A very personal journey to destination Yes

A guest post by Gayle Smith of Tartantights

As the independence debate hots up it seems that the mud slinging between both camps is about to get horribly personal. I do hope I’m wrong about this, as I have many good friends in the Better Together campaign and regardless of the result I fully intend to keep them.

However, to make sure no mud can be slung in my direction I have decided to be open and honest about something which under normal circumstances should be a very personal matter. You see my name is Gayle, I’m a transsexual woman, and I’m voting yes.

You may ask why I would make the choice to be so honest about something which is so private. Well the way I see it is this, there are parallels between my journey to acceptance and the quality of life I now enjoy and Scotland’s journey to yes. At first this statement may surprise or even shock you but stand back for a moment, take time to think and it may begin to dawn on you that these parallels are not nearly so surprising as you first thought.

The first is being told from your so-called betters what you can and cannot do. I should stress that as well as being trans I also have a few medical conditions, or as I prefer to call them impairments. In the early days any interest in wanting to be different is dismissed as a phase,and if you’re a disabled person it’s dismissed even earlier than usual. You are told this is something you will grow out of when you grow up, or find something better to do, which they wrongly assume that you will.

This is not helpful to a young trans person but it happens and it happens because some people don’t seem to get the fact that I have as much control over my gender as I do over my height or the colour of my eyes. In some circles however, ignorance is bliss, and there seems to be a prevailing train of thought if you just ignore the situation or pretend it doesn’t exist you can somehow wish it away.

This is I suspect the attitude many in Unionist circles had at the time of the 1979 devolution referendum. In other words they gave us a token vote and rigged the rules to make sure we couldn’t win then hoped we would quietly accept our lesson and get on with playing the game their way.

When that tactic fails as it always will, you are reminded of the disgrace you will bring on the family name and told in no uncertain terms what the neighbours will think of you for daring to get ideas above your station. Better Together have used many examples of this kind of nonsense during the campaign, the most ludicrous being the fact that we would be invaded for daring to become independent and not keeping those lovely trident weapons of mass murder on the Clyde. Others include being thrown out of the Commonwealth the EU and even the UN. Believe me I recognise scare tactics when I see them, but this bunch of amateurs couldn’t scare a bed sheet let alone a ghost.

The next is no-one will like you and you’ll lose all your friends.  Yet again this is complete drivel. Your friends, and believe me Scotland has many, will stand by you no matter what you do. However having crushed your spirit, or at least so they think, they begin to get contented that you are at last beginning to play by the rules they set. Until that is you see an opening and begin to make long term plans. This is something you knew you would have to do but they never even thought about it, primarily because having underestimated from the start they never believed you were capable of making any such arrangements. However you know different and without showing your cards, especially your aces, you begin to set your plans in motion.

Once you develop your plans the ultimate success or failure of it really will be all about timing. For me due to a childhood in which both epilepsy and coordination issues played a far greater part than I would have liked this was perhaps even more significant than most. Also, as is the case with many people born in the 1960’s who identify as trans I did have the tendency to procrastinate and put off till tomorrow what deep down should have been done many yesterdays ago.

This I believe gives me an insight in to the mind of no voters many of whom are as they say proud Scots who love their country but who being a wee bit on the cautious side tend to be risk averse. Therefore I am in many ways the ideal campaigner to engage with those who would like to be persuaded of the potential benefits of independence but have in their eyes legitimate fears and concerns which need to be addressed before they will take what for them is a fairly radical step and requires a genuine leap of faith.

When I talk to people in this situation I often refer to personal independence and ask them how they would feel if someone came in to their homes and told them when to get up in the morning and what they could and could not have for dinner. After all independence is a very personal matter and I believe we owe it to ourselves to be personally responsible for our actions.

I also inform them that my transition is more like Scotland’s journey than they might at first think. I point out that having the traditional Scottish assets of pragmatism and caution I realised that particularly with my medical conditions I would have to stage it over a number of years for my journey to have the successful outcome I wanted. I compare my road to devolution, by saying that it started off in small steps and involved many coming outs and then gathered pace leading to my very personal declaration of independence. Slowly but steadily I began to my plans in motion and knew there was only ever going to be one outcome

The road unsurprisingly perhaps started in the LGBT community before moving on to my local area, then the spoken word and music community. It was here that I gained my strongest support, and backing of enough powerful voices to realise that I would soon be able to tackle the last steps on the journey. These being my work and family and not only that, but they would be tackled on my terms and if they didn’t like it, then they knew what they could do. and if they made that choice then so be it.

Explaining this to people I am often told how brave and courageous I was to take what must have been a big risk and they do seem genuinely shocked when I tell them that the bigger risk would have staying as I was as that would have had implications ,and potentially severe ones, for my emotional health and well being. I compare this to Scotland at this moment in our history and say that the biggest risk is not leave the UK it is in fact staying in the UK. I point to the fact that when the current Trident missiles are replaced by new ones they too will be stationed on the Clyde. I also ask how something such as Trident was deemed too dangerous for Portsmouth but perfectly fine for Glasgow. It seems to me at least, that based on this information the United Kingdom may be nowhere as united as the press and Better Together would have us believe.

I then inform people that Scotland in the last 40 years has produced more oil than Dubai but has nothing to show for it but foodbanks, austerity, and a decimated industrial base which was turned into a wasteland to chase Tory votes in the Home Counties of the stockbroker belt with Labour’s blind loyalty to the Westminster parliament rendering them impotent to do anything about it. The fact is that Scotland needs change and that change can only begin after gaining the full and sovereign powers that independence grants all nations.

What about the practicalities of it? What about the currency and what about what we watch on our TVs? I mean the British government are saying we can’t have the pound and the BBC are saying that we may have to pay a higher licence fee. Firstly I reassure them on the currency by saying that during campaigns such as this one parties and campaign leaders tend to adopt positions which if they are honest are done more to impress their supporters than anything else and will be subject to negotiations in the event of a Yes vote and the idea of and the potential for currency union will be discussed in a far more civilised way than is the case at present.

As for paying a higher fee to the BBC the idea is quite frankly ridiculous as no country outside the UK pays any licence fee to Auntie Beeb. Indeed last year Ireland bought its entire BBC package for £25 million. This is I am sure you will agree a lot less than £300 million that Scotland paid for our package as part of the United Kingdom.

