The Scots tung

The Scots tung: how to support it without tying up the Yes movement. A guest post by a Clear Contrair Spirit

One of the insinuations heard (admittedly, mostly from English-based media) during the referendum campaign was that the SNP was all about compulsory Gaelic. As any Scot knows, Gaelic is marginal to the Scottish independence movement, and this is probably a good thing. In Wales, the nationalist movement has been largely tied up with the Welsh language movement. On the one hand, this has given them a cause to rally round, but on the other, it has limited the appeal of Welsh nationalism in a country where only around a fifth of the population speaks it.

That’s actually less than the proportion of Scots claiming to speak Scots according to the 2011 census, some 30% of Scots indicated some level of competency in the language, rising to 49% in Shetland and Aberdeenshire. Unlike Gaelic, Scots is spoken the length and breadth of the country, and it is impossible to live here for any length of time without acquiring at least a passive understanding. This being so, independentista types need to ask the question, where do we stand on the Scots language?

Before we get started on that, we need to ask what the Scots language actually is. Most people in Scotland, whenever they open their mouths, place themselves somewhere along a linguistic continuum. At one end, we have what is known as Scots Standard English. This uses British spelling conventions and more or less the same grammatical rules as standard English but the same phonology as Scots and a large amount of Scotland-specific vocabulary (perhaps the best known examples are the use of a trilled /r/ pronounced regardless of its position in the word, and the use of ‘outwith’ instead of ‘outside’). At the other extreme, we have the Scots language proper, based on the Old Northumbrian dialect of Anglo-saxon, with a large admixture of Norman French and Latinate vocabulary, just like English. A sample sentence (taken from William Lorimer’s translation of the New Testament): Gin I speak wi the tungs o men an angels, but hae nae luve I my hairt, I am no nane better nor dunnerin bress or a ringing cymbal (English translation, from the KJV: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angel, but have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal). Most Scots, myself included, mash these up these two languages, using vocabulary, grammatical forms, and vocabulary from both, sometimes even in the same sentence. Sample: There’s a fell load o snow oan this platform, a pure Scots sentence would use sna instead. When it comes to writing however, almost all of us resort to English, because this is what we’re taught at school is the correct way to write and that’s what we feel comfortable with.

The position of Scots reflects a sort of national schizophrenia (whether this is a cause or a symptom of the famous Scottish split personality or antisyzygy if you’re looking to win at Scrabble is a question for another day). On Burns Night say, Scots is set up as an object of pride, but it’s an ossified object, presented as of no practical use or contemporary relevance, and its use in polite society is frowned upon outwith certain staged contexts. For many older Scots, the refrain rings true that ‘For one day a year, we were given a prize for being able to read and recite ‘guid Scots’ and on the other 364 days we were belted for using the same words.’ But to write in Scots is not just difficult, but often discouraged as incorrect. There’s often also a sneaking suspicion that to write in Scots, on a form or an official letter say, would be undignified; it would mark one down as uncouth and ill-educated, even though the chances are almost everybody who read it would be able to understand the meaning.

This brings us to one reason why the independence-minded should be willing to support Scots. I’ll get the atavistic nationalist thing, red in tooth and claw out the way now – Scots is ours, and if we don’t cherish it and look after it, nobody else is going to. It’s part of what makes us who we are. But, blood and soil nationalist hat off, one thing we often heard during the referendum debate from the Yes camp was ‘I want to live in a normal country.’ Implicit in that statement is the recognition that Scotland is not a normal nation, that we suffer from some kind of psychological wound due to our lack of independence. Heal and whole come from the same (Germanic) root and the way to heal this wound is to integrate (Latin root, to make whole) the national psyche. One very practical way to do that is to integrate Scots mentally so we don’t see it as a second-class form of speech or mere identity marker, the sort of thing you learn by heart at school then promptly forget, but rather as a part of us that we feel entirely at home with, without embarrassment or reservation. Some might think this is impossible, but there is ample historical precedent. In South Africa, Afrikaans used to be derided as ‘Cape Dutch’ or ‘Kombuistaal’ (‘kitchen language’), the uncouth speech of the unlearned. In the wake of the Boer War, Afrikaner nationalism began to cherish the language, and to insist on its development and public use. In order to develop, Scots needs greater standardisation of the spelling conventions, more use in schools and the media, and recognition of the right to use it in communication with public bodies. In Finland, Swedish is a secondary official language, but Swedish-speaking Finns have the right to interact with officialdom in their own language, in recognition of their status as full citizens. Ultimately, we should be looking for Scots to be accorded the same status.

But ca’ canny. Many people already do interact with the government in Scots, but only in oral form, and might not see why they would want to use anything other than English for written communications. Perhaps more importantly, Scots has survived because people feel comfortable using it. There is a danger that were we to impose too artificial a standard, people would become alienated. Obtaining formal language rights is simply a means to an end, and that has to be about normalising the use of Scots, and raising its prestige. Achieve that, and people will come to use it naturally in more contexts, including writing.

