The Guardian’s Martin Kettle has been making use of his steam powered time machine Delorean to voyage into the future and look back at the independence referendum from the vantage point of 2024, using a route planner that Nick Clegg sketched on the back of a Lib Dem election pledge. Marty was hoping that this would help him find the plot that he lost when the referendum was announced, as previous attempts to locate it had depended on using the same dowsing rod that Iain Gray had employed when he was searching for a Labour majority in the 2011 Scottish elections.
Marty’s time machine tells him that the independence referendum is all a dreadful waste of time, and for some inexplicable reason that Scottish independence is going to spark off a civil war in Ireland – possibly because Gerry Adams will be outraged that he can no longer watch River City on the BBC.
The article was allegedly intended as a light hearted humorous look at a subject which Marty finds both deeply unfunny and intensely perplexing. These articles exist solely in order to give Unionists the opportunity to tsk that independence supporters have no sense of humour, because making jokes about bomb blasts in Belfast is just a bit of fun when Westminster supporters do it. If a Yes supporter was to do the same, it would be evidence of the atavistic nationalism that Marty only espouses when it’s called British. Because then it doesn’t count as nationalism.
Like most UK media commentators whose umbilical cords are firmly attached to the belly of the Westminster beast, Marty can’t conceptualise political debates which take place in areas where Jim Murphy’s bus tour can’t reach. So instead he prefers to blame it on atavistic English hating nationalism, a concept which he can get his head around better than the shocking truth that as far as Scotland is concerned Marty and his opinions are about as informed and informative as a Glesca bus timetable during the Commonwealth Games. That’s his real difficulty – he’s faced with a political discourse in which he is irrelevant, so at least you’d think he’d now appreciate what Scotland has experienced in UK politics for the past 40 years. Sadly not.
Marty’s a fully paid up member of George Robertson’s Cataclysm Club, and his wee prediction checked all the Unionist dire consequence tick boxes with the exception of the plagues of frogs and locusts, and the invasion of lizard aliens from outer space. Which is a bummer because I was quite looking forward to the lizard aliens, they’re far more fashionable than the genocidal robots from the Andromeda Galaxy who’re set to take over an independent Catalonia.
According to Marty, 2014 is the “last golden summer of the UK”. So enjoy those ATOS disability interviews and Danny Alexander admitting he was wrong about the Bedroom Tax while it all lasts then. But the only gold in the UK these days is creamed off by bankers in bonuses, the rest of us are left with the radioactive heavy metals that are the decay products of a Trident warhead and a media without a clue.
About the only thing Marty wrote that wasn’t utterly risible was his premise that Yes will win in September. We’ve come a long way from 2011, when the Unionist parties were claiming that an 80% majority was in the bag and Scottish nationalism would be killed stone dead – again. However at last the penny is beginning to drop that Scotland can no longer be taken for granted. We’re being noticed and told we’re loved by people who never noticed us before. They’re still praying for a No vote so they can get back to ignoring us. Little people aren’t qualified to decide what’s best for themselves. Only people who ignore little people can do that.
Marty and the rest of the UK media are never going to understand the independence debate, because understanding it would mean grasping a true appreciation of the bankruptcy of the political system that they have hitched themselves to. And they have no idea how it should be fixed. They don’t want to fix it. It already works just fine – at least for the only people who count. That would be those who are in it, and people like Marty whose careers depend on reporting them and presenting their views to the rest of us.
Scottish independence is about recognising that the Westminster system of politics is irretrievably knackered. It is not capable of reforming itself. No further evidence is needed than the continuing existence of an unelected second chamber. When it was enjoying its record breaking three consecutive majority governments, Labour abolished the right of heriditary peers – or at least most of them – to sit in the Lords and influence our legislation, but they replaced it with the only system that could be worse. Instead of the lottery of aristrocratic birth, peers are now entirely appointed by politicians who increased the power of their own patronage.
The result is that UK politicians are the least accountable in any democracy. To cite my favourite example of odiousness, during the 1997 General Election Michael Forsyth led the Tory party in Scotland to a wipeout at the polls. Politicians like to tell us that they must listen to the message sent to them by the voters, and in 1997 Scotland sent Michael Forsyth a message. We told him that we didn’t want him, we didn’t want his policies, and we didn’t want his party. Every single Scottish Conservative MP lost their seat, and the party has apparently abandoned any hope of ever recovering. Short of sending him to the bottom of a coalmine in Sverdlovsk, this is the strongest message an electorate can send to a politician in a democratic system. And the message was “Away you tae fuck.” But what happened? Mikey got a seat in the Lords and he’s still casting his baleful influence over our legislation and our lives.
But lack of accountability also means that political manifestos have become even less fact based than the proverbial Glesca bus timetable during the Commonwealth Games. They mean little or nothing. So we get a series of political parties making promises they have little intention of keeping, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Vote one lot out and the next lot will take over and do exactly the same. The only difference is the PR. The Magic Roundabout of Westminster, it’s the only ride in the Magic Kingdom amusement park where the little people aren’t admitted. We press our noses against the fence while Marty drops nuggets of wisdom for us to digest gracefully.
The independence debate has upturned the old certainties. Now it’s Marty who’s pressing his nose against the fence, complaining that a debate is taking place that he’s not a part of. The single biggest prize we can achieve with independence is a written constitution that spells out the checks and balances required to keep our politicians accountable, and which will put a spanner in the works of the Magic Roundabout.
And then perhaps we might even achieve a media which understands the country it’s reporting on. But it won’t be one involving Marty.