You know my mother was always a great one for talking about practicalities as a way to put me off transitioning as a woman and would often ask what she thought were difficult questions in an attempt to dissuade me of what she considered my silly wee notion. Typical examples of this, were how would I fasten my suspender belt if I decided to wear stockings on a night out? Who would do my make up? and who would zip my dress? She totally ignored the fact that I was a lot more likely to wear tights than stockings as I always considered suspenders to be far too fidgety, and there was also the comfort issue and the fact that tights were far easier to put on than socks. Skirts were far easier to wear than trousers and didn’t come with complicated fastenings of some trousers or even some dresses.

As for doing my make up or getting my dress zipped, I told my mother in a diplomatic but firm manner I would still be getting my assistance from flatmate, the same flatmate who assisted me with other tasks such as my putting in my eye drops for glaucoma or zipping up any jacket I may have worn during all my previous winters. The fact at every turn I could answer the openly and honestly was something she did not seem to like and kept trying to shift the goalposts or make up new rules to suit herself. This however was not a smart move and was doomed to disaster from the start. Well if there is one thing people need to know it’s the fact that this kind of behaviour might actually lose you a lot more friends than you’ll gain and some people who you may have thought of as allies may now defect to the opposition because of your childish antics of putting up imaginary barriers which exist nowhere but the darkest corners of your mind.

However some people just refuse to learn that the world really isn’t all about them and have great if deluded belief in their own self importance. For these people, life is all about barriers, avoiding risks, and wondering what the neighbours will say on any given issue.

As for me I prefer to live my life in a different way, I enjoy making choices and I even enjoy taking risks if I believe the risk is worth taking. Not to vote yes for your own country’s independence is in my opinion complete and total madness and demonstrates not a national inferiority complex but a deeply personal one. As I say to those who doubt it we will make it as an independent country and I say this not only because of our natural resources but because being a bit cynical I realised many years ago that if we really were as poor as the unionists would like to tell us we are we would have been given independence years ago, whether we wanted it or not. To believe otherwise is an act of astonishing naivety. I also remind them that there are some decisions in life you cannot run away from, and the choice you make in this referendum is unquestionably one of them.

I politely but firmly inform them that the many of the questions facing Scotland at this time were the questions facing me six years ago, when after living as my true self at the weekends I would go to back to being this stranger that everyone thought they knew during the week. I would do this just to suit my family and co-workers. I would fit in to their world rather than cause them any upset. After all I didn’t want to rock the boat or did I? Maybe I thought to myself that the boat needed rocking. Maybe it was time for me to make waves and let the world see me the real me for who I actually was.

Fed up with having to continually compartmentalise my thoughts and feelings I realised this devolution of my life had gone as far as it could go. It was time for me to stake my claim for independence and go for it, and to hell with the consequences. I decided to vote yes to having a better life and set the 19th of December 2008 as my personal independence day. Yes it wasn’t always easy and though there were scaremongers who seemed to be far too concerned with the opinions of others, there were also some truly brilliant people who gave me a level of support beyond even my expectations.

So you see despite all the difficulties and challenges I faced, I survived and prospered. And you know what, if I can do it so can Scotland.

Hopefully my story can inspire those who are as yet undecided voters to put hope in place of fear, and believe that another Scotland – a better Scotland – is possible for the people of our country. What we decide now can and will have an impact for years to come, and I have to admit it does cause me very great alarm that so many unionists seem so blissfully unaware of the potential pitfalls of remaining part of a faded imperial union which has long since passed its sell by date.

Another matter of concern is the fact that it seems that unionists are very selective in telling us the good bits about the union. These as they perceive them are the monarchy, the BBC, and the pound. If however you ask about Trident, foodbanks, UKIP, or the House of Lords they don’t seem to be quite as proud of their beloved little union. Funny that, but I’ve got a rule for these people, you either accept of all of it, or vote yes. It really is time for people to put up or shut up.

You see no matter however hard they try to avoid it these people will have to take a decision. This is a decision which will have an impact not just on their short term economic prospects but will potentially impact on their children and grandchildren. This is why I would urge maximum caution before casting your vote as a vote against Alex Salmond and the SNP. This despite the fairytales you will hear from the sycophantic unionist press is not a vote on Mr Salmond, it is a vote on the future of Scotland. It is too important to risk our future prosperity based on your views on one man or his party. That decision can be left for another day, this one can’t – but it could well be the biggest one you may ever have to make.

When I realised my decision day had finally arrived I knew It was a case if I didn’t do it I never would, and I would go to my grave with regrets thinking only of what might have beens. So you know what, I went for it and whilst it has by no means been perfect it hasn’t been the nightmare some would have predicted. Indeed it has been far better than even I could have hoped for in how easy it has been once I got over the first three months or so.

Yes I have had to make sacrifices but I am in this for long haul. To illustrate this I have decided to quote lines from Caledonia. These words sum up my feelings on my personal journey and if we look back in a few years time I can truthfully they won’t be to far wide of the mark for Scotland either. “I’ve lost some friends I needed losing, gained others on the way”, and believe me the gains heavily outnumber the losses not only in terms of friendships but on the impact on my quality of life.

In every area of my life I believe I have seen some improvements with the possible exception of spending power, but hey we’re in the middle of a recession and the fact I’m a serial shopper doesn’t help the cause. However, from politics to poetry from friendships to faith I have gained far more than I’ve lost since declaring my personal independence.

I believe with the full political powers which only independence can bring, Scotland can do the same. And that is why as a woman and indeed a transwoman for independence I have shared what you could say is a very personal journey to destination yes.

Love and best wishes,  Yours for Scotland





A tale of two events

There was a sizeable turnout on Sunday for a demonstration outside the offices of BBC Scotland in Glasgow, protesting against the blatant bias displayed by the Corporation in its coverage of the referendum debate. Organisers estimate the attendance at around 2000, making turnout approximately the same as the estimate published by Craig Murray on his blog for attendance at Saturday’s Armed Forces Day in Stirling.

The Armed Forces Day events are supposed to be in honour of those who served or have served in the armed forces. It honours and remembers those who fought and died and sacrificed. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be. But choosing to hold the event in Stirling on the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn was a shamefully transparent attempt to politicise what ought to have been a solemn and non-political event in order to use it as a stick with which to beat the Scottish political opponents of the Westminster parties. That’s a perversion of the stated purpose of Armed Forces Day. If you honestly believe that it was sheer coincidence that the event was held where it was and when it was, I have a Stirling Bridge to sell you.

