Dugcast – 18 October 2019

Welcome to this week’s dugcast. This week The National’s editor Callum Baird and I discuss the SNP conference and Nicola Sturgeon’s speech. We also chat about the long jail sentences imposed on former members of the Catalan government and Catalan independence activists. And finally we of course talk about Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, the chances of it getting through the Commons on Saturday, and why it was right for the SNP to refuse to back it.

There won’t be a dugcast next week as I am off to the USA for a week to celebrate my first wedding anniversary with my husband.  He’s unable to travel here just now as his passport is with the UK visa office while we wait for a decision on his visa to come and live here in Scotland.  The next dugcast will be on 1 November.

 


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The road to the moral high ground

moralhighground
Boris Johnson didn’t want a deal with the EU. His original plan was to force a no deal crash out, putting the blame for the resultant chaos on evil Brussels bureaucrats, the elite that he doesn’t belong to despite being an extremely wealthy former pupil at Eton and Oxbridge, remainer MPs, and uppity Scots. However the Commons tied his hands with the Benn Act, and that forced him to try and get a deal at the last minute. What he’s come up with, reeking with a faux triumphalism, is worse than what Theresa May negotiated.

This is a deal that rips up worker and environmental standards in the name of deregulation. It will take the UK out of the European model of high wages and high standards of social protection into a low wage low tax low public services model. Prepare to see more homeless people in our streets. Prepare to see more people stuck in low paying precarious gig economy jobs. Prepare to see the disabled, the chronically ill, and the vulnerable thrown on the scraphead. Prepare to see the elderly forced to work until they drop. Prepare to see American health corporations move into the NHS. Prepare to see your kids never being able to afford a home of their own. Prepare to see more and more people anaesthetise themselves with drugs and alcohol as their sole means of coping with the hopelessness of their lives. And you won’t be able to dream of escaping to a retirement home in the sun. Freedom of movement comes to an end. Except for the small number of the very wealthy, the Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnsons of this world. They’ll do just fine.

Look at the Tory party, and you can see the future. It’s a future of mediocrity, a future where compassion is a weakness, a future of hypocrisy and cant. It’s a future of small men and women with vastly inflated egos, substituting bluster for wisdom. It’s a future of cruelty, a future of greed and avarice. It’s a future which fetishises WW2 but which trashes the achievements of the post-war settlement that those men and women fought for, that they sacrificed their lives for. The message of our Tory masters is that it is glorious that the working classes die for the British establishment, but the British establishment owes them nothing in return except for a poppy and a parade.

For Scotland, this deal is especially bad. England voted to leave. It’s leaving, so it’s getting what it voted for. Wales voted to leave. It’s leaving, so it’s getting what it voted for. Northern Ireland voted to remain. It’s staying within vital EU institutions, so it’s getting what it voted for. Scotland, you can fuck off back into your shortbread tin.

The SNP has announced that it will not back this disaster of a deal. The Labour party and the Lib Dems have likewise said that they won’t support it. The DUP has refused to give it its backing because they no longer get a veto. And if the DUP won’t back it then the swivel eyed Brextremist faction of the Tory party, those for whom even Jacob Rees Mogg is a suspicious liberal, won’t back it either. There is every likelihood that the deal will not get through the Commons on Saturday.

There’s also a new legal challenge. The legal campaigner Jolyon Maugham is arguing that the new deal is unlawful as it breaks section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018. This section says that it is “unlawful for Her Majesty’s government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.” He has started an urgent case in the Scottish courts.

The SNP is perfectly correct not to back this deal, a deal which looks dead in the water before it’s even set sail. It is a disaster for Scotland. It is contemptuous and disrespectful to Scotland. Agreeing to this deal in return for a Section 30 order or for the transfer of the power to hold independence referendums to Holyrood would be seen by voters in Scotland as an epic betrayal by a party which has sworn to protect and defend Scotland’s interests. It would be 1979 on steroids, and all in order to trust in the word of a man who’s notable only for his lies and deceit. Just how much can he be trusted to fulfil any promise to the SNP once he’s got his deal done and the SNP’s Commons votes are in his bag? About as much as you can trust him not to spill red wine on your new sofa.

Boris Johnson knows that if he gives ground to the SNP, he weakens his right flank. He’ll be accused by sections within the Tory party of breaking up the UK in order to secure his own position. One nation Tories who currently support him would desert in droves. The chances are that he’d still not get his deal through the Commons. The SNP would have sold its soul and the deal still won’t have passed in the Commons.

Yet even if the Tories agreed to such a proposal from the SNP, which is highly unlikely, by carrying out such a betrayal the SNP would destroy itself in the General Election that’s coming, and severely damage the chances of the Scottish Government being able to lead Scotland to a successful Yes vote. Because then the narrative would be, but Scotland doesn’t want a referendum, the SNP supported the Tories, the SNP betrayed Scotland over Brexit. And on those last two points the critics would be right. Then the Yes campaign would be fronted by a party which had just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history, a party which is about to face the further trials and tribulations of the Salmond trial. It’s an epically bad idea. It’s risking Scotland’s future on a long shot, a desperate gamble with a poor chance of success. Responsible and compassionate people don’t play poker with other people’s lives. Tories do that. And we are better than them or we are nothing.

