • Electrical Items (including lamps, tv screens and monitors)
  • White Goods
  • Mattresses
  • Wood (including small furniture)
  • Cardboard
  • Garden waste
  • Scrap metal
  • Rubble
  • Dry mixed recyclables, textiles
  • Cooking oil and engine oil
  • Hazardous household items such as solvent-based paint, pesticides etc
  • Car batteries

Glasgow located households can also get their bulky waste items collected by the council. Unfortunately, this service has been limited to request-only appointments under the current circumstance. More info here.


Online Resources

https://wasteless.zerowastescotland.org.uk/

https://www.recyclenow.com/

https://www.greenerscotland.org/

https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/recycling

 

Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes. I used to put plastic films into mixed recycling until the start of this year when I got told off by our binman. The important thing is to try and not be afraid to ask (or Google) if unsure.

Tips for Driving on the Left Side of the Road

Image by Dagmara Owsiejczyk from Pixabay

Once you move to Scotland from Europe, you will probably find yourself in the situation where you get confused when you have to cross a road. Even after a few weeks you might still struggle on huge intersections and become utterly perplexed in the middle of the road.

Getting used to Scottish roads and figuring out where to look first can already be as tricky as a pedestrian. At some point you will probably want to drive a car but will have some anxiety about driving on the left side of the road. The good news is: It doesn’t take too long to get used to left-handed traffic. Here are some tips that should help you in preparing for your first drive on the other side.


Left, Left, Left

Even though it sounds obvious, you will have to trick your brain into thinking left. Even if that means that you take a moment at each intersection to say “left”. Especially when you have to turn right, this can help you ensuring that you don’t accidently become a wrong-way driver by manoeuvring into the wrong lane.

In Scotland, cars can legally park on each side of the road, so they are not the best reminder to drive left unfortunately. Again, if you are in doubt just keep telling yourself “left” and just slow down a bit.


Get Used to the Car

If you have never driven a car on the left side, it’s best if you take enough time to get used to the car before you start the engine. The wheel is on the right side and the gear change on the left. The good news is: The pedals remain exactly where they would be in Europe.

However, if you generally feel quite nervous about driving on the left side, you might want to drive an automatic car. That way, you can fully focus on the road and get used to left-handed traffic quickly.


Look Up The Route On Google Maps

Before you embark on your first left-handed drive after moving to Scotland, it’s a good idea to look up the route you intend to drive on Google maps. Especially tricky intersections, roundabouts or chaotic motorways such as those in Glasgow can make driving stressful, particularly when it’s your first time on the left side.

The more research you do beforehand, the better your drive will probably be and the more you will get used to driving in Scotland.


Check The Space on Your Left

Even when you finally managed to trick your brain into thinking left, you (or your passengers) will notice that you often drive too much on the left of your lane. You drive naturally more to the left side as you are used to sitting on the left. This can become a problem as you might eventually scratch your car on narrow roads, or even drive off the left-sided mirror.

While you are on the road, you can use the road markings as an orientation and try to keep as close as possible to the ones on the right. When you have to park, you might want to have someone sitting next to you who keeps an eye on your left side. After a while, you will eventually get better in estimating the space correctly.


Ignore Aggressive Honking

Unlike Germany, it’s not forbidden in Scotland to use the horn (at least during the day). Which means that people here really like to honk at everything and everyone. So don’t take it too personal if someone just honks at you for literally no reason. Just stay calm and keep on driving, it’s most likely just an impatient driver behind you.


Watch Out for Pedestrians

One of the first things you probably have noticed in Scotland (especially if you are German) is, that no one really cares about traffic lights, especially pedestrians. You eventually turn into someone who vehemently ignores long traffic light waiting times and just cross when there is no car in sight. However, you can’t do that as a car driver.

When you sit in the car, you develop a slight dislike of pedestrians ignoring traffic lights whenever they can or when they suddenly appear from nowhere. Thus, keep an eye on pedestrians as they might walk onto the road while you have green. At least you don’t have to worry too much about cyclists as they barely exist in Scotland and are (technically) not allowed to cross while you turn into a road.  


Driving on the left side of the road can seem scary at first and can make you a bit anxious, but once you have managed your first drive you will get used to the traffic quite quickly. Hopefully, the tips from this article has given you a better idea on how to prepare yourself for left-handed traffic.