Craig Murray’s estimate for Armed Services Day is probably too low, as it does not include those who lined the parade but who did not go on to the main event, however it is questionable how many of those could be regarded as attendees, as opposed to people who happened to be in the area anyway but who paused to take in a free show. There’s a difference between an attendee and a passer-by but we have no means of distinguishing between them for the purposes of arriving at a reliable attendance figure. The BBC and the MoD have clearly decided to count everyone who was in the general vicinity as an attendee.  Despite this, attendance was not huge.  It was  noticeable that during the wall to wall coverage of the event on the BBC yesterday there were few panning shots showing the entire crowd.

There is also a significant difference in the nature of the two events. Armed Forces Day was not a static event, it began with a parade from the esplanade of Stirling Castle to the fields where the commemoration was held. The BBC protest was a static event, there was no prior march. It could be argued that counting those who lined the Armed Forces Day parade is equivalent to counting as demonstrators those who witness a protest march as it winds through a city centre. When you want to make a valid comparison, it’s important to compare like with like. So it’s valid then to restrict our comparison with the BBC demo to those who turned up for the static event outside the town.

Another important distinction is that all those who attend a protest demonstration can legitimately be described as protesters, but many of those in attendance at Armed Forces Day were there in an official capacity of one sort or another. Alicsammin and several of his staff members were there – but I don’t think anyone would claim they are supporters of the Union. Others came as representatives of their workplaces or organisations, yet others because they were working at the event. For starters, we should discount all the press and TV crews, those providing catering and other services. So again this will inflate the attendance figures of those at the Stirling event.

Then there were the service people in attendance as part of their duties. According to the Armed Forces Day official website, the parade consisted of “400 Service personnel, including soldiers from the 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland who recently returned from Afghanistan, marched from the Esplanade of Stirling Castle through the streets of the historic city. They were joined by more than 1,200 veterans, and 200 cadets.” These 1800 people were not there as ordinary members of the public turning up to show their support for David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Many of these current and former servicepeople will have been accompanied by family and friends who came along in order to show support for their loved one. Others were there because they have personal or emotional ties to the armed forces and wished to honour the sacrifice made by a long deceased relative. We can make no judgement as to their views on the official portrayal of the event as a celebration of coming together in Great Britishness.

At least one attendee interviewed on the BBC news said that he was there to honour the sacrifices of servicepeople, “the politics is a different matter,” he added.

We can however be pretty certain that all those who turned up at the BBC demo are pissed off with the BBC. The number who turned up at the Armed Forces Day event explicitly in order to demonstrate their support for a United Kingdom and the Westminster Parliament was almost certainly much smaller than the attendance at the BBC demo. Whatever the Armed Forces Day event represented, and it will have meant very different things to the individuals in attendance, it was not a mass popular demonstration in favour of keeping Westminster rule.

Whatever the exact figure, attendance at Armed Forces Day was well short of the 35,000 claimed by the Ministry of Defence and the BBC, and judging by the photos on Craig Murray’s blog, did not come close to approaching 5,000. The photos in this link show computer generated graphics of crowds of various sizes and densities and are useful for estimating the size of a crowd in a photo.

However arguments over exact crowd size are essentially little more than exercises in dick waving. What is important is not the exact size of turnout and whose is bigger than whose, what is important and relevant is that a protest against BBC bias which had no prior coverage in the mainstream media allowing people to plan to get there, no institutional or official support, and without the promise of Red Arrow displays or demonstrations of blowing things up, attracted an attendance of the same order of magnitude as a national event which was heavily touted in advance as a fun day out for all the Great British family.

That tells us two things.  It tells us that there is no massive popular support in Scotland for the UK or its institutions, and it tells us that there is massive public anger about the way in which the BBC has been representing Scotland.  Whatever happens in September, BBC Scotland is already the big loser.

That’s news, that’s relevant. However the demonstration rated a few seconds at the end of the BBC Scotland evening news broadcast, and attendance was described as “hundreds of people”. Interesting is it not that one event’s attendance was inflated to 35000, while the other was reported as a vague low estimate. The protest did not rate three film crews and live coverage throughout the duration of the event followed by endless analysis and discussion afterwards. A demonstration against BBC bias itself demonstrates the bias that the demonstration seeks to highlight. BBC management don’t do irony.

The BBC is hopelessly compromised. Like the Labour party in Scotland, the BBC has no intention of reforming itself to make itself accountable to the ordinary people of Scotland. We have to make it accountable, and force it to change. The only way to do that is by voting Yes in September.

Running to Brussels in Y-fronts

You know the telly is really bad when you’re upset that they’ve taken off Bargain Hunt. I hate football, dear gods I hate it so much. And don’t start me on tennis, sexual grunts with spaghetti driers on sticks and not a celebrity masterchef in sight. And we’ve still got loads to look forward to, like the bleedin Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, which is apparently to do with hitting a small ball with a long stick which is rubbish for drying spaghetti, and horses are not involved at all.

They’re only bloody games, people. That means it’s not real. It’s just a game, the clue’s right there in the name. Game. It‘s playing. Kicking and batting baws and running and jumping about a bit.

Why are they running a marathon anyway? It’s 26 miles for godssake. Can they not get a bus? That’s why buses were invented, so people didn’t have to run 26 miles. Let’s make up something pointless and call it a competition and get it plastered all over the telly. Only they’ve taken off Pointless too. The basterts.

And you’re taking off my soap operas for this, you TV scheduling testostemaroids. Invented things should come with invented stabbings, bitchery, the occasional murder and burying the body under the patio, long story lines about on-off-on-off again romances, and oooh-what-total-bastards, thank you very much. But the best on offer is some overpaid eejit biting some other overpaid drama queen on a fitba pitch because he was annoyed that he wasn’t getting his turn to kick the baw. He should go buy his own ball if it means that much to him, it’s not like he can’t afford it. It was funny how he made like he’d injured his teeth though. That was inventive invention. It was even more inventive that no one seemed to think he should have been huckled off by the polis immediately. Why are they indulging the overpaid egoist with an anger management problem? He’s not a genius, he’s not a god. He’s just a spoiled wee thug with better than average eye to foot coordination.

Sport is what weans do only with more expensive equipment and much bigger egos. Why is this taking up three quarters of the news? Shoot me. Shoot me now. I’m a freak, a mutant, born without the sports appreciation gene. I’m sportophobic. That probably means I’m abusing Magrit Curran, because women play sports too.