There are no short cuts to independence. The path to victory for the Scottish independence movement is the path of honour, the path of compassion, the path of doing the right thing. We will not win the hearts of the Scottish people through betraying their interests on Brexit. There is only the long hard slog of proving to the people of Scotland that Westminster operates in a way that damages Scotland’s interests, that it consistently sidelines and ignores us. We cannot be complicit in the damage that the Tories wreak. If we are as cynical, as lacking in compassion, as driven by short term gain as they are, then there is no reason for independence at all. We’d only end up with an independent state governed by cynics and chancers who’d be prepared to sell out their granny for a short term advantage. We already have that in the UK.

The argument for Scottish independence is a moral argument or it is nothing. This deal must be defeated and we should all fully support the SNP in their efforts to do so. The only road to independence is the road to the moral high ground.


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Arguing from a position of strength

This blog has a long standing policy of not attacking or criticising other pro-independence groups, blogs, or organisations. I’m not in the business of doing the anti-independence media’s job for them. For the same reason, that’s why I always ask that people who comment on this blog refrain from using it as a platform to criticise or attack other pro-independence campaigners, although this does not imply that I endorse what those other campaigners have been saying. It is just that I feel strongly, and have always felt, that when the independence movement turns on itself, the only beneficiaries are those who oppose independence.

Right now we are facing the likelihood of an early Westminster General Election. This is the first and most immediate electoral challenge that the independence movement is going to face. A Westminster General Election could take place as early as the end of next month. Even if it is delayed for a short while longer, it is most certainly going to happen before any other elections take place in Scotland, and before there’s any vote on independence itself. Sensible politics demands that the independence movement should focus on the electoral challenge which is most immediate. That’s the next Westminster General Election.

Due to the nature of Westminster’s first past the post system, the only pro-independence party which has any chance at all of taking seats in the Westminster General Election is the SNP. I might have considerable sympathies for some of the policies of the Greens or the Scottish Socialists, but they’re not going to win any seats in this election. Only the SNP can do that.

This coming election is vital.  Before we can make any choices about the best route to an independence referendum, we have to cross the General Election bridge. All routes to an independence referendum, irrespective of what they are, pass first over the bridge of a Westminster General Election in the coming months. If we fail to cross the bridge successfully and in style, if we fail to bring about a resounding and unquestionable victory for the SNP in that election, there will be no point at all in arguing about different strategies for bringing about a referendum, or debating the merits or demerits of another pro-indy party for the list vote in Holyrood. We will already have lost independence.

There are many people within the independence movement who have deep reservations about the strategy of the SNP leadership for achieving another independence referendum.  However the risk here is that constant carping about the SNP, the attacks on Nicola Sturgeon because of disagreements with her strategy for bringing about a second independence referendum, will only succeed in reducing the overall level of support for the SNP in the coming General Election. It risks alienating those who are open to persuasion about independence but who are not quite there yet. It risks alienating and discouraging some long standing supporters of independence. It risks turning some SNP supporters off from getting out and campaigning for the party in the General Election, and that in turn can reduce turnout and vote share for the party. It risks making the independence movement seem divided, confused, and obsessed with in-fighting, and that’s going to discourage soft yes voters from making sure they vote for the party, just as they were discouraged in 2017 by the SNP’s apparent lack-lustre enthusiasm for independence in the General Election that year.

Yet there is nothing to replace the SNP in the General Election to come. There is no other party which can hoover up the votes of those independence supporters who have been alienated by a seemingly over cautious SNP leadership. All that the independence movement will have achieved with its criticisms will be to have punched itself in the face and to have reduced the total number of people in Scotland who get up off their backsides and get out and vote for the only pro-independence party in this country which has any chance at all of taking seats in a Westminster General Election. The only people who benefit will be the anti-independence parties.  When we as a movement attack one another, it’s anti-independence politicians and journalists who rub their hands in glee.

We all know what the British media is like. The British media being what it is, if the SNP do not perform well in the coming General Election, this will not be seen as a reflection of the independence movement’s difference of opinion with Nicola Sturgeon about achieving an independence referendum. The BBC will not be telling us that it means that people would prefer to vote for another pro-independence party in the list vote for Holyrood. It won’t be portrayed simply as a defeat for the SNP leadership’s strategy or even for the SNP as a whole. It will be painted as a defeat for the entire independence movement. It will be taken as a reflection of a lack of support in Scotland for independence. That’s how the British media will portray it.

If the SNP do not perform as predicted, and fails to pick up a significantly larger amount of votes and Westminster seats, the constant carping message from the British media will be that Scotland has lost interest in the idea of independence, that Scotland doesn’t want independence any more, that the steam has gone out of the independence drive. That’s going to make it even harder to achieve a referendum or to pursue any alternative strategy – whether there’s a new pro-indy party or not.

Judging from Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP party conference in Aberdeen yesterday (Tuesday), it appears that the party leadership has indeed learned the lesson of the 2017 General Election campaign. The question of independence, the question of ensuring that it’s the people of Scotland who have the absolute right to decide the future path that Scotland takes, will be front and foremost in the SNP’s General Election campaign. This General Election in Scotland will be dominated by the question of independence as Scotland’s route out of the mess and chaos of Brexit.