Moving to Scotland – Things You Need to Organise

Loch Stack by Achfary. Picture by Cameron Swanson

You are thinking of moving to Scotland from mainland Europe? Next to some rough weather and thick accents you should be prepared for some extra paperwork as Brexit has made things a bit more difficult.

Especially with the deadline to apply for a pre-settlement status, you might want to give yourself enough time to organise everything in time. Here is a guide on all the things you will need to do if you are a European and plan to settle down in Scotland.


National Insurance Number

The first thing you should organise once you arrive in Scotland is to organise your national insurance number. With that, you are allowed to work in the UK and can claim benefits if you have to.

In order to get your National Insurance number, you will have to call the National Insurance number application line. They will then direct you to the closest Jobcentre who will set up an appointment with you. Unfortunately, it’s not possible yet to do that online, so be prepared to spell your name on the phone.

For the jobcentre interview you will need to bring the following documents:

  • passport (or identity card, but a passport is usually better)
  • residence permit (this can be your flat contract for example)
  • birth or adoption certificate (a copy or scan is usually enough)
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence (not necessarily)

During the interview you will need to outline why you moved to the UK and if wish to work there. They are usually very friendly, so it’s more of an appointment rather than an actual interview.

Once you’ve completed your interview, they will give you a form that you can use for your employer to show that you’ve applied for a National Insurance number. The final letter with your number normally takes about six weeks before it arrives. So make sure that you apply for the number once you’ve arrived in Scotland.


Apply For Pre-Settlement Status

The next thing to do once you have applied for your National Insurance number is your pre-settlement status. The UK has left the European Union on 31 January which means you won’t be able to live in Scotland after the 30 June 2021 without a Visa. The process of applying for the status can take about a month, depending on the number of applications the home office has to proceed.

To get your pre-settlement status you have to visit the government website and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. You will need to have your National Insurance number, proof of residency and identity ready. They might ask you to verify your identity, especially if you haven’t lived in Scotland for long. For that, you will have to send your identity proof to the home office. In case you want to travel abroad soon, you might not want to use your passport as it can take up to a month before they send it back.

After a few weeks, you will then get an email with a letter that will tell you if your application has been successful. In case you have to prove your status, you have to use the online service to get a ‘share code’. You can send that to your employer or family, for example.


Register With A GP

In the UK, you have access to free healthcare through the NHS (National Health Service). So the good news is, you don’t have to worry about organising health insurance. With your national insurance number, you can register with a GP (General Practitioner). In the UK, you will always have to go to a GP first before you see a specialist. So even if you know what doctor you have to see, you will need to get a recommendation first unless you pay for the treatment privately.

All you need to do is to check what GP is based in your community and visit the surgery to fill out the contact form. You can either receive it from the surgery or download it in advance. When you bring the form to the surgery, make sure you have proof of address handy as they might ask for that.


Open A Bank Account

If you want to move to Scotland permanently then you should definitely open a bank account. Before you do that, you will need to get some sort of proof of address. Unfortunately, your contract won’t be enough. You will need to show a letter that was sent to you, which can be a council tax bill, for example. However, this can be tricky especially if you’ve just moved to the UK. In case you already have your National Insurance number, you might be able to show that to the bank. 

Until you have your proof of address but need a bank account for your employer, you can sign up to an online bank. For example, Monzo is very popular across the UK and you can open an account without proof of address.


All the paperwork might sound a bit frightening, but it’s worth in the end. Once you get your pre-settlement status, you are pretty much good to go and have almost all the same rights as someone who has full settlement status.

How to Survive Cycling in Scotland

A trip to the shops in Scotland by bike is not as easy as in mainland Europe

One of the things you will notice once you move to Scotland is the fact that there are barely any bikes on the road. Fair enough, it’s raining a lot here, but that doesn’t usually keep people inside. Unfortunately, rain is not the biggest enemy of cyclists in Scotland. It’s the fact that roads are generally not made for anyone on a bike.

The infrastructure only includes a few cycle paths, which is especially a high risk on busy streets downtown. And on narrow countryside roads with big hedges on each side, it’s almost impossible to go for a nice cycle on the road without fearing that a car is going to hit you.

Indicators that the cycling situation is probably not the best, can also be seen in the road statistics. Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in accidents amongst cyclists in Scotland resulting in serious injuries. A survey showed that only 12 per cent have used their bike for at least 30 minutes in the last month. At the same time, Dutch residents use their bike for 25%  of all trips they make. Obviously, it’s not as rainy in the Netherlands and most of the roads are quite flat, but if you look at Finland, people are cycling even when the pavements are covered in snow.