Before we go any further, we should say that this isn’t about abolishing the use of English. English connects us to the wider world, and we need both languages to achieve the psychological integration mentioned above. English is part of us too. Rather than teaching Scots as a separate subject, it might be simpler and more effective to teach Scots spelling and grammatical forms alongside each other, in the same way schoolchildren are exposed to Scots literature in what we call their English lessons. A good metaphor for the relationship between Scots and English might be the Horcrux. Except in this case, the two can exist in symbiosis.

A further question is, how do you promote Scots without being labelled as obsessive hobbyists or narrow nationalists? One answer is that the Yes movement is precisely that, a movement. Scots language organisations can take a neutral position regarding politics, but still work for the language, but there is a need to set up a group that supports both the Scots language, and the independence movement, and can co-operate to linguistic and political ends on an ad hoc basis. Another answer lies in questions of social justice. Social justice? That’s practical stuff: foodbanks, bailouts, benefit cuts – nothing to do with language, surely? Wrong. Scots is the language of the people, in that it is the language of the lower classes, urban and rural. In the contemporary Scottish media, it’s exceedingly rare to see or hear Scots used except in a context where the use is there to show that the speaker is proletarian, or comic, or quite possibly both. Still Game is laced with Scots; you won’t hear it on Reporting Scotland, save the odd vox pop. Normalising the use of Scots in all contexts is a very powerful way to lessen the stigma, and therefore the social exclusion, that goes with using the language. If, as George Bernard Shaw said, it is impossible for one Englishman to open his mouth without another despising him, it remains true, almost a century later, that a huge proportion of Scots cannot open their mouth without their fellow Scots mentally writing them off, because of the language it comes naturally to them to express themselves in. In a nutshell, if you remove the negative stereotypes associated with contemporary Scots, you remove a huge impediment to social mobility and social justice.

So, want to know the old Scots word for independence? Unthirldom!

Read more from A Clear Contrair Spirit here https://aclearcontrairspirit.wordpress.com/

 

Portillo moments on steroids

So that’s it then, the end of an era. Alicsammin has bowed out as leader of the SNP. But it’s not the last we’ll be seeing of him, he’s going to be a thorn in the flesh of the Westminster parties for quite some time to come. Alicsammin is the marmite of Scottish politics, loved and loathed in equal measure, but no one can deny that he’s changed Scotland forever. This is not the same country that it was back in 2007 when the SNP narrowly pipped Labour at the post and became the minority government, putting an end to what was supposed to be the permanent Labour-Lib Dem duopoly set up in a back room meeting between Donald Dewer and Ming Campbell.

Back then Labour thought it was just a wee blip and normal service would be resumed just as soon as the rest of Scotland realised what a terrible mistake they’d made by rejecting the self-described peepil’s party. All Labour had to do was sit back, sling mud, and the voters would return to their ‘natural home’. The mud was duly slung, and has been slung repeatedly and regularly ever since. Mud slinging has been Labour’s substitute for politics. Labour didn’t think it needed to change, after all it was the voters who’d made the mistake. They’re the people’s party, and they decide what’s right for the people, never that the people decide and a real people’s party follows. It was the arrogance of those who accuse others of arrogance, and it bit them in the bum. However such is the size of Labour’s complacent lardarse that seven years later the lesson is still chewing its way through. It still hasn’t reached the Anas.

And Alicsammin laughed and ran rings around them as Labour squirmed and couldn’t understand why there was an uncomfortable itch that anusol couldn’t relieve. Even though the battle of the referendum was lost, the wider campaign for independence is buoyant. Alicsammin’s greatest achievement wasn’t to bring about the referendum. His greatest achievement has been to normalise the idea of independence. That’s the truly historic change that has taken place in Scotland under the government led by Alex Salmond – he’s shown us that Scotland can be a normal country, all we have to do is to believe in ourselves. And many of us already do.

Now a few short months after the referendum was won by the forces of Nawness, we are in a landscape that is alien and frightening to the Westminster hegemonists. Labour is still squirming and still can’t understand what’s gone wrong. They cry for reviews, they promise commissions, they suggest they want debates. But really all they want is for everything to go back to the way it was before that nasty Alicsammin changed everything. The electorate has left them behind and Labour is left clutching an empty bottle of Buckie at a party no one wants to attend.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. No won the referendum, Yes supporters were supposed to crawl away and hide under a rock in the vain hope that they might avoid Ian Davidson’s bayonet. But instead it’s Ian Davidson and his pals who are wounded and looking at the sharp end of a bayonet. They’re bleeding bad – in both senses of the phrase.

So Alicsammin hasn’t sailed off into the sunset, under a cloud, doomed to an ignominious retirement overshadowed by his great failure. Instead he’s off to open a new front and twist that bayonet some more. He’s after a seat in Westminster where he can be a permanent bayonet in Ian Davidson’s quivering flesh – assuming that Ian Davidson is one of those Labour MPs who survive the culling that will befall them in May 2015. The prospects for most of them don’t look good at all. Yet another poll has shown Labour’s chances of avoiding an electoral armageddon are vanishing more quickly than Ed Miliband’s fond regards for Johann Lamont.