It is always a good thing to ensure that political leaders, of any party, are held to account. But right now the priority for the independence movement must be to work our socks off to ensure that we get as many votes for the SNP and as many new MPs for the SNP as we possibly can in the coming General Election. A resounding victory for the SNP in the General Election to come will drastically alter the political landscape in Scotland and make it far harder for the anti-independence parties to resist a demand for another referendum. A continued refusal from Westminster under those circumstances will make it easier for the independence movement to bring soft yes voters and undecideds with us if the need arises to pursue another strategy to bring about an indyref. A large increase in the number of SNP MPs will ensure that the UK media pays attention and will make it far more difficult for them to peddle the false narrative that Scotland doesn’t want a referendum. It will immensely strengthen the hand of the First Minister in her demand for a referendum. There is no downside for the independence movement in ensuring that the SNP does extremely well in this coming General Election. There are potentially severe consequences for independence if our infighting means that the party doesn’t do well.

There may very well come a time when we need to pursue another strategy for getting to an independence referendum. That time could be soon, but we can say with absolute certainty that it’s going to be after this approaching Westminster General Election. The crucial task for the independence movement is to ensure that if the need arises for us to debate a Plan B, or C, or D, for getting an independence referendum, that we are doing so from a position of strength. That’s only going to happen if the sole pro-independence political party which can win Westminster seats achieves a resounding victory in the Westminster General Election that’s ahead of us and is able to argue for that independence referendum with the wind in its sails and the votes of the people behind it.

Let’s work to make that happen. Let’s argue for independence from a position of strength.


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The fundamentals

comingyet
Another day, another exercise in Scotland being patronised by columnists in the Guardian. This time it’s Zoe Williams’ turn, opining that Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a referendum has a fundamental weakness. Because, according to Zoe, the only hope that Scotland has got of getting a referendum is if there is a Labour Prime Minister willing to authorise one, but then if there is a Labour Prime Minister Scotland wouldn’t want independence. To which the only Scottish response can be: Aye. Right. Uh-huh.

The article runs the predictable gamut of British nationalist bingo. The referendum was divisive and bitter. Scots living in England didn’t have voting rights. The whole thing was an excerise in narrow and reactionary nationalism. It is quite remarkable that even now, after Brexit has dominated British politics for years and will dominate it for years to come, that there are still those who cling to the religious belief that support for the British state magically protects you from accusations of nationalism.

If we’re going to talk of fundamentals, the fundamental truth about the Scottish independence debate that commentators south of the border wilfully refuse to understand is that this is not a debate between nationalism and non-nationalism. There are nationalists and non-nationalists on both sides, and the toxic xenophobic nationalism, characterised by hatred of foreigners and the nostalgic harking back to a glorious empire, entirely belongs to opponents of independence. While I have no doubt whatsoever that Zoe Williams is a left of centre politically moderate person who is appalled by the excesses of nationalism, I’m not going to take any lectures in nationalism from someone who has the Orange Order, the Brexit party, and the far right on their side of the independence debate. Check out the beam in your own eye before criticising the mote in mine.

The article writes about the supposed fundamental weakness in the plan for another independence referendum, but itself is characterised by a fundamental weakness. Zoe assumes, like so many I’m-not-a-nationalist-because-I-support-the-UKs before her, that an independence referendum is the gift of a British Prime Minister to grant, and Scotland is merely a supplicant begging on its knees at the doors of Number 10. That is not true, even though it’s a comfort blanket that so many opponents of independence cling onto in the dark nightmare of Brexit Britain. There are, as this blog has argued frequently in the past, other routes to bringing about a lawful and legitimate vote on Scottish independence, routes which do not require the permission of a British Prime Minister. We are not yet in the political space where those alternative routes need to be activated, but that most certainly does not mean that they do not exist. The Scottish Government, even at this stage, is still prepared to give a British Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt to prove their democratic credentials. Anti-independence commentators confuse that with the belief that Westminster holds all the cards.

The entire article is riddled with flaws, as is entirely typical of pieces penned by the London metrocommentariat who seek to explain Scotland to those of us who actually live here, deprived as we are of the benefit of the view from within the M25. The patronising quasi-colonialist mentality that it is based on, that Scotland must seek permission from its masters in order to be allowed to decide its own future, is merely the most egregious. It’s all very bow down before your imperial masters.

However the other big flaw is the assertion that a Labour government would stop people in Scotland from wanting independence. Given that after the next General Election, and indeed right now, the Labour party will receive less support within Scotland than the Conservatives, why exactly should voters in Scotland go off the idea of independence because England has chosen – for once – to elect a party that Scotland has rejected in dismay? We didn’t fall out of love with Labour for no reason. We didn’t lose faith in the Labour party without experiencing a long history of the betrayal of its promises. Labour in Scotland is a toxic remnant. All too often Labour can only get itself elected in England by aping the Conservatives. We saw that with Tony Blair. Independence isn’t just necessary because of Tory governments, but because of Labour ones too. But most of all Scotland has long since learned the painful lesson that even if England does decide to elect a Labour government, there will be a Conservative one along sooner or later. It is no longer enough to hope that things will get better for a short time in Westminster. Scotland can’t build a future on that.

The other flaw is the categorical rejection of any notion that a Conservative government would authorise an independence referendum. This overlooks the fundamental truth about the Conservative party. The only interest for the Conservative party is the narrow party interest of the Conservative party. If the Conservatives believe it is in their party interests to authorise an independence referendum in Scotland, that’s exactly what they’ll do. It was, after all, a Conservative Prime Minister who agreed to a Section 30 order the last time. He did so because he made the calculation, wrongly as it turned out, that opponents of independence would absolutely crush the dream of independence, and then David Cameron could pose as the Saviour of the Union and boost Conservative chances in Scotland.