If you don’t want to miss out on using your bike in Scotland, then here are a few hints that hopefully keep you from any serious injuries and improve your cycling experience.


1. Left, Left, Left

You are not in mainland Europe anymore, so you will need to keep left on the road. When you drive a car, then the position of the gears and wheel are a constant reminder of driving left. But when you are on the bike, everything looks the same which makes it even harder to fight the instinct of cycling on the right side. Especially with cars being able to park in any direction, you can’t always use them as a reminder.

Cycling on the left side also involves looking over your left shoulder and not the right. This can feel quite awkward at the beginning, so maybe practice on a quiet road first. And also practice intersections. After turning left, you might find yourself suddenly cycling on the right side again.  


2. Buy A Helmet

Try to forget about your look and buy a helmet. The roads here are not safe for cyclists and a helmet reduces the likelihood of serious head injuries significantly. Make sure that the helmet fits your head and watch out for the “BS EN 1078” marking. That means that your helmet meets the strict British and European safety requirements. Here is a guide that tells you which helmet is the best for what cycling activity.  


3. Don’t Trust Cycle Paths

Scottish cities are slowly integrating cycle paths in their infrastructure. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are safe, even if they are separated with a small stone fence from the rest of the road. Cars can suddenly drive onto the path or block it by parking on it.

Another threat comes from those on foot. Pedestrians are generally not used to bikes on pavements, so it happens every now and then that they suddenly walk on the cycle path without watching out for bikes. Try to cycle slowly when you see that the pavement is busy and always watch out for people that might jump in front of your bike. 


4. Don’t Trust Traffic Lights

Another thing that you shouldn’t trust is traffic lights. The only advantage they have compared to European traffic lights is the fact that cars can’t cross at the same time there is a green light for pedestrians or cyclists. So you can technically cross the street without the fear of a car suddenly bumping into you when you cross the street.

However, this is only the theory. You will notice that both cars and pedestrians stretch the rules of traffic lights a bit. Since Scottish traffic lights don’t let pedestrians and cars pass at the same time, it results in long waiting times. While Germans wouldn’t cross a red traffic light even if there is no car in sight, jaywalking is so normal in the UK that people don’t even know what the term means.

So, if you are on a bike, always slow down at green traffic lights and make sure that no car or pedestrian might knock you over.


5. Plan Your Route To Avoid Intersections

Since the streets in Scotland are generally not very safe for cyclists, always check roughly which route you want to follow before jumping on your bike. Planning routes makes cycling more complicated than it should be, but fewer intersections and quiet roads reduce the likelihood of an accident and also improve your experience on the bike.

If you plan a long cycle trip, watch out for blue signs. These signs are made for cyclists and show you more quiet routes.


6. Wear A Bright Jacket

If you decide to go for a ride on your bike, think about what jacket you want to wear. If you want cars to notice you, then a black jacket is not the best choice. The best jackets that increase the chance of other people seeing you are neon ones. You can get a so-called “hi-vis” jacket for just £25. They make other people see you but can also protect you from sudden rain. Check out this buying guide that compares different hi-vis jackets in various price categories. 


7. Buy A Bell And Use It

The easiest way to make pedestrians aware of your bike is by ringing the bell. You might have already noticed that people either don’t have a bell or don’t use it because they don’t want to offend anyone. But ringing the bell shouldn’t be interpreted as an affront because it ultimately saves pedestrians, and especially dog owners, from getting a fright when you suddenly pass them on a bike. And also makes it easier for you to pass.

It’s also a handy trick to pass sharp corners. If you don’t want to bump into other people or get hit by another cyclist, ring the bell a few times before you approach a corner. Obviously, you should still slow down, but at least you make people aware of you and your bike. 


8. Get A Lock. Or Two.

This isn’t necessarily related to safety on the roads, but if you don’t want to lose your bike in Scotland you will need a good lock. There is quite a high number of stolen bikes every year and the chances of finding a stolen bike are low. Even if you put your bike in the communal close, make sure you lock it appropriately, because everyone can access the close through the service button.

Once you have a bike, you can register it with the National Cycle Database. It helps to prevent bicycle thefts but the organisation also supports people in finding stolen bikes. 


Obviously, all the hints mentioned above won’t guarantee that you will never have an accident on your bike, but it decreases the likelihood. Fingers crossed that the infrastructure in Scotland will be improved in the foreseeable future and we can cycle more safely.