It’s the first of April, and the newspapers traditionally publish a spoof news story, and just as traditionally they’re about making fun of Scottish people and their silly pretensions. The idea that Scotland might govern itself better than Westminster can do it for us is apparently the biggest April fool of all. The Guardian tells us that Scotland will be driving on the right, while the Telegraph insists that Alicsammin’s heid’s going on the new Scottish pound coin. Meanwhile the Independent warns that in the event of a Yes vote Scotland will be occupied by UN peacekeepers, and from behind its paywall the Times says that some German prince is aiming to become king in an independent Scotland. Such larks.
In the interests of research, I even looked on the Daily Mail website so you don’t have to. They did have a piece about parking signs discriminating against men and being a part of an EU feminist plot, but it turned out that wasn’t a spoof, it was just the Mail being swivel eyed again. I couldn’t tell their April Fool spoof from the rest of the guff that litters their pages, but there’s bound to be some joke about the “poond” in there somewhere.
I’m not sure who says “poond”, apart from people trying and failing to use Scots words, folk from “Glazgie” – that mythical Scottish city just south of Millengavy and east of Grennock – and columnists in the UK media. Whenever someone in the last category uses the word, it’s done in a contemptuous and dismissive way. It must be, because if the person using it wasn’t intending to be contemptuous and dismissive they’ve have been arsed enough to find out what the real Scots word for pound is. Poond isn’t a real word because Scotland can’t have a real pound. But I digress.
Eventually I found the Mail’s spoof. It’s an article claiming that after Scottish independence the blue bits will be bleached out of the Union flag. Only that’s a story that the Guardian did some months ago.
Anyway, it’s all just a laff right, and humourless nats can’t take a joke. And in isolation, that would be true. But it’s not in isolation. It’s all the time, and the jokes are generally directed against the Scots as a whole, and make use of the same set of limited set of stereotypes. There’s no real difference between them and Jim Davidson’s jokes about black people. They’re just a laff as well, at least if you’re a gin swilling golf club member in Surrey.
If Scottish publications published similar jokes about the English, their silly pronunciations and inability to say the letter R, their daft belief that they can manage their own affairs, and their ridiculous notion that England punches above its weight and isn’t just a lackey of the Pentagon, there would be howls of outrage about evil Scottish anti-English racists from the very same people who say Scottish nationalists have no sense of humour. Andrew Marr would present a special programme on the BBC about it, with lots of concerned commentators probing into the deep dark recesses of the Scottish psyche and its supposed seething hatred of all things English. When English people do it about Scots, it’s just a bit of banter and touchy Scots with a chip on their shoulder read far too much into it.
It’s not the unfunny jokes we object to. It’s the double standards. But don’t expect the UK media to get it.
The UK media’s April fool efforts weren’t even original. We’ve already been told we will have to drive on the right after independence, Labour’s Andy Burnham said as much a few months ago, only he was being serious. Or rather, as serious as it’s possible for Labour to be when they have only a tangential relationship to reality. Labour’s claim to be returning to its socialist roots is the real joke.
Scotland has also had threats of military occupation. Just last month the Independent published a warning that an independent Scotland might end up at war with itself like the Ukraine. Now they’ve republished the same story as an April fool spoof. A possible Scottish currency is the regular butt of jokes and contemptuous dismissal from UK media types, the Guardian has already run a “light hearted” feature asking what the new Scottish currency should be called.
Writing in the Telegraph a few weeks ago, Tory commentator Peter Oborne suggested that Cameron should advise Liz not to be queen in an indy Scotland and Scotland could get some random person called Stuart instead. So the Times duchy original duke joke has already been done as a proper threat too. There’s fresher and more topical humour on 1940s seaside postcards.
Who needs a Tory minister to admit that the currency threat is a bluff? When the threats and scares issued by Better Together start appearing in their own newspapers as April Fool spoofs, we have conclusive proof that the entire No campaign is a poorly thought out joke. And their strategists wonder why Scottish people don’t believe them any more.
But we shouldn’t complain too much. It’s all April fuel for the yes campaign.