We currently have a Conservative Prime Minister whose sole political principle is what is good for his own career. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson leads a political party where a majority of members would be happy to see the back of Scotland in order to pursue Brexit. He would be prepared to countenance an independence referendum if getting rid of Scotland would assure him of Brexit and a secure majority in the Commons.

As I write this, Nicola Sturgeon is giving her keynote speech to the SNP Conference. She demanded that Westminster respect the mandate that the Scottish Government already possesses for a referendum. It is time for British Prime Ministers to prove that they understand and respect the concept of democracy. Scotland will demand an independence referendum next year, and that demand will be front and centre in the General Election campaign which is about to commence.

More and more people who voted No in 2014 are coming over to support for independence. They’re changing their minds because they can see that the promises and commitments that successive Westminster governments, and all the main UK parties, have made to Scotland have been hollow and worthless. They’re changing their minds because the UK that Scotland was told it could be a part of doesn’t exist. They’re changing their minds because they don’t want to be a part of a right wing xenophobic Brexit characterised by a nostalgia for a Britannia that used to rule the waves.

There’s only one fundamental that need concern us. That’s the fundamental truth that it is time to place Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands. It is time for independence. One way or another, Scotland is on a path to returning to its rightful place amongst the independent nations of the world. It’s comin yet.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The one sided love affair

onesidedlove
Yesterday we had the pointless spectacle of a Conservative election manifesto dressed up as a state opening of parliament. None of the measures which the Queen announced were going to be implemented by her government will ever see the light of day this side of a general election. The entire episode was a waste of time and ermine dry cleaning bills. Still, from the point of view of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson it guaranteed him a lot more TV exposure from gushing BBC commentators who were caught up in the flummery than would ever have been possible in a five minute election broadcast that no one paid attention to because they were waiting for Eastenders.

This is the second time within a couple of months that this Prime Minister has used the officially politically neutral head of state as a tool for giving himself a political advantage. At this rate we can expect Prince Philip to drive the Conservatives’ campaign bus during the General Election. Which would be entirely appropriate since it’s going to run over the plebs before taking us all over a cliff.

The measures themselves were the kind of mixture of electoral bribes and right wing dog whistles which we’ve come to expect from Conservative manifestos. Although it is surprising that the Conservatives announced that they are proposing to make photo IDs compulsory for voting. It means that many of them won’t be able to vote themselves. Aren’t vampires invisible to cameras as well as mirrors? Certainly the Conservative party has long since lost the ability to look at itself in the mirror. This may explain much about them. They still imagine themselves as suave and debonair superhumans, when everyone else sees blood sucking undead monsters who still walk the earth even though they belong in the grave.

Meanwhile over in the Guardian, the newspaper’s leader writer gazed upon the sad state of affairs in Catalonia and opined that Nicola Sturgeon is right to eschew the Catalan route and reject an illegal referendum. Unfortunately the leader writer neglected to explain to us mere Caledonians what the UK law is exactly that would make an independence referendum illegal. This is not Spain, there is no constitutional prohibition on independence referendums here. The Section 30 order agreed between David Cameron and Alex Salmond in 2012 did not create a law which provided that Westminster is the only body which can authorise a referendum. It merely provided a political guarantee that neither party would seek to challenge the referendum’s result.

We can only assume that the Guardian meant a consultative referendum being carried out by Holyrood without Westminster’s consent. However this matter has never been tested in the courts. There are good legal arguments as to why such a referendum would in fact be perfectly legal. Whether the court would accept those arguments is very much a moot point. As things stand, the lawfulness of a consultative referendum, which is in essence a glorified opinion poll, remains untested. Those who, like the Guardian’s leader writer, assert that a referendum without a Section 30 order are giving us a political opinion and not a statement of legal fact. Indeed, when newspapers start to prejudge a referendum without a Section 30 order as being illegal, they are guilty of the very inflammation of a delicate situation which they purport to condemn.

Equally the newspaper signally failed to point out that the responsibilities it places upon Nicola Sturgeon should equally fall upon the British government. If Scotland votes, yet again, to reinforce the existing mandate that the Scottish Government already has for an independence referendum, it is incumbent upon the British Government to respect the decision of the Scottish electorate. Because if the British Government doesn’t do so, then the quality of British democracy becomes every bit as questionable as Spain’s.

It’s becoming ever more clear that the rest of the UK is getting to the point where they’d be happy to see the back of Scotland. An opinion poll published this week showed that 55% of voters in England prioritise getting Brexit done over keeping the four nations of the UK together. A further 9% apparently want neither Brexit nor to keep the four nations of the UK together. A whopping 64% of voters in England have priorities which are more important to them than ensuring that the UK is kept together.

Well that must be a big slap in the face for Scottish unionists, to discover that the rest of the UK is just not that into them. England is in love with the vision of itself from the 1950s, when it could still tell itself it was a global power that the rest of the world looked up to. It’s like spending weeks and a fortune courting the object of your affections in the hope of persuading them to go on a date only to discover that you’ve been rejected because they’d rather go out with their racist granddad and listen to him reminisce about the empire.