Sportophobia has led me to the realisation that Unionist politicians are in fact attempting to channel the spirits of 1970s PE teachers. They weren’t very bright either and as a class they likewise contain a higher than average proportion of spoiled wee thugs with anger management problems. But we have to see them once a week when they visit on a power trip for a spot of attempted ritual humiliation, and the demand that we run around the playing field in our underwear. A teacher did once order me to do that, on one of the many many occasions it had quite slipped my mind, no honestly the dog ate the post it note on the fridge, that I had PE that day. “Right boy! Take off your trousers and shirt and do 20 laps of the field,” he ordered. I’d seen him do this with other boys in the class before, and couldn’t understand why they complied with the command. Why be complicit in your own humiliation? It made no sense.

“Oh that’s so not going to happen,” I told him, “If you want humiliation rituals you can do it in your own time.” He went bright red and then went ape-shit, but to be fair that was sorta the point of saying it to him. Playing mind games with PE teachers was the only sport I really enjoyed and I was laughing because I’d won. In retrospect, he was probably secretly into getting spanked by a dominatrix and I’d struck a nerve that was rawer than his backside. But that didn’t cross my mind at the time. I was a bitch, but an innocent one, at least at the time. I got the belt, but it was worth it. I didn’t run round the playing field in my underwear or do PE that day. Nor indeed for the rest of my school career.

You can’t humiliate people who are laughing back at you. No one can wipe the smile off your face when you can see what’s funny. That was the only lesson I ever learned in PE, but it was a good one. Unionist politicians are funny and make me laugh. “Oh that’s so not going to happen,” is the best response to them as well.

The only appreciable difference between the humiliation rituals of 1970s PE teachers and Unionist politicians is that Unionist politicians can’t give us the belt, or even lines or detention, they have to make do with warnings that we’ll be unprotected against threats from outer space, or that they’ll have to impose border controls. That’s rubbish sadomasochism that is. And not a gimp suit in sight, just plenty of gimps in suits.

Unionist politicians see Scotland as a venue for acting out their power fantasies, but it just leaves them looking like they’re running round the playing field in their Y-fronts. Do they really believe we’re small children who can be intimidated by ridiculous stories bereft of logic or reason? Apparently they do. Let’s be having those suit troosers then, Eds Miliband and Balls. Let’s see the colour of your Y-fronts. I’m guessing brown.

The UK isn’t exactly flavour of the month with other EU countries, a fact which Ed Miliband is hoping is news of the “except for viewers in Scotland” sort. The UK, you know, the one that punches above its weight and has massive influence in Europe, just got outvoted 27-2. That’s even rubbisher than the square of the rubbishness of the Spanish and English world cup squads combined. The only cheerleader Davie could muster was Viktor Orban the far right Hungarian that no one else wants anything to do with. In 2013 the European Parliament endorsed a report criticising the dangerously undemocratic way in which Orban was centralising power and control into his own hands, and stated that his changes to the Hungarian constitution were in conflict with the fundamental principles of EU treaties. So you can see why Orban wasn’t keen to support an EU President who was chosen by a majority of EU parliamentarians. There’s massive UK influence for you. What was that about knowing people by the company they keep Davie?

After Davie’s wee stropette with the presidency vote, few EU members are predisposed to doing the UK too many favours just now. Meanwhile Westminster wants to renegotiate the terms of its own membership of the EU, causing immense problems both at an EU level and at the level of domestic politics within many other EU members – which have their own EU issues. And if Westminster doesn’t get its own way it will hold a referendum on leaving.

These pissed off EU countries are the same countries which Westminster assures us will rush to support the view of the Westminster government that it and it alone inherits EU membership upon Scottish independence, and will concur that a Scotland which is quite keen to remain an EU member is a naughty child who must wait at the back of the EU queue in its Y-fronts.

The UK obtained its much prized Schengen opt out because the UK is situated on some islands, and because its only land border is with a smaller EU country the bulk of whose contacts with other EU nations transits via the UK. It’s much simpler for us just to control a few seaports and airports ourselves, said the UK government during Schengen negotiations. Ireland said they’d like to join Schengen, but since the UK wasn’t going to it really didn’t make any economic or political sense for them to join either. You know what that Westminster is like, added Ireland with resignation. And the other EU countries said, OK fair enough then, Westminster causes enough grief as it is, and oh look at the time, isn’t Bargain Hunt on telly? Let’s go home for lunch.

Now Ed Miliband is saying that the UK, or more precisely the England-Wales-Northern Ireland component of the former UK, will maintain its opt out on Schengen while erecting border controls with its neighbour to the north. Because we’ll have become foreigners, and foreigners are bad. Foreigners attract other foreigners, and the newly foreign Scottish foreigners will let loads of other foreigners in who will immediately want to go south of the border because they don’t like Scottish foreigners either. At least I think that’s the logic. It’s hard to tell with Westminster PE teachers. They’re not really renowned for joined up thinking.

Because it certainly can’t be because Scotland might adopt an immigration policy that was different from the one Ed wants. The Republic of Ireland already does that, they have their own immigration policy which does not require prior approval from the UK Home Office. Oddly there’s no passport controls between the UK and Ireland, what with them being a part of a Common Travel Area. And it can’t be the foreigner thing either in Ireland’s case, what with the 1949 Ireland Act passed by Westminster deeming that Irish citizens are not foreigners, and the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country, for the purposes of UK laws.

So that only leaves “we’re just spiteful gimps in suits” as the reason for the Scottish border controls, which doesn’t sound like an attractive reason for voting No in September. Expensive things border controls, all just for the sake of an infantile strop. And all the cost on their side – like Scotland needs to bother protecting the border when they’re doing such a sterling job of it. But sterling is something else the border will be porous to as well.

The threat has no substance. It’s a wee fantasy the Eds want to scare us with. They want us to take off our trousers and run at their command. But let’s indulge the Eds in their little power trip fantasy. What happens next? The northern neighbour will, upon being cut off from the rest of the UK and Ireland by red tape passport controls and a fit of Westminster pique, go “ach fuck it, let’s join Schengen and then we can go to Benidorm without a passport”, thus removing from the rUK the sole reason it got an opt out from Schengen in the first place, because all of a sudden they’ve got a land border with a Schengen member after all. One they could so easily have avoided creating. And Ed proposes to create this 100 mile long rod for his own back at the same time that Westminster wants to renegotiate the UK’s EU obligations and opt outs with Brussels. Meanwhile the other EU countries are going “Oh look we’ve got shiny new ways to put pressures on Westminster that we couldn’t use before.” Way to go to strengthening your negotiating position with Angela and François, Ed. He’d be as well flying his Y-fronts from the flag pole in surrender. Let’s hope they’re still white.