A new Survation poll for the Record puts Labour on a derisory 23.9%, with the SNP on 45.8%. The new poll is in line with previous recent polls, and the SNP is now gaining the level of support which will make the first past the post system work in its favour. There are no safe Labour seats in Scotland any more. Glasgow East is certainly not safe for Magrit Curran – it’s where I live and I’ll be doing my utmost to ensure that Magrit gets her jotters. All across Scotland other angry Yes voters will be working equally hard to rewrite the Proclaimers song lyrics. When ye go, will ye send back a cheque for your expenses. Magrit no more, Tom Harris no more, Dougie no more, Smugurphy no more … There will be Portillo moments on steroids.

There is a distinct possibility that pro-Scotland MPs may be the third largest force in the Westminster parliament after May 2015. There’s an equally distinct possibility that the Lib Dems in Scotland may be reduced to just Alistair Carmichael all on his tod. Commentators in England view this possibility with horror – not the possibility that the Lib Dems might get wiped out, everyone with a sense of justice who can remember their solemn vow on student fees relishes that prospect – the prospect that a bloc of MPs who put Scotland’s interests first might hold the balance of power is what they view with horror. And there was us thinking that Scotland had voted No so we were all a part of this happy family of nations. But apparently it’s only a happy family when Scotland does as Scotland is told.

There are those south of the border who fear that the dominance of the SNP and other pro-Scotland parties north of the border means that pro-Scotland MPs could hold the balance of power at Westminster after May 2015. Some have expressed alarm that this could mean that England might get screwed over by Scotland. They needn’t worry. England will get screwed over by England, like it has always been. These pro-Scotland MPs, who would be largely SNP MPs, might prop up a Labour government even if Labour gained fewer Westminster seats in England than the Tories do. The notion that England might not get the government it votes for is terrifying – there’s only one response anyone from north of the border can make to that: welcome to Scotland’s world.

I need help from readers this week.  I’m off to visit my daughters in London and will be away for a few days.  And there’s another reason too – readers, I’ve met a man.  I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s happened, and he makes me very happy.  So for the sake of my family life and my love life, I’d like some guest posts! 

Four weeks without a fag now.  I’m not complacent, but I think I might have cracked it. 

 

Still a reluctant anorak

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

Well we’re eight weeks on from the vote and the world hasn’t come to a crashing halt. The sky isn’t raining blood. Sulphrous pits haven’t opened under our homes (though fracking will be coming to a locale near you, sooner than you’d like), and near as I can tell, the big red lad with cloven hooves isn’t wandering up and down Sauchiehall Street condemning innocent souls to hell for siding with the YES campaign. He’ll be voted in as Labour’s north British branch manager sometime soon though I imagine.  Mind you as the political post voted most likely to have the same social impact as a fart in a lift by pundits throughout the meeja world, is north British branch manager a post anyone truly wants?

Granted, on the morning of the 19th September it did feel as though someone had cut out my heart, threw it on the ground at my feet and stomped it into the dirt in front of my eyes. I was devastated, bereft and frankly found it hard to work up the will to speak to anyone for several days. My wife and I stared at the television screen in disbelief and tears were running down both our faces. We couldn’t believe that people would have so little faith in themselves that they would throw away their right to complete self governance. To hand a patently and demonstrably broken system permission to keep robbing you blind of everything right down to your own identity.

This is what our unionist politicians wanted to hear from us y’know. This is the despair, the pain, the humiliation, the result they intended and I hold my hands up, I felt all of those emotions…

…and thankfully a few more besides.

They intended that we would be so demoralised and crushed as a movement, that they could simply shit on us from a great height, and that we’d be too grief stricken and beaten down to do anything about whatever agenda they set. They kinda hoped that those rowdy northern types would get their bolshie, democratic asses back in their box with the lid firmly welded shut for the next hundred years, if not permanently. Let’s face it, they’ve wasted absolutely no time in getting their stalled agendas up and running have they?

Lessee now: *Intent to slash Scotland’s block grant. Issue of both fracking and north sea licences for those volatile and rapidly diminishing resources that no one in their right mind would want. Oh and did you hear the one about the proposed sovereign wealth fund for the north of England (profits from fracking). Laugh? I nearly had to replace my lungs, I laughed sooooo hard. Pension reform, MOD surface fleet sourcing stooshie (nowhere to hide on that for either Labour or HMG). The ongoing fracturing of the UKs standing with the EU and looming in/out referendum. Then of course the biggie from a Scottish perspective, Scotland’s further devolution settlement via the Smith commission.