The increasing lack of enthusiasm for the United Kingdom in the rest of the UK is definitely a development which works to the advantage of Scottish independence. It is a vindication of the SNP’s determination to resist Brexit. When voters in England see that Scotland is standing in the way of what they believe England wants, they are not going to concede that Scotland has a point. They’re going to seek to remove the obstacle. This means that British governments are going to find that there is ever less enthusiasm and energy within England for campaigning to keep the UK together, and makes the circumstances more likely to occur when a British government might see it advantageous not to block an independence referendum in Scotland.

However it also highlights the futility and bankruptcy of Scottish Unionism as a political philosophy. The refusal of voters in the rest of the UK to compromise for Scotland merely throws into stark relief the uncomfortable truth for Unionism that within the UK it’s always Scotland which ends up having to accept a position that it doesn’t want. You cannot realistically talk of a partnership when it’s only the one partner who always has to make the concessions while the other always gets what they want. Scottish Unionism is a one-sided love affair.

Right now, Scotland is caught in a nightmare created by English nationalism. It’s a nightmare populated by Tory vampires, by racist grandfathers who hark back to the days of Empire, and Prince Philip driving us off a cliff. It’s a nightmare that the rest of the UK is not going to wake up from, no matter how much Scotland screams. All we can do is leave them to their bad dreams and wake up to a better Scotland.


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The murder of Catalan democracy

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There’s been, shall we say, a spot of falling out in certain quarters of the Scottish independence movement of late. Rattles have been tossed from prams. Dummies spat out. Feet have been stamped. I’m naming no names, and pointing no fingers, but let’s keep a sense of perspective here. This is a dispute about the means of achieving independence, it’s not a dispute about the worthiness of the goal itself. It’s a dispute about tactics, not about fundamental principles. We have the luxury of having such spats because we live in a state where the right to Scottish self-determination is legal, is constitutional, and is recognised. Even though the anti-independence parties have of late being giving a very good impression of sticking their fingers in their ears and going la-la-la-I’m-not-listening, they do understand that when all else is said and done, Scotland only remains a part of the UK as long as that is the will of the majority of the people of Scotland. That’s why they’re so desperate to avoid the question being asked, even though they understand on some level that they can’t stall it forever.

In Catalonia they don’t have the luxury that we have of openly debating different legal tactics for achieving independence. Today, Monday, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced prominent Catalan politicians and independence campaigners to lengthy prison sentences for the “crime” of democracy. For facilitating and organising an independence referendum without the permission of a Madrid government which had refused under any circumstances to concede the right of Catalans to decide their own future, the politicians and activists were convicted of sedition and the misuse of public funds. Those who tried to vote during the referendum were brutally assaulted by police officers brought into Catalonia from elsewhere in the country, yet not one of those officers has had to face any legal consquences for their violence. Instead it was those who organised a peaceful exercise in democracy who were charged with violent rebellion.

Even though the most serious charges of violent rebellion were dropped, the sentences that were handed down were severe. Former vice-president of the Catalan government, the leader of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia) Oriol Junqueras has been sentenced to 13 years in prison. The former foreign minister of Catalonia, Raül Romeva, the labour minister Dolors Bassa, and the Catalan government spokesperson Jordi Turull were each sentenced to 12 years. Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, was sentenced to 11 years and six months. The former territorial minister Josep Rull and the former interior minister Joaquim Forn were both sentenced to 10 years and six months. Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, respectively the leaders of the pro independence civic organisations Òmnium Cultural and the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, were each sentenced to 9 years and six months.

In a further assault on the democratic right to self-expression of the Catalan people, the Spanish electoral authorities recently ruled that in the forthcoming Spanish General Election, the Catalan parties are not allowed to mention the phrases “political prisoners”, “exile”, or “trial of repression” in their electoral materials and the Catalan public media is prohibited from broadcasting them. In Scotland on this blog I can describe Oriol Junqueras, Carme Forcadell and the rest as political prisoners, because they have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms due to their peaceful and democratic belief in the right of the Catalan people to democratic self-determination. In Catalonia the Catalan language television channel TV3 is banned from using the same description.  Pro-independence Catalan parties are prohibited from using the same term in their election campaign materials.

In Catalonia you are not allowed to say that the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is in political exile in Belgium or that former education minister Clara Ponsati is in political exile in Scotland. You are allowed to describe them as “fugitives from justice” because the Spanish electoral commission has ruled that this highly judgemental and emotive term is a neutral description. In Spain, you’re only considered to be neutral if you support the viewpoint of the Spanish government and the Spanish establishment. So rather like the BBC in Scotland then.

The Catalan crisis is a political one. You can’t solve a political problem by imprisoning those who have a different political opinion from you. Yet that is precisely what the Spanish government seeks to do. The Spanish state has just sentenced Catalan politicians and civic leaders to long terms behind bars for the supposed crime of peacefully pursuing a mandate given to them by the electorate of Catalonia. When a peaceful democratic mandate is castigated by prison sentences, democracy is dead.

Catalans have reacted with predictable anger to these harsh, disproportionate, and unjust sentences. There is a massive demonstration taking place at Girona railway station, another at Barcelona airport. Throughout Catalonia, roads and railway lines are being blocked by protestors. The sad reality is that when the peaceful democratic route to independence through the ballot box is blocked, punished, and criminalised, then people will seek an alternative route and who knows where it’s going to end. The anger and fury of the Catalans is only going to increase, and we risk a spiral into violence and oppression as the police react violently to the protests. This is a potential tragedy of Madrid’s own making.