I’ve got way more self respect. I’m not going to be humiliated by a wee gimp in a suit. He’ll be the one that’s humiliated and running to Brussels in his Y-fronts when we ignore his petulant threats and vote Yes in September.

And there will still be no border controls.


Hoovering for an independent Scotland

OK well maybe not.  But I need to hoover for a clean hoose.  And there’s a mountain of washing to do, windaes tae wash, and a whole lot of other stuff that will not wait until the glorious day that Scotland strides confidently into the world and retakes her place amongst independent nations.  You can’t become independent with a manky hoose, or Sweden and Germany will be standing on the street corner tutting “Would you look at the state o thae net curtains.”

Meanwhile Paypal has decided that I’m possibly an international money launderer, so I need to sort that out too.  It’s because the Paypal account is now receiving donations, and apparently if you receive more than £1900 within a month you need to verify the bank account – again.  Or something.  The Paypal person I spoke to on the phone assures me it’s easy to sort out, but it means a bit more paperwork.

But while we’re on the subject of fundraisers, Andy and I would like to thank everyone who has made a donation.  Once the fundraising period is over I will be contacting individually everyone who has donated to send them our personal thanks.  I’ve now carefully looked over our finances, and the sale of the house in Spain looks like it’s going to leave us around £10000 short of the amount we need to buy this wee flat.  So all the money from the fundraiser will have to go to make up the shortfall and we should just about squeeze home and dry.  Your kindness and generosity has assured us with a roof over our heads, and words alone cannot express our gratitude.  Once we’ve bought this place, we’ll no longer be paying rent, and that will free up several hundred a month which we can use for Andy’s extra care needs.  This is making an enormous difference to us.

So no blog post today – other than this one – and I’m going to put my feet up tonight and watch some sci-fi.

Normal ranting service will be resumed tomorrow.

Invective: Terms and Conditions

I’ve got an invective policy on this blog. There are some topics and individuals upon which the only tongue lashings are the threads tying down a sharp tongue. That doesn’t mean I’m not burning with smart arsed and bitchy put downs against [inaudible mumble] and their [inaudible mumble] which furgodssake [inaudibly mumbled]. But I keep schtum anyway, even when it’s [inaudible mumble] John Mason. Is that hypocritical of me? Quite possibly. I don’t care. I’m human, I contain contradictions. We all do. That’s what makes us human.

I will not criticise any individual, organisation, or campaigning group actively seeking a Yes vote in September. No one told me not to. I’ve got protection from undue influence – through the magic of scissors and PVA glue I transformed my lovely free expensively produced UKOK bookletty thingy into a lovely hat which protects the sensitive regions of the neo-cortex from SNP mind control rays. It works better than tinfoil, though it’s certainly less stylish.

But the fact I’m not going to criticise or mock them doesn’t mean I agree with everything every other Yes group or campaigner says or does, nor does it mean I agree with their strategies or tactics. This is a grassroots movement. That’s the opposite of a manicured lawn, which is a monoculture of manufactured sameness. A mass movement is a big breathing living mass of organic nature, a forest or a field of wild flowers. That’s the whole point of being a mass grassroot movement. It’s not a controlled domesticated thing. It contains contradictions and incompatibilities. And that’s precisely how it should be.

All of us come to this debate with our own histories, our own stories, our own perspectives. We’ve got our own expectations, and our own priorities about the things we want to achieve and how to achieve them. The only thing we have in common is the agreement that Scotland requires the full powers of self-government in order to tackle them effectively. I don’t criticise other Yes supporters, even those with whom I have fundamental political disagreements, because I refuse to be distracted from the prize of a Yes vote in September.

I’m not saying others should follow my example. That’s entirely up to other people. Like I said, we each come to this debate with our own experiences, our own perspectives, and our own priorities. What I see as my priority is not necessarily what others see as theirs. This is a mass grassroots movement, there is no party line – but I would ask people to reflect upon the fact that there are now just 83 days to go until the most important vote in Scottish history, and perhaps to consider the need for a bit of self-discipline.

There is a good argument to be made that it’s arrogant to tell a person that they must delay or downplay their own important issues in the cause of another campaign. It’s an argument I’ve used myself often enough in the past – see what I mean about hypocrisy and contradictions? I remember many years ago an unreconstructed socialist telling me that all that “homosexual stuff” was a dangerous distraction from the real prize of building socialism in Britain. Only once that had been achieved would the workers’ collectives arrive at a true and just dispensation for the good little gay people who’d kept their mouths shut for the cause. But it’s not for him or anyone else to tell me what my political priorities ought to be. The political is personal and I’m not about to put off making much needed changes in my own life in the vague hope that one day paradise will arrive and someone else will do it for me. I’m going to do it myself. Now.

In fact it’s just like Labour’s solidarity argument – Scotland must put off tackling her own problems with poverty and social exclusion until the bright dawn comes and we get a UK Labour government which is actually a Labour government as opposed to the Labour goverments we actually get. Only Labour’s paradise never comes. This is something else we need to do for ourselves too, and why we need to vote Yes.

Political campaigns are like good comedy, except politicians aren’t funny on purpose. But the secret is still in the timing. There’s a time to pick a fight, and there’s a time to put that fight off for another day. Right now, those who are blocking progress towards tackling the many social and political issues Scotland faces are not other Yes campaigners – no matter how distasteful or reprehensible you may find them, their views or their tactics. It’s those who want us to vote No who are the immediate obstacle to progress. It’s the No campaign which seeks to deny us, all of us with our various opinions priorities and perspectives, from taking control of the tools Scotland requires to begin to work on the problems Scotland faces. And when Yes supporters attack each other, we do the No campaign’s job for them.

As we approach 18 September, and the possibility of a Yes vote becomes real, there is a greater tendency to jump the gun and start fighting the fights we can only fight in an independent Scotland. Right now we’re 83 days away from the referendum, hoping that Yes supporters do not criticise other Yes supporters is not the same as asking women or gay people or black people not to tackle pressing issues of sexism, homophobia or racism until the glorious day sometime in a vague and undetermined future when the revolution arrives and all these things will be sorted for us. There’s an expiry date on the referendum special offer, and it’s one that’s not far off. On 19 September, everything changes.  And after that date, we will still have our own priorities – but with a Yes vote we’ll have the tools we need to tackle them ourselves.