Timetable apparently already under threat, proposals from the various parties somewhat at odds with expectations created by the media and certain weel kent individuals (yeah, we’re lookin’ at you Messrs Broon and Darling). Not to mention the small matter of something like 14k(?) submissions to wade through discuss and deliberate upon in less than thirty days. We’re to take this process seriously? As for what our parliamentarians consider maximum devolution or what constitutes significant powers? Just see here for your handy dandy guide to who’s selling you what? http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-party-of-devolution/

That’s just a handful of examples which have hit the whole Scottish electorate right where it hurts in the past few weeks. There’s a lot that’s not been listed above, but we all know where to look to keep abreast of the latest stitch ups by this point. You’ll find the links at the side of this page.

Bottom line? The fix was in from the start. Our referendum was hijacked by big government, big business and big media. Them’s the ugly triplets who took our people’s referendum, our democratic process and turned it into a party political circus. We know what they did, how they did it and why they did it. This goes a long way to explaining what happened next in Scottish politics after September 19th and it also goes some way to explaining those other emotions I felt – frustration, indignant rage, disgust, contempt for them and what they’d done, but mainly a cold, cold anger.

Here’s something I said in a previous post.

“I believe that the Scottish Government and the YES campaign aren’t just asking us to have faith or trust in them though, but also in ourselves. They are asking that we put our cynicism to one side and have faith in a possible future and each other, in our families and communities to make that possible future a reality.

I now choose to put cynicism to one side. I choose to care and I choose to believe we can do better, both for ourselves and more importantly each other.”

I still choose to care. I still choose to believe we can do better and be better. I still choose to be an anorak.

Firstly, the defeat they intended wasn’t as massive or crushing as they’d have liked for all the power they brought to bear. This was followed by an enormous surge in memberships for pro indy parties. The continuance of sites like this and the plans afoot to create a new media presence in Scotland. The meetings of continuing YES groups at local level. The moves toward a YES alliance and the noise we continue to make on a daily basis on forums across the net and social media. The arguments we still have at work, in the pub, across a dinner table – HOPE – a new emotion to add to the list.

We didn’t get back in our box. We aren’t just lying down or giving up. We’re taking the situation we find ourselves in, making the best of it and moving forward. There’s not a politician in Scotland now who can or should take a motivated and politically aware Scottish electorate for granted for the foreseeable future. There are no safe seats for those who feel they are ‘entitled’ to our vote ‘just because’.  There are no safe seats for those who set about demeaning, intimidating and misleading for personal or party political gain. The referendum process has opened our eyes, educated us, made us media savvy and with a GE round the corner we remember who said what and when.

Its time our friends in all three Westminster oriented parties were reminded that they serve us, we don’t serve them. We are not electoral currency, we are people and people who have been served and let down badly by our system of government and especially by our representation to that institution.

GE 2015 – Let’s send down a contingent to Westminster that represents and will fight for the Scottish electorate’s interests in this partnership for as long as it lasts. The current team’s performance and record has proven… unsatisfactory.

* http://wingsoverscotland.com/we-told-you-so-2/
* http://www.oilandgaspeople.com/news/1076/uk-government-over-rule-scottish-fracking-concerns/
* http://news.stv.tv/north/298838-first-oil-and-gas-licenses-issued-west-of-outer-hebrides-for-omv/
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-29739085
* http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/oct/28/one-in-eight-people-cash-in-pension-pot-george-osborne-reform
* http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/10/uk-proposes-shale-gas-sovereign-wealth-fund
* http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141109/DEFREG01/311090024/Britain-Struggles-Costs-New-Frigates
* http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/03/angela-merkel-david-cameron-eu
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29857267

The oncoming train

According to the Herald, Jim Murphy has promised that if he wins the election for manager of Labour’s Scottish dead meat counter he’s going to wrest power back from the London office. What he really means of course is that he’ll take what powers he can for himself, because this is Jim Murphy we’re talking about here. Whispering Jim’s ego is inversely proportional to the loudness of his voice. Jim Murphy has a vision for Scotland’s future, it’s a picture of him towering about his tiny little minions – the murphoids. Murphoids are small and narrow minded things that cling to Labour like haemorrhoids, only bloodless and drained of anything red. He fancies himself as a supervillain, but he’s sadly bereft of any superpowers, except the powers to schmooze with interviewers on the BBC, and the power to turn socialist policies into Tory ones.

Demoted from his defence brief in the shadow cabinet after the Brownite faction won the succession struggle and Jim had hitched his horse whispering to Tony Blair’s pony, the Smugurphy’s London career has gone the way of Ed Miliband’s re-election prospects, sidelined and forgotten like mention of the deficit in Ed’s keynote conference speech. The answer to what Jim sees as the greatest political crisis so far this century – the crisis of his own career vanishing more quickly than Magrit Curran being faced with an irate East End voter – is to build himself a new power base in Scotland. He’s done this because he still suffers from the delusion that the Labour party has a power base left in Scotland.