In 21st century Europe, we should have learned the lessons of the past. We should have learned that the right of a people to self-determination cannot be blocked, cannot be punished by prison, because that is the way that madness lies. And this is a lesson that Scotland’s anti-independence parties must take on board too. It is perfectly legitimate to oppose Scottish independence or Catalan independence. It is perfectly legitimate to propound arguments against independence, to seek to persuade people against it. It is not legitimate to prevent the question being asked. It is not legitimate to criminalise those who seek to ask it through the ballot box. It is not legitimate to seek to remove supporters of independence from democratic discourse. When democratic politicians seeking a peaceful resolution to a political issue through the ballot box are silenced behind the bars of a prison, democracy has been murdered.

Visca Catalunya lliure.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Gaelic bingo

gaelicseed

There’s still no clarity on Brexit. There’s still no news on when there’s going to be another General Election. But this week there’s the SNP conference in Aberdeen, and the annual national Mòd is being held in Glasgow. There will be plenty on the pages of this blog about Brexit and the SNP conference over the coming days, but today, for a wee change, I thought that I would mark the Glasgow Mòd with a blog post about Gaelic bingo. Gaelic bingo is the game that Gaelic speakers play when confronted with arguments against the use and promotion of Gaelic in Scotland. Without exception, they’ve all heard all these arguments many times before. Gaelic bingo is when you reward yourself with a wee deoch, that’s Gaelic for drink, whenever one of these hackneyed old arguments rears its head again. What I propose to do in this blog post is to run through some of these arguments, although running over them might be a lot better, and to debunk them as best as I can.

Gaelic is a dead language

For a dead language, Gaelic is remarkably resilient. Dead languages are languages which have no speakers. Gaelic has, according to the most recent census in Scotland, over 57,000 speakers in Scotland. An unknown additional number of people have some knowledge of the language. Now of course, in terms of the population of Scotland that’s not a huge proportion, however modern Scottish Gaelic still has a sufficient body of speakers to put it amongst the top 5% of languages of the world in terms of number of speakers. You might think that’s surprising, unbelievable even, but the fact is that there are around 7 billion people in the world, and – very approximately – around 6,500 different languages currently spoken around the world. A relatively small number of languages together account for the great majority of the world’s population.

These are linguistic giants like Standard or Mandarin Chinese, which has some 1.5 billion speakers of whom around 920 million speak it natively. Then there’s Spanish, which has approximately 460 million native speakers. English comes third with about 400 million native speakers, but in addition it has as many as 1 billion second language speakers. English is followed by Hindi which has over 340 million native speakers, with tens of millions of second language speakers. The different varieties of Arabic, which are not all mutually intelligible, together account for over 320 million native speaker, and tens of millions of second language speakers.

The vast majority of languages however, are spoken by a small number of people. The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has a population of 260,000 but over 113 indigenous languages. The largest of them, the Lennakel language of the island of Tanna, has just 13,000 speakers. The second largest, Nakanamanga, has 9,500 speakers in the north of the island of Efate. The nation of Papua New Guinea has a population of 8.1 million who together speak over 820 different languages, over 12% of the total number of languages in the world. The largest indigenous languages in Papua New Guinea have a few tens of thousands of speakers. Most of them are spoken in only one or two villages.

People wrongly think that Gaelic is a “dead language” because they compare its number of speakers with those of the linguistic giants of the world, and not the typical language with a couple of thousand speakers in Melanesia or Africa. In fact, there is a significant number of European languages which have fewer speakers than Gaelic. The Aranés language of the Val d’Aran in northwest Catalonia has about 9,000 speakers. The Sorbian languages of eastern Germany, two closely related Slavic languages related to Czech and Polish, have a total of 50,000 speakers between them, 10,000 speak Lower Sorbian and 40,000 speak Upper Sorbian. Also in Germany, there are only around 10,000 speakers of the various dialects of North Frisian, and a mere 2,000 speakers of the related East or Saterland Frisian. Northern Sami, which has more speakers than all other Sami languages combined, has about 25,000 speakers in the far north of Norway and Finland.

Gaelic was once far more widely spoken than it currently is. However languages do not lose speakers because there is some mythical free market of languages. They fail to retain speakers because of cultural, political, and economic decisions made by governments. Most of the languages of the world spoken by a mere couple of thousand of people are perfectly stable and are continuing to be acquired by children. Gaelic is under pressure because of the political decisions made within the British Isles over many generations. The current policies of support for Gaelic seek to reverse that tradition of centuries of neglect and outright persecution.

What Gaelic most certainly is not is a dead language. A dead language is a language which has no remaining speakers. Any language which has been sufficiently recorded and attested retains the possiblity of being revived, even if it ceases to be passed on naturally from parent to child. Cornish ceased to be passed on to younger generations in the 18th century, but in recent decades has been successfully revived. A dead language is a language like Pictish, which not only does not have any remaining speakers, but also does not survive in sufficient attestations to enable it to be revived. No one can construct even a basic sentence in Pictish. Gaelic is very far from dead. It not only retains a significant body of native speakers and second language speakers, it is also abundantly attested. It’s not going to go away.

People who say Gaelic is a dead language and therefore it should not be supported are in fact trying to kill Gaelic off. By killing Gaelic off, they seek to prove the truth of their claim that Gaelic is a dead language. The Gaelic for self-fulfilling prophecy is fàisneachd féin-choileanaidh. If Gaelic really was a dead language, we wouldn’t be able to tell them that.

