Martin Kettle’s pandanoculars

You have to love Martin Kettle, desperately seeking an intellectual case for Scotland to remain within the Union, and all the while he examines Scotland from afar through the wrong end of ink covered binoculars that leave him panda eyed. If Tian Tian isn’t pregnant after all, we could probably hire Martin to stand in as third panda. It would at least allow him to make a relevant contribution to Scottish discussions. Zoo visitors would even be prepared to look indulgently on Martin’s habit of ramming a bamboo shoot up his backside and calling it an insight. Aww ther a cute wee Guardian columnist, bless, inty lovely. Oh look, ther a monkey in a rid rosette throwin poo.

You can, if you put your mind to it, rustle up a suitably intellectual sounding justification for pretty much any proposition you care to mention. All it takes is some impressive sounding words, a liberal sprinkle of quotations, and a selectiveness with facts that makes a vegan with a wheat allergy seem like an unfussy dinner guest. This is why there are people in this world who sincerely believe that Native Americans are descended from the tribes of Israel who got lost on a package holiday to Miami, that the standing stones of Calanais were built by aliens as a landing strip (but without a Sunday service, of course), or even that Scotland 2014 is a programme worth watching. Well OK, maybe not that last one. No one with any understanding of Scotland believes that, not even Sarah Smith. Martin probably does though, and that explains why he is desperately trying to rustle up an intellectual case for the extraordinary proposition that a country shouldn’t govern itself and electing its own government is an extraordinary state of affairs. He does this by rebutting the arguments of a Scottish independence campaign which is even more phantom than a panda pregnancy and exists solely in the hormonal flushes of a senile UK establishment.

You can only maintain your intellectual pretence when your audience is in possession of even fewer facts than you are. What you can’t do is to put lipstick on a pig and pretend it’s a panda, with or without the benefit of inky binoculars, because the dedicated panda watchers of the referendum campaign will still spot the difference. Martin’s big problem is that referendum panda watching is now a mass participatory sport in Scotland, and even small children can tell the difference, leading commentators like Martin and Labour party candidates to mutter about Alicsammin der Pandaführer.

Martin argues that Scotland is a partner in the Union and has not been singled out for special mistreatment by Westminster. And this last bit would be true. Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions have equally suffered from Westminster’s focus on developing London as a global centre of finance. But that is not the same as Scotland remaining a partner in the Union