However Jim’s move does raise some interesting questions which he has shown no sign of answering and Andrew whitsisface with the prematurely white hair on the BBC’s excuse for a Scottish politics and news show showed no sign of asking. But that’s what happens when you have to work for Ken McQuarrie – you age unnaturally quickly. People born in the 1970s end up looking like they’re channelling the 1950s, which is where the BBC’s concept of news and current affairs in Scotland has remained stuck like a knob on a black and white telly. Or just a knob.

Anyway, there was a review of Labour policy and procedure carried out after the last time the Scottish electorate kicked the empty suits of Labour in the balls, or rather, kicked them where their balls would be if they possessed any balls in the first place. This was a review carried out by Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack, both of who are now standing for election as branch office manager. The review set up the office of Leader of Scottish Labour (sic – and sick was rarely more appropriate), and gave us the delights of the lovely Johann Lamont and her radiant smile. We were told at the time that the new leader would have all those powers that Jim Murphy now tells us he’s going to wrest from Labour’s London office.

So how come Jim Murphy is the guy to sort the problems in the Labour party in Scotland, when it was the failure of Jim Murphy’s own review that led to the problems that Labour is currently experiencing? Was this review of Jim’s not implemented then? If not, why not, and who is responsible for not implementing it? No one is asking Jim. Probably because Jim is one of those responsible for not implementing it. Jim never had any intention of allowing a Scottish branch of Labour to have any control at all. He’s only interested in the control he wields himself, and that’s why he’s spent the past six months briefing furiously against Johann and then sanctimoniously saying that the party must stop damaging itself. He’s one of the dinosaurs that Johann complained about in her bitter resignation letter. Getting the Smugurph in to sort the party out is like suffering a brain haemorrhage and deciding to treat it by slashing your wrists and leaping in front of an oncoming train.

The train is coming – there’s no light at the end of Labour’s tunnel, it’s the train. The Caledonian Express is going to plaster the Labour party’s electoral hopes in Scotland all over the tracks like the jam they always promised but never delivered. The train is powered by lies and deceit. It’s driven by the engine of deception, the promises that the Clyde yards would only be safe if Scotland voted No, promises delivered amidst po-faced assertions that the Royal Navy would never commission ships from a foreign land. And now the post-referendum reality where the MoD has admitted that it is considering pulling the Clyde contracts and buying French ships instead. The head of angry steam is building. It’s going to explode in a shower of votes in May next year.

A new UK wide poll from IPSOS Mori has shown that the SNP is on 8% – that’s 8% across the entire UK – just 1% behind the UK polling figure for the Lib Dems. There’s some serious rounding issues going on there, because the SNP only stand in Scotland and Scotland makes up just 8.5% of the UK electorate. A more detailed breakdown of the figures shows that in Scotland, the SNP has the support of 59% of voters against – wait for it – just 14% who back the murphoids. That would annihilate Labour in Scotland, and not even the blindly loyal Labour voters of Coatbridge would be left to them. If this latest poll is accurate – and it’s not wildly out of line with recent Scotland only polls – the SNP could easily become the third largest party in the next Westminster Parliament. Now that would be a laff. The SNP could hold the balance of power in the next Westminster Parliament. We might just get that devo max after all.

But what the polls do show is that without any doubt or quibbles about rounding, or the small sizes of Scottish subsample, or any of the other get-out clauses usually trotted out at these times – Labour in Scotland is gubbed. More gubbed than a gobstopper that’s evaded the Heimlich manoeuvre. Now you know why the party appears Tory blue in the face. Choke on that one Jim. Your career is about to hit the buffers. The party leader with no party to lead.

 

 

I want my devo max

So where’s my devo max then? Like most people in Scotland who have been following political developments over the past few years – which is most people in Scotland – I fancy I have quite a good idea of what the phrase “devo max” means. It means that the Scottish Parliament raises all its own revenue including oil revenues, and exercises all powers except those to do with foreign affairs and defence – which would be retained by the UK Parliament. Seems straightforward enough doesn’t it. There would be no arguments about supposed “subsidies” from England, no disagreements over Scottish MPs voting on English only matters. What’s not to like? And as the icing on the devo cake, this is the settlement which, according to opinion polls, is consistently favoured by a large majority of the Scottish population, and had it been on offer prior to the independence referendum campaign, there wouldn’t have been an independence referendum campaign.

I seem to recall that during a certain referendum campaign a certain ex-prime minister promised us the most maxiest devo you could ever find this side of a federal state. In fact, we were promised the most federalest devo maxiest in the history of this most perfect union of nations ever seen in the history of the multiverse. It was all over the BBC, which as we all know is famous for its realistic depiction of all things Scottish – just watch Waterloo Road for its realistic depiction of a school that follows the English curriculum even though it’s in Greenock. Point proven.

Onieweys, this promise – or dare I say vow – came when yer actual prime minister and the heads of the other Unionist parties were all quite happy for the ex-prime minister to act like he was still prime minister, although to be fair Gordie Broon’s relationship with his employment status has always erred on the side of fictional. This is after all the man who described himself as an ex-politician while he’s still the MP for Kirkcaldy and who can rarely be arsed to turn up to represent them in the House of Commons.