Gaelic is a political project of the SNP

People who claim that the Gaelic language is a political project of the SNP or Scottish independence supporters are themselves politicising the language. Gaelic is a part of the cultural inheritance of everyone who lives in Scotland, not just those who have recent Highland and Island heritage. Gaelic belongs to everyone in Scotland, irrespective of their political views on the position of Scotland within the UK or as an independent nation. When you try and identify the language with one side in Scotland’s constitutional debate, that is a blatant attempt to politicise the language.

In fact, the support that the Gaelic language enjoys from the Scottish government are not because of decisions of the SNP. It is probably true that people who are supportive of Scottish independence tend to be more supportive of Scottish culture, of which Gaelic is an important and vital part, however many of the most prominent and active supporters of the language do not believe in Scottish independence.

Gaelic enjoys the current level of government support and protection because of a decision made by the Labour government of Tony Blair. In 2001, the British Government signed and ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages in respect of Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish in Northern Ireland, as well as Scots, Manx, and Cornish. The charter is an international treaty, and as such it could only be signed and ratified by the UK government. The effect of the charter was to guarantee a level of protection, funding, and recognition for the languages named by signatory governments.

Gaelic and Welsh enjoy one of the highest levels of protection. (Scots, although also recognised as a language to be protected by the charter, was granted a lower level of recognition by the UK government.) It’s because of the international treaty obligations of this charter that the UK government was obliged to facilitate the creation of a Gaelic language TV channel. It’s also because of the obligations of this treaty that we see the presence of the Gaelic language on road signs and public notices. Because of the political structure of the UK and the devolution of certain responsibilities to Holyrood and the Welsh Senedd, the powers and obligations to protect and nuture those languages mentioned in the charter which are spoken in Scotland fall to the Scottish Parliament and government.

In other words, the measures adopted by the Scottish Government with respect to the promotion and protection of Gaelic are due to obligations imposed upon the Scottish Parliament by an international treaty which was signed and ratified by the British Government.

It should be pointed out that the treaty obligations of the British government to protect and support Gaelic will not end with the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. The European Charter for Minority and Regional Languages was signed and adopted under the auspices of the Council of Europe, a much larger organisation which has 47 members. The goal of the Council of Europe is to uphold democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in all of Europe, not just the EU. Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Russia, Armenia, Bosnia, and many other nations are members of the Council of Europe but are not members of the EU.

There are more speakers of Polish in Scotland than Gaelic

There are many languages which are spoken in Scotland by minority ethnic communities. It is right and proper that the Scottish Government and the Scottish educational system encourages and supports those communities in their efforts to maintain language fluency in community languages. It enriches all of us if there is a confident and secure population of Polish speaking Scots. It enriches all of us if those Polish-Scots are able to pass on their language to their kids.

However there are two main differences between these community languages and Gaelic. The first, and most obvious, is that these languages are not minority languages elsewhere. Polish is spoken by over 40 million people around the world and is the sole official and national language of Poland which has a population of 38.5 million. In order to ensure that Polish is passed on to future generations of Polish-Scots, Polish speakers in Scotland can and should make use of the vast quantity of linguistic output produced in Polish by speakers of Polish elsewhere. Thousands of books are published in Polish annually, including the works of winners of the Nobel Prize for literature. There’s a vast output of TV and film in Polish, which can be accessed in Scotland online. All these resources can and should be used by the Polish community in Scotland in order to help maintain fluency in Polish amongst younger generations.

However Gaelic and Scots stand or fall depending on what resources we produce for them here in Scotland. There is no huge body of speakers of these languages elsewhere in the world producing a vast output of literature, linguistic material, TV, or movies, that speakers in Scotland can piggy back upon in order to maintain fluency in the language. All that Gaelic has is what people in Scotland produce for it. We have a responsibilty in Scotland to produce and make accessible literature and film and TV in Gaelic which we don’t have with respect to Polish, Chinese, Urdu, or any other community language used in Scotland.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t encourage say, the publication of a novel written in Polish about the experiences of Polish-Scots. Such a development would be hugely welcome. But it is definitely true to say that the survival of Polish in Scotland does not depend upon such a development. The survival of Gaelic and Scots most definitely does.

We do not object to the Scottish Government spending money on the protection of the tangible aspects of Scottish history or culture. There would be outrage if the Scottish Government were to permit Edinburgh Castle to fall into ruin and then allow the building of a shopping centre on the site. Gaelic and Scots are a vitally important part of the intangible heritage of Scotland. Yet many in Scotland are quite sanguine about seeing them fall into decay and an English language development being constructed on their ruins.

In terms of intangible aspects of Scottish culture and heritage, the Gaelic and Scots languages enjoy a role every bit as vital and important as some of the most iconic Scottish buildings do in terms of our built heritage. And this is another important distinction between Gaelic and Polish. The vast literature which is composed in the Polish language is not about Scotland. It is not primarily concerned with speaking to and from the Scottish experience. Literature in Gaelic is primarily about Scotland and the Scottish experience. It does tell us about ourselves and our country in a way that literature written in other languages does not and cannot.

Gaelic is at the very root of what it means to be Scottish. Originally to be a Scot meant to be a Gaelic speaker. That was the original meaning of the Latin term Scoti. It was the use of the Gaelic language which created Scotland, and the use of the Gaelic language which brought Scotland into being. It was only later that the term Scot became extended to those who lived in Scotland and identified with Scotland but who were not themselves Gaelic speakers.