This is not a student debating competition. There’s a far bigger prize. Keep your eye on it and don’t be distracted. Keep calm, keep focussed. Direct your ire carefully. Prioritise it. And we will win.



We’re here, we’re queer, we’re voting yes

Stu Campbell, who runs the Wings Over Scotland website, has recently come under sustained abuse by Unionists. He’s been accused of just about everything with the possible exception of being personally responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia – although it’s probably only a matter of time before a swivel eyed No supporter on Twitter makes the claim that Wings Over Scotland is published from Phnom Phen.

A persistent claim is that Wings Over Scotland is homophobic, misogynistic and transphobic. It’s a shameless attempt to deter ordinary Scots from engaging with the arguments and information published on the site. I have never read any articles on Wings Over Scotland that I have considered homophobic. Wings Over Scotland and the other pro independence news sites provide information in a clear and straightforward manner which is accessible to all and inclusive of all.

Just today Stu received another tweet from a Unionist describing him as a “homophobic c**t”. Stu Campbell may be many things, but he’s not homophobic. I’ve had a number of personal contacts with him, and I know from personal experience that he has demonstrated nothing but respect for my partner and me as gay men, and for our status as a married couple. The same experience has been repeated countless times with all the many and diverse people I’ve been privileged to meet and get to know as a part of this remarkable mass movement. Acceptance and love. The love of Scotland is a many gendered thing.

Stu is not versed in the arcane language of the organised LGBT movement, but there is no reason he should be. Lack of awareness is not abuse. Accusing an individual of abuse in attempt to deflect from unrelated arguments – that’s abuse. And worse, it’s abuse which diminishes and damages the struggle against real homophobia and real social exclusion. Those who make such accusations should hold their heads in shame.

Sorry readers, but this is not going to be a happy post. It’s an angry one. It’s the height of hypocrisy for the No campaign to make accusations of homophobia. Scotland is a nation. It is a modern European nation like any other. It contains a minority who have homophobic attitudes. Those who possess such attitudes are represented on both sides of the independence debate – although they are without a shadow of doubt louder and more prominent on the No side. Yet these No campaigners are the people who’d have us believe that the traditional Scottish sentiment “A man’s a man for aw that” is a statement in support of transphobia and 19th century gender roles and who are trying to make us fear than an independent Scotland would be less progressive than Russia in its treatment of its lesbian and gay minority. That’s abuse. That’s cheapening the struggle I’ve spent my adult life involved in.

Certainly there are homophobes amongst Yes campaigners, but homophobia is more of a problem for the No campaign. People who are on the same side of an independence debate as the Orange Order, UKIP, the Tories, the fascists of Britain First, and the Daily Fucking Mail have no business taking the gay rights moral high ground with anyone. Remember that Labour hacks, next time you pen an article for that right wing rag or take to Twitter decrying the abuse you claim to suffer.

Labour’s LGBT claque does not speak for me, it does not speak for the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual people in this country. They speak for their own ghettoised style of politics. Real Scottish lesbian and gay people are here, we’re queer, and we’re Scottish independence supporters too. We’re not going to live in a ghetto in an independent Scotland. We’re going to be mainstream, out in the open, and participating fully.

I’m a late middle aged man who’s recently made the shocking realisation that I’m eligible for a Saga holiday offer. I made the realisation that I was gay a long time before, during the 1970s. I came out in the early 1980s when the Aids crisis was in full blown media hysteria and newspapers regularly engaged in witchhunts against gay people, when people were still sacked from their jobs for being a queer. We were public enemy number 1. Coming out, I got beaten up for my pains, I was estranged from certain family members for many years. I was no longer welcome in the home I was born in.

I’ve experienced homophobia – real homophobia and not the homophobia of the trivial Twitter complaint variety “Oooooh s/he’s said something nasty about me.” I didn’t bother myself when people called me a poof or a pervert, I had far more serious abuse to deal with – the abuse which prevented lesbians and gay men living the life we had a right to live. The abuse that left real bruises, not metaphorical ones.

I was never a prominent campaigner. I didn’t join political pressure groups and sit on committees or seek positions of influence. But I was there. Not mincing but marching. Not complaining about abuse in the pages of the Daily Mail, but doing something about it. I was there in Parliament Square on the evening of 21 February 1994 when the Westminster Parliament rejected proposals to equalise the age of consent for gay men with that of everyone else. I was there during the protests that ensued when the crowd realised that our Parliamentarians had chosen to maintain legal discrimination against us. I was there to witness a group of angry gay men trying to storm a Westminster Palace which had locked its doors against equality.

I was there at the beginning when parental rights where a major issue for lesbian and gay people. And at a time when the Daily Mail and the gutter press insisted we had no right to have children, that we were a threat to the well being of young people, I started a family with lesbian friends. We didn’t ask any straight person’s permission. We didn’t appeal to authority for help. We just did it. We were amongst the first generation of lesbians and gay men to do so. We established that it was possible. We proved that it was good. We opened the doors to parenthood for the generations of lesbians and gay men who followed.

I didn’t have kids to prove a political point, that would have been crass and shallow. I had kids for the same reasons anyone has kids. But we were fully aware of the political significance of the simple act of conception. My children have brought my family immense joy and pride, they are happy, well balanced, doing well in life, they grew up surrounded by love. I am zealous in my protection of my daughters.

I will not be lectured to by the Labour party about homophobia or LGBT issues. I am sickened and revolted by the modern attempts of Labour to assert that it was and is the leading organisation in the societal struggle against discrimination. Because the Labour party was as complicit as the other mainstream parties in maintaining and fostering homophobia.

My partner suffers from a terminal illness. I spend my days caring for him. Yet when he dies I will not inherit his pension rights, because the Labour party decided when it introduced civil partnerships that pension rights would not be backdated. We’ve been a couple for decades, but in the eyes of the law our relationship dates only from our civil partnership ceremony a few years after the law was changed in 2004. I face an uncertain financial future due to the Labour party. That’s real homophobia. That’s discrimination and abuse which is far worse than being called rude names on Twitter. And it’s the Labour party which is responsible for it.