What we were promised by Gordie and his tangential relationship to reality was for Holyrood and the other devolved administrations in the UK to have “the same status” as the Westminster Parliament. The new sort of federal government, according to the ex-politician ex-prime minister, would retain powers over defence and foreign affairs – everything else would be left to the control of the national parliaments. Gordie’s promise was going to save the UK, and that’s what Gordie’s promise did. Only Gordie’s promise was never going to be realised and it has now gone much the same way as the Labour party’s prospects of re-election in Scotland. There’s more chance of reviving a velociraptor for Jurassic park than there is of resuscitating devo max – or the Labour party.

Just a few days before the vote, Gordie vowed:

“The status quo is no longer an option. The choice is now between irreversible separation, or voting for a stronger Scottish parliament. We are talking about a big change in the constitution. It’s like home rule in the UK. We would be moving quite close to something near to federalism in a country where 85 per cent of the population is from one nation. Change is in the air and change is coming.”

Two months after the event and it doesn’t look like the Unionist parties are going to deliver anything close to that. Gordie himself stood up in Westminster and laid into the Tories because they wanted to devolve more taxes than he did. That’s the Tories, offering more devo than Labour – the self-described “party of devolution”. And then Labour wonders why its polling ratings have plunged further than a jobby that’s been flushed from a tenth floor toilet.

Still, Unionist politicians don’t have to keep their words, because Unionist politicians’ words mean whatever the Unionist politician wants them to mean at any given moment. Gordie might be an ex-politician, but he’s not an ex-fantasist. The devo max Gordie promised bears a similar relationship to reality as his promise to end boom and bust. That’s devo max bust then. As are the Unionist parties.

Devo max is not on offer after all, not even close. The Unionist parties are proposing minor tinkering with the existing settlement, arguing about what percentage of income tax revenues can dance on the head of a Holyrood pin. It’s devo-get-what-you’re-given, devo-dae-as-yer-telt. It’s the devolution that suits the political requirements of the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem front benches.

Devo max will never be offered by the Unionist parties for one very simple reason – it stands the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster on its head. Under the current devolution settlement, powers devolved are powers retained – and the ultimate power rests very firmly with Westminster. It means that they can preserve the fiction that only the Westminster Parliament is sovereign – and not the Scottish people. So Westminster collects all the taxes, and decides how much Holyrood is going to get. In the process it is conveniently able to obscure just how much of a contribution Scotland and Scottish resources make towards the extremely expensive upkeep of the United Kingdom and its addiction to nuclear missiles, foreign wars, and transport infrastructure in the South East of England. Then when Scotland gets uppity they can threaten us with warnings of financial meltdown without the kindness of Davie Cameron and Ed Miliband to look out for us.

With proper devo max, that couldn’t happen. Proper devo max means that Westminster’s fiction of the sovereignty of parliament is rendered meaningless and toothless. Holyrood would be responsible for raising all Scottish revenues, so Westminster would no longer be able to cook the books and tell us we were dependent upon them. And Holyrood would no longer be dependent upon a block grant from Westminster, it would be the other way around – Westminster would receive a grant from Holyrood to pay for those services which remained under centralised UK control – defence and foreign affairs. In effect this gives Holyrood a veto over Westminster’s foreign adventures – should there be another Iraq, then the Scottish Parliament might just refuse to pay its annual subvention to Westminster to pay for Scotland’s share of the costs of an illegal war. That’s why the Westminster parties won’t allow devo max, no matter how popular it is with the Scottish electorate, and no matter how often or loudly we demand it of them.

So if you want something that is yours by right, but the other party is not disposed to give it, then all that is left is to take it. We can do that by ensuring that at the next Westminster General Election and the next Scottish elections we return a majority of pro-Scotland MPs who can block any attempts by Westminster to impose a devolution settlement which falls short of the devo max they promised. It’s up to us to ensure they keep their promises, and to punish them if they try – as they most assuredly will – to weasel out of it.

This blog post has also been published on Scot2.scot  Scot2.Scot is a communications portal consisting of a website, two facebook central groups (one for news and media), a twitter account and a youtube channel all under the scot2.scot banner. It has been established to help provide broad support to the campaigns of the various pro-Scotland parties in the 2015 UK General Election.

Still off the ciggies by the way – that’s coming up for three weeks now – and I am no longer counting the days since the last fag.  I’m told that’s progress. 

Up in smoke

It’s only after you break a bad habit that you realise just how bad it was for you. Like giving up smoking or voting Labour in Scotland. That’s been a vicious addiction that hundreds of thousands have given up, and which they have no intention of returning to – it’s been much easier than giving up smoking. Labour produces nasty bile and shortens your life span. Vote Labour and get cancer of the body politic.