If you want to study the early history of Scotland, you can only do so by reference to documents created and written by Gaelic speakers. Many of these documents are in Latin, but others are written in an early form of Gaelic. You cannot understand early Scottish history or the formation of the Kingdom of Scotland without understanding the role that Gaelic language and culture played. The tree of Scotland grew from a Gaelic seed.

Gaelic was never spoken in the Lowlands

Unlike Polish or other community languages used in Scotland, Gaelic is quite literally written into the Scottish landscape. All across Scotland, there are Gaelic placenames. Even the words we use in Scots and English to describe and talk about the Scottish landscape are frequently words which were borrowed from Gaelic, words like loch, ben, glen, bog. You can’t talk about the landscape of Scotland without having reference to Gaelic, and that applies as much to the Lowlands as it does to the Highlands.

Even in Glasgow, the location of this year’s Mòd, the place names of the districts where events are being held were often created in the Gaelic language by Gaelic speakers and date from a time when Gaelic was spoken natively in the city by established communities of speakers. In fact during the 11th and 12th centuries Gaelic was the dominant language in the Glasgow area and the language used by the majority of the residents of the area which was to become the city. The Gaelic place names of largely date from that time.

Barrachnie in the city’s east end is from the Gaelic Bàrr Fhraoichnidh, the heathery hill. Barlinnie is Blàr Leanaidh, the marshy plain. Garscadden is Gart nan Sgadan, the farm or yard of the herring. Garscube is Gart nan Sguab, the farm of the sheafs. The Calton is A’ Challtainn, the hazel trees. Bellahouston is Baile Ùisdeain, Hugh’s farm. Blochairn is Blàr a’ Chàirn, the plain of the cairn. Killermont is a much corrupted form of Ceann Tearmainn, the head or height of the sanctuary. Dalmarnock is Dail Mheàrnaig, the meadow or haugh of St Marnock. Drumchapel is Druim a’ Chapaill, the horse’s ridge. Garrioch, the older name of what is now called Ruchill is from An Garbhach, the rough hilly area. Ruchill is a Scots translation of the original Gaelic name. Everywhere you turn in Glasgow, you are confronted by Gaelic.

It’s a similar story in all of Scotland’s cities, and all across the Lowlands with the exception of the far south east of Scotland. Even in Edinburgh you will encounter place names created in Gaelic, dating from a time when there were large and politically important and influential communities of Gaelic speaking people in the Edinburgh area. Names like Craigentinny, Craig an t-Sionnaich, the rock of the fox, Corstorphine, Crois Thoirfinn Thorfinn’s cross, Craiglockart Craig Luchairt the rock of the palace, date from this time.

The extent of these place names proves that the Gaelic language was at one time the dominant or sole language everywhere in mainland Scotland north and west of a line drawn very approximately from Gretna to Musselburgh. Gaelic wasn’t merely once spoken in the Lowlands, it survived in the Lowland until surprisingly recent times. Gaelic remained especially strong in South Ayrshire and Galloway right into early modern times. There are reports from the 1500s which inform us that the people of Carrick and Galloway were for the most part Gaelic speaking. The last known speaker of Galloway Gaelic was a woman called Margaret McMurray who died in the Ayrshire town of Maybole in 1760, although it is thought by some that the educator and minister Alexander Murray, who was the professor of Hebrew at Edinburgh University, acquired Galloway Gaelic from his father. Murray died in 1813.

Kids would be better learning a more “useful” language

People who make this remark are thinking about time spent in school learning French and Spanish. They assume that time spent learning Gaelic is time that could be spent on learning some other language. However this is a fundamental misunderstanding of modern Gaelic education. The rise of Gaelic medium schools is the main way in which fluency in Gaelic is being spread amongst younger generations. When a child is taught through the medium of Gaelic, not only does that child end up speaking the language with far greater fluency than those of us who struggle with O Grade French, it is also possible for the child to be taught French, Spanish, or German through the medium of Gaelic.

Indeed, and speaking as a person who has studied many languages, including Gaelic and Spanish, I can assure you that the more languages you learn the easier it becomes to acquire others. An early grounding in Gaelic makes it easier for a child to later acquire French or Spanish or some other language, because that child has received an early education in the mental flexibility that is necessary in order to achieve fluency in a second or third language.

Children who acquire a second language early in life, and who are educated partly through the medium of that language, acquire a fluency in it which is out of reach to those of us who never experienced another language until one hour a week of French or German in secondary school. The benefits of bilingualism are well known to educationalists. Children who acquire another language early in life are better at dealing with abstract concepts, because the have, if you like, two mental coathooks upon which they can hang their thoughts. They have an advantage when it comes to learning a third or fourth language, because they have acquired the mental flexibility that comes from bilingualism. So for example they are going to be unsurprised that the values of letters in the written form of the new language will often be different from those of English.

The benefit of bilingualism last a lifetime. There was even a recent study which showed that bilingual people have some protection against the onset of dementia because they have two mental pathways for forming thoughts as opposed to the single pathway which monoglots have. When we teach our kids Gaelic, we are not only ensuring that they are in contact with Scotland’s past and present, we are also facilitating their contact with an international future.

Dè nach eil a bhith ag còrdadh? What’s not to like?


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com