I am of the gay generation which defined homophobia. I’m of the gay generation which taught the likes of the LGBT claque in the modern Labour party what homophobia is, how to identify it, how to challenge it, and how to overcome it. So I’ll not be having them telling me what is or is not homophobic. I’ll be telling them. And I am telling them that Stu Campbell and the readers and followers of Wings Over Scotland are not homophobes. Neither are they hypocrites – that would be the No campaigners making accusations of homophobia in a transparent attempt to create fear, doubt and uncertainty.

No is the campaign of fear and looking over your shoulder to the past. The Yes campaign is the Scotland of equality and inclusion, it seeks to give ordinary Scottish people the tools they need to determine their own future on their own terms. The gay rights movement sought the empancipation of gay people, it fought for equality and inclusion, to give ordinary lesbian and gay people the tools they need to determine their own future on their own terms. Gay rights and Scotland’s rights are part of the same struggle.

Yes is the future, it’s multicoloured, multiethnic, it’s straight, bi and queer. It’s Scotland in all her glory. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re voting yes.

Click here for an audio version of this article, courtesy of 1 of the 99%




Dress for yes success

Tuesday was a beautiful day, even if the weather was back to grey after a rare spot of sun. I went out socially for the first time in ages thanks to a neighbour who’s a trained carer who sat with my partner allowing me to meet up with a couple of friends for lunch in a nice restaurant. A few weeks back, they gave me an iron because the old one had exploded as irons are wont to do. So I ironed a shirt and put on my best suit. A handmade three piece Savile Row suit bought in a charity shop in London nearly 25 years ago for the princely sum of a tenner. It’s my lucky suit. Every time I’ve worn it to a job interview I’ve been offered the job.

I wore it to a posh do at the Irish Embassy after accepting one of those jobs – which happened to involve the occasional trip to places like the Irish Embassy where they didn’t offer anyone Ferrero Rocher and I was totally gutted – but by way of compensation an even posher man from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office came up to me and attempted to engage me in conversation. I’m sure he fancied me, because I was still young and had hair, but he didn’t look like any of the James Bonds so I wasn’t really interested. In the plummiest of tones he said: “I do so love your suit. You must give me the name of your tailor!” And I said, “Aye, it wis Relief Fund for Romania.” He sidled off quickly.

I used to buy all my suits in charity shops. But that was before vintage menswear retro became fashionable, prices went through the roof, and hipsters ruined what was once a cheap hobby. And made me fashionable, which was quite annoying because one of the reasons for getting into retro vintage gear in the first place was because it was deliberately unfashionable. I used to tell people I was an anarchodandyist – bringing about the downfall of capitalism by being extremely well dressed.

Some people believed that was a real political position. Which only goes to show that there’s a proportion of the population who are more prone to believing things if they’re said with conviction by man in an expensive looking suit – this explains a great deal about modern politics and why things need to change. The great Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist who was murdered by the racist South African police in 1977, knew that too. He said, “If you want to say something radical, dress conservatively.” But I digress.

Anyway after a very pleasant afternoon with my friends, and without being asked for the name of my tailor by any posh Foreign Office persons, I come home to find there’s been news in the independence campaign. Very good news indeed. The lucky suit’s been lucky again.

The Radical Independence Campaign published the results of their mass canvassing held on 22 June. The results show why the No Hope campaign has been in full-on panic mode for the past few weeks – because they’re doing private polling and canvassing too. The 978 volunteer canvassers spoke to the residents of 46 districts across Scotland, getting 8317 responses; 40% Yes, 29.5% No, 30.5% undecided. In every area canvassed, Yes was ahead of No, often by a considerable margin. In some districts, the percentage of No voters was as low as 14%.

The usual caveats and disclaimers apply. Good news always comes with small print, but it’s still good news. Extremely encouraging news, and news which for once chimes in with the opinions and views of the people I actually encounter in real life. In this part of the East End of Glasgow, there are a lot of Yes supporters, a lot of don’t knows, a not insignificant number of don’t give a shits, but very few confirmed No voters. The Yes supporters are the ones who are excited and motivated and are going to turn up and vote. Yes supporters are the happy ones. Their excitment and motivation is proving to be contagious. It’s not the virus of nationalism after all, it’s the cross-fertilisation of hope, supporting Yes is infectious like laughter.

There’s not much in the way of joy from the miserabilists of No. The stitching has come loose in the arse of their suit troosers. The expensively besuited Alistair Darling has spent the last six months telling anyone who would listen that he would debate Alicsammin “anytime, anyplace”. He must have been wearing his lucky suit too because over the weekend Alicsammin waved the sparkly debate wand and granted his wish, with the proviso the debate was held after the Commonwealth Games have finished and there’s half a chance people might watch it. You’d think Alistair would have been happy, since “in an STV studio in August” does indeed fall within the definition of “anytime, anyplace”.

But it transpires that Alistair meant “anytime, anyplace” except August, because he’s off looking for a tailor to repair the arse of his troosers. Oh and any day with a Y in its name is right out too. It’s a religious thing, like not eating meat on Fridays or not being eaten alive by a First Minister any time at all.

However he’s still willing to debate anyplace, although just not anywhere on planet Earth unless it’s deep within the security bunker of a BBC studio where he’s protected by 6 foot plates of Jim Naughtie. To be fair, this still leaves over 99% of the rest of the solar system, so it’s not like Alistair is being unnecessarily restrictive. I should really stick in a Uranus joke here, but that would just be adding to the cruelty.

Ah but – in breaking newspincycle – it’s actually Alicsammin who’s the big feartie because he won’t debate Alistair in July when Scotland goes on holiday. And it’s all the fault of that nasty STV which is in cahoots with Alicsammin, and probably allows him to broadcast his mind control waves over their transmitters. Someone of Alistair’s stature can’t possibly appear on a minor regional TV channel. He hasn’t run away to hide at all, oh no. He’s just an ageing silent movie star who thinks it’s the pictures that have got too small. The suits of Better Together are lying face down in the swimming pool with knives in their backs. I’m ready for my close up Mr Naughtie.

But rather than descend further into the madness which is the No Clue campaign, I’ll just rehash a Martini advert jingle. It’s in keeping with the lounge lizard suit vibe.

Anytime anyplace anywhere

BT’s speaker is an empty chair

Not the grey one

the scared one

Feartie Ali.

So bring on the empty chair. The case for the Union is brought to you by a vacant space. Tells us all we need to know, doesn’t it.

Perhaps I need to wear that suit more often. After all, Yes is the elegant equation in this debate.  Dress for Yes Success.