That’s now over two weeks without a ciggie and I’m feeling increasingly confident that this time I’ve given up for good. From time to time I still think about how much I’d love a smoke, but the cravings are not strong and far less frequent than they used to be. I don’t ever think that I’d love to vote Labour, I never wistfully wonder what it would be like to have a wee sly drag on Jim Murphy just for old times sake. But Ed Miliband wants us to sook on Jim Murphy so he doesn’t have to. It’s a very easy temptation to resist, like the temptation to lick a turd or the temptation to have a wet dream about Ed Miliband.

Labour’s appalling polling figures continue to plunge to new depths. A poll for STV this week shows that they’d do even worse in a Holyrood election than the unprecedented thrashing they got in 2011. The poll showed that they’d get just 23% of the vote share, well down from the 31.7% they managed in 2011. By an eerie coincidence, 23% is also the proportion of Scottish adults who still smoke – and that’s falling too, although not quite as quickly as Labour’s vote share. Labour’s the fag-end party, the only thing left about it are doubts and a lingering smell. Their prospects of re-election have gone up in smoke.

Labour is increasingly resembling a Cheech and Chong movie, 1980s comedies beloved of those who are too stoned to notice that the jokes are rubbish and the plot is rehashed. If that’s not enough to drive you to drugs then probably nothing is. This is why the party organ is the Daily Record, with its reading age of seven. Labour has the concentration span of a goldfish on speed. The party would have to study for a week for a urine test, and they’d still fail. Now they want us to believe that reality is an illusion caused by a lack of Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale, this is because Labour is a gateway drug – that explains how it’s ended up in Narnia. However there is an essential difference between people who get stoned on a regular basis and Labour politicians. Labour politicians don’t inhale, they just suck.

What didn’t go up in smoke was an effigy of Alicsammin in Lewes in Sussex, in the heart of Toryukip Ingerland, as opposed to Lewis in the Western Isles. One of these places is barren, far from civilisation and inhabited by narrow minded bigots with 19th century attitudes, the other is an island off the West Coast of Scotland. Or maybe the effigy did go up in smoke, reports on the subject have been as confused as Labour’s attempts to find some coherent policies. Some people on Twitter and social media were claiming that at least one of the effigies was burned after all. Anyway, Lewes is somewhere that few in Scotland had heard about and even fewer cared about right up to the point where we heard that they were going to set fire to a papier mache effigy of Alicsammin and Nessie as part of their Guy Fawkes celebrations. Because burning Catholics just isn’t offensive enough.

It’s all just a bit of fun of course, and only humourless nats get offended by this sort of thing. I have no particular objection to burning an effigy of Alicsammin – it’s just a tasteless tradition which the non-PC residents of a town I’ve never visited and am never likely to visit indulge themselves in each year. They’re previously burned effigies of Angela Merkel and other European politicians as well as effigies of Cameron and Clegg. It’s a tradition not unlike the Catalan tradition of caganers, when every Christmas they exhibit an effigy of a public figure dropping a jobby. It’s supposed to be ‘naughty’, and to provoke a giggle in the likes of people who go to golf clubs in Sussex and vote UKIP. It’s a joke for the kind of people who think Jim Davidson is funny. And to be fair, those of us who voted Yes do want to bring down the Westminster Parliament – even though it’s in an entirely peaceful and democratic manner. We are modern Guy Fawkeses. We certainly put a rocket up the arse of the British establishment during the referendum campaign.

What is interesting however is the non-reciprocal nature of the humour. It’s always just a bit of harmless fun when the English indulge in offensive stereotyping of Scottish people. It’s not a bit of harmless fun when Scottish people indulge in offensive stereotyping of English people, because this points to something dark and evyle lurking at the very heart of the Scottish psyche. There is a persistent English racist stereotype that the sole definitive feature of Scottish culture is a hatred of English people. Being Scottish is all about the English, apparently. So it’s not the burning of an effigy of Alicsammin that annoys me. It’s the double standards. We saw it all the way through the referendum campaign, from Steve Bell’s cartoons to the hysterical editorials bewailing the anti-English racism that is supposed to stalk every street in Scotland.

Imagining the reaction if Scottish people burned an effigy of David Cameron isn’t quite a reasonable comparison, because if Yes voters had made a Guy Fawkes night effigy of Cameron, half the voters of England would have come to Scotland with matches – in fact half the Conservative party would have supplied cans of petrol and napalm. Instead – imagine the reaction from the anti-independence parties if Yes voters had burned effigies of Alistair Darling, Gordie Broon, and Jim Murphy. Would anyone be telling us then that it was just a joke and where’s yer sense of humour? The polis would have been called before anyone could say egg-flinger.

So the response from outraged Scots isn’t really about burning an effigy of Alicsammin – or even an effigy of Nessie – what’s outraging them is the fact that others are being indulged in behaviours which they can’t do in response. It’s the non-reciprocal nature of what is considered “harmless fun”. That’s what’s unfair, that’s what’s offensive, not the effigy of Alicsammin.

