On secession

BLUF • policy

Submitted by Nigel Whitfield, Director, 22 August 2022



Around the world, nations and borders change. Sometimes it happens dramatically, and cataclysmically, as in the former Yugoslavia, and sometimes it's more measured, the result of years of campaigning.

When it does happen, though, it means change, and a certain amount of upheaval. There will be those who don't like the result, and those who do. The hope is that, after any initial teething problems, everyone learns to live peacefully within whatever new framework has evolved.

It's not just the countries involved that have to change, of course; many people around the world have to do something - maybe just little things, like updating the list of countries they ship their products to, or the list of places that people can pick as home. These may seem simple, but very often they run considerably deeper.

So we come to BLUF. To varying degrees, I can think of a few countries where changes to how we do things may be necessary, to keep up with events. Québec in Canada has long had separatist parties; one day they may finally achieve enough votes to form a separate nation. In Europe, there is a movement to break Catalonia away from the rest of Spain. There are even some who think California should become an independent nation - it would be ranked highly in the GDP tables - though that's probably mostly a pipe-dream for now.

And, then there's the United Kingdom. There is a very good chance that there will be another referendum on Scottish independence within a few years - and they may well succeed. The movement for an independent Wales has become broader over recent years, and who knows what will happen in Northern Ireland, given the passage of time?

For our terms, however, Scotland is likely the most pressing; a vote was held in 2014, and we formulated then a plan for how a transition would be handled, which you will find further down this blog post.

From time to time I am asked by people "Why can't I have Scotland as my country, instead of United Kingdom" and the answer - for now - is surely easy enough to work out? Scotland is not yet an independent nation. When it becomes one, it will be an option.

But why not now?

Adding a single country to a list may seem trivial; if all it means is someone can say that's where they live (at the moment you can select United Kingdom, or United Kingdom - Scotland). But on a site like this - and just about any site - it goes much deeper.

We have listings on BLUF for shops, bars, clubs, photographers and educators. All those are listed by country. When we show you who's online, you can tap a single button to view people in the same country as you.

When you choose which events you want to be notified about, you can choose 'My own country' or pick from various other options.

To add a new country before we know it will become independent is something of a leap in the dark, and for many people may considerably compromise the usefulness of a site like BLUF. And, it is also almost inevitably a political act.

There will be those in favour of independence who may choose the new country immediately; there will be those who oppose and will resolutely not do so. So, the list of who's online in Scotland (or Quebec, or Catalonia) won't be accurate. There will be one group of people appearing in one section, and another in the other. In effect, people will be declaring where they stand on the issue by which country they choose for their profile. Some may see no problem with that, but I think it better to keep such campaigning off a site like BLUF.

Worse, for the businesses like bars and leather vendors, who presently appear in the United Kingdom listings, should we automatically change their location to Scotland? To do that ahead of any vote seems premature and would very probably annoy some. So we would be in the position of having to check with each - to, in effect, ask them to declare where they stand on an issue that many would find contentious. And I really don't think that it is the place of BLUF to go down that route, putting itself into a position where people might draw inferences about which "side" a business is on by whether or not their listing has been updated.

There are, additionally, likely to be knock-on effects on subsystems that we rely on, particularly for payment processing. For instance, it may prove tricky authorising payments if a country that is not yet recognised is supplied as part of the payment details, causing an inability to match the address with bank records.

There is a plan

This is why we do have a plan to handle this with - we hope - as little hassle as possible, a plan which we made back in 2014.

There will be two important dates, essentially. We'll call C-Day the day on which a result is confirmed, and I-Day the day on which a nation officially becomes independent.

Between the two dates we have to take the following steps

  • Add the new country as an option in the country list
  • Review all the country level permissions volunteers have, and determine who needs which permissions for which country
  • If there are no volunteers for the new country, we have to recruit them - this covers listings updates for bars, clubs, shops, etc
  • Review the different mailing lists and their descriptions to make sure they're still appropriate; in the Scottish case, this probably means renaming "UK & Ireland" to "British Isles" or something along those lines
  • User education 1. Of the almost 900 people in the UK, 350 have not indicated any specific area where they live. These would all need to be reached out to, to explain the new choices available.
  • User education 2. All those presently located in the old country, and all those who have moved their location to the new country, need an explanation of how to change their settings to ensure that they still receive information about events across the border.
  • Application and site updates. To enable this to happen, the apps will need updates scheduled and approved by Google and Apple. It is likely that some key software, in particular our payment systems, will need updates in advance of I-Day.
  • Store and shipping information. Data required for shipping will need to be updated both on the BLUF site and in the online stores, as and when this becomes available.

On I-Day we can then take more steps

  • All those members listed in the old country, in the area that is now independent, can be programatically moved to the new country, so users don't have to do anything.
  • All listings will need to be reviewed (shops, bars, clubs, photographers, etc) to move relevant businesses to the new country. As much as possible, this will be done programatically.
  • Event listings will be updated where appropriate
  • User education 3. A repeat of the previous steps, for those who have yet to declare any part of the old country as their location.

Following this process, those who wish to be trailblazers can update their location to the new country once a vote has been confirmed, though depending on levels of enthusiasm, they may not see as many people online in their country.

Business listings and other appropriate members will be moved on I-Day.

All members should be aware of the changes they need to make to stay informed about events, and where on the site to make them.