Debating behind the bikesheds

The English lexicographer, wordsmith and scottophobe Samuel Johnson once said: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Alistair Darling knows exactly what that feels like right now, although he’s got a bit more than a fortnight in which to ponder his impending doom. I’m quite relieved that it’s more than a fortnight away, as it gives plenty of time to learn Morse code so I can check if Alistair is frantically blinking H.E.L.P…M.E…R.O.N.A. during the debate.

Ali and Alicsammin debating is one of those things that Westminster thought wasn’t supposed to happen, like the SNP winning an outright majority in an electoral system Labour and the Lib Dems had designed to ensure that never happened. But that set a pattern, and this referendum campaign has been full of things that were not supposed to happen. The referendum itself wasn’t supposed to happen. Holyrood setting the terms of the vote, the timing, and the question wasn’t supposed to happen. Mass popular participation in the debate and the campaign wasn’t supposed to happen. Scotland responding to a barrage of scare stories and threats with laughter, mockery and ridicule wasn’t supposed to happen. Yes snapping at the heels of the Bet You Don’t Know What We’re Called This Week campaign in the polls wasn’t supposed to happen. The momentum of a Yes grassroots movement that’s bigger and reaches further than any political campaign in modern Scottish history wasn’t supposed to happen.

You’d think, given that there’s a precedent or ten for Scottish things that Westminster thinks aren’t supposed to happen actually happening, that they wouldn’t try and act macho about something that they’re praying won’t ever happen. Alistair Darling must now rue the many days he called on Alicsammin to debate with him, all the while in the belief that Alicsammin would continue to refuse. It’s like the school bully’s nyaffwank wee pal suddenly discovering that the big Bullingdon bully won’t be giein him haunders after all. Now the whole of the school is going to meet up behind the bikesheds at the STV studios and watch him get a wedgie with his pants on fire. It’s a painful and humiliating thing when a wedge strategy goes wrong.

Alistair has a reputation as a calm and dignified statesperson. He maintains this by being remote and distant, and doesn’t do combative interviews, preferring instead a nice wee chat with Jim Naughtie. The calmness of his badger fur is never ruffled. Not once during the entire campaign has he debated with or been interviewed alongside someone from the Yes camp. It’s easy to look dignified when you maintain an aloof aura aw roon, and you’re away in the big important parliament far away in London doing big and important things but have deigned to lower yourself to paddle in the provincial pond in order to tell Scotland how lucky we are to have people like Alistair far away.

But the debate with Alicsammin will teach Scotland the lesson Father Ted tried in vain to teach to Father Dougal. Alistair isn’t far away, he’s just small. And Davie Cameron is a wee dot in the field outside the caravan window, running away as fast as he can.

STV tried to force the issue with a highly reluctant No Comment campaign, which has been refusing to put up speakers for public debates on the grounds that people who are not politicians might disagree with a politician, which is clearly abusive. Eventually STV informed each side that they either put up a speaker or they’d ’empty chair’ them. They should have gone with the empty chair, it would make a more positive case for the Union than Alistair has ever managed. Chairs can at least provide comfortable support, and Alistair’s would be well-upholstered. Furnishings can be claimed for on expenses.

Despite the attempts to spin events as Alicsammin being “smoked out” – geddit? smoked, because Salmond sounds like salmon and no one has ever used that joke before – this is a disaster for the No Sex We’re British campaign, as it’s been well and truly screwed. It’s understandable that Cameron didn’t want to debate. He’s going to lose. Badly. That said, he should still debate. He is, let us not forget, the Prime Minister of Scotland, and this country is currently engaged in a debate about whether or not we want to let him keep his job. It is after all one thing for Westminster to tell us that after independence we can’t have the pound, or EU membership, or the BBC, or defence from invasion from outer space if you believe Philip Hammond the Tory defence minister, it is however the height of inanity to tell us we can’t question our own Prime Minister while we’re still a part of the Union.

If Cameron had debated, expectations of his performance would have been low. Low expectations like if you’d entered John Reid in a humility contest, or nominated the Collected Speeches of Johann Lamont for the Nobel prize for literature, or asked Tony Blair to apologise for Iraq. In order to have the UK media hailing his statemanlike powers and magnanimous grace, all Davie would need to do would be to come out with some meaningless PR mince about family of nations WW2 Olympic spirit Willnkate (don’t mention the helicopter) Harry Potter and 307 years of everything joint except the stuff that gets you stoned. He could, if he had been smart about it, turned it into one of those Great British Dunkirk evacuation style defeats, a defeat but a glorious and heroic one. Except that glorious and heroic aren’t adjectives usually associated with Davie Cameron, unless there’s a “not” in the sentence, and quite often a “useless fucker” in Polish as well.

Instead we’re getting the Labour party’s Alistair Darling as the Tory understudy. That’s really going to appeal to those wavering Labour voters isn’t it. He’s spent the last two years pointing out the uncertainties of independence, even though many of those uncertainties exist only inside his own head, and most of the remainder are uncertain only because the sole body which has the ability to clarify the uncertainty is the Westminster Parliament. And they’re certainly not for telling. He’s now exposed himself to questioning on the uncertainty of new powers for Holyrood in the event of a No vote. Or more precisely, questioning on the certainty that after a No vote Westminster will kick the entire issue into the long grass that still doesn’t get you stoned. Scotland won’t be very mellow about that at all. Alistair’s a backbench MP for Her Maj’s Opposition, he’s in no position to offer any certainties, and the squabbling members of the No We Can’t Agree On Anything Except We Hate Alicsammin campaign don’t provide him with much comfort, no matter how well upholstered his chair. He can’t even be certain about how much bog paper he’s going to need after debating Alicsammin. Probably quite a lot though. But he can get it on expenses.

Samuel Johnson also said “The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” He was, let’s face it, a bit of a nyaffwank. The only reason the ingrate is famous is because a Scottish guy with more writing talent than Johnson, but a rampant case of runaway cringe, preserved his witticisms for posterity. And his dictionary is pish too. It’s missing the word nyaffwank* for starters. The relationship between Johnson and Boswell is a metaphor for the Union. And that’s pretty nyaffwank too.

But in Alistair’s case the noblest prospect he’s got in store will be the road out of an STV studio, leading to a hole in the ground somewhere where he can hide under a blanket and rock back and forward, wondering why it all went so wrong.

*a flaccid and embarrassing indulgence with no satisfactory outcome which leaves you feeling short changed and annoyed