 

 

Jim Murphy’s BOGOF

Less than two months after the referendum, you know, that vote that was supposed to establish the settled will of the Scottish people until the Sun expands in a ball of hot gas and consumes the Earth – or at least for the length of the career of the average Labour politician – a new poll from YouGov has discovered that a significant number of No voters have changed their minds and now want independence. The other significant development is that two months is now also about the average career life of a Labour politician in Scotland. Only may flies have a shorter life expectancy, but they don’t have any mouth parts. Sadly the same cannot be said for Jim Murphy. A male may fly is basically nothing more than a mobile reproductive organ – it’s just a dick sniffing for something to screw – which you can say for Jim Murphy, so order is restored to the universe.

Despite the oft repeated media message that the candidate most feared by “the nationalists” is Jim Murphy – a message largely put about by Jim Murphy and his supporters – it’s not. It’s Sarah Boyack. She is the only candidate with any chance at all of uniting the ragged remains of British Labour in Scotland, and putting an end to its knee-jerk circle-jerk. It’s not a big chance. It is a tiny wee chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. Jim has nae chance. All Jim is capable of uniting is his bank balance and an expenses claim, or a Middle Eastern country and a Western invasion.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I knew Sarah Boyack at university – she was a Labour hack even then, and a protege of Magrit Curran and Johann. However people can and do change, all those years ago I had a whole lot more hair and a head that was very firmly lodged up my own arse, but Sarah is still a Labour hack. Even so, on a personal level she’s a decent human being. She is also the only one of the three candidates who does not automatically respond to all and any proposal from the SNP as though it was contaminated with the ebola virus. And this is why Sarah has no chance of getting elected.

Even Neil Findlay would make a better party branch manager than Jim. Neil’s idea of taking Labour back to the left is essentially the correct one – but it has precisely zero chance of ever being implemented. Westminster Labour is not going to permit its Scottish branch office to introduce left wing policies which would make it unelectable in England, and the Scottish electorate is not going to be fooled by a Labour party which preaches one thing in Scotland and something else in the rest of the UK. We get the English news on Scottish telly, thanks to the Unionists’ parties insistence that broadcasting is a reserved matter.

Not that either Sarah or Neil have much chance of success even if one of them were elected branch office manager. The truth is that even if British Labour possessed a candidate with the political guile of Machiavelli, the moral stature of Mahatma Gandhi, and the intelligence of Albert Einstein – the party would still be screwed. It’s far too late now, and a change of leadership isn’t nearly enough to turn Labour’s fortunes around. Labour in Scotland has been a long time dying, but it finally shuffled off into an irretrievable demise the day that Davie Cameron persuaded ASDA’s managing director to issue a scare about price rises after independence, and Johann and her wee bunch of minions stood outside a branch of the supermarket grinning like skulls. There is absolutely nothing left for Labour except to crawl under a rock and rot away, unmourned, and unloved, not even fit for the cut price shelf for items at their sell by date.

There’s now a full on media onslaught pushing the Smurph. Sarah Boyack and the other guy – the Ken MacIntosh of this branch manager campaign – have been sidelined and ignored. Other guy is likely to pick up some trade union support in the Byzantine system of elections used by Labour for its branch managers, but the party hierarchy has put its weight very firmly behind the Smugurph. Ed Miliband is very keen for him to get the job, because he hates Jim Murphy as much as anyone else and he’s hoping that the Smugurph will condescend his way to Embra and conveniently remove himself from Westminster. Ed views Jim candidacy as a sort of supermarket BOGOF offer.  He gets rid of a troublesome plotter who hates him, and at the same time gets a “big hitter” to rescue his arse in Scotland – or so he thinks.  Mostly he just wants Jim to BOGOF, a sentiment he shares with pretty much everyone else. Labour are the baked beans of politics, and just as likely to make you fart.

Meanwhile the Smugurph’s chances of being anything other than a long distance branch manager are receding faster than Ed Miliband’s chances of becoming the next prime minister. Ed may very well end up with the worst of all possible outcomes – he’ll have the odious Jim as Scottish branch manager, and Jim will still be in Westminster. At least until May next year. The Sunday Herald reports today that the three MSPs whose names have been suggested – by Jim’s pals, it has to be said – as willing to stand down in order to allow Jim to contest their seats in a by-election held on the same day as the Westminster General Election have all said that they intend to remain in Holyrood. So nae chance for Jim there then.

This gives Jim a big problem. If he can’t find a seat in Holyrood before the 2016 Scottish elections when he can sneak in as a list MSP, he’ll have to contest his Westminster seat in May 2015. This is because Labour’s rules state quite clearly that their Scottish branch manager has to be either an MP, an MSP or an MEP. And with the current mood of the Scottish electorate, it’s by no means certain that Jim would retain his seat in East Renfrewshire. If he fails to be re-elected, he’d have to stand down as party branch manager and it would be an ignominious end to a less than glorious career as well as an end to his expenses claims. You can be certain that the SNP and the other pro-independence parties will be doing all they can to ensure that Jim gets his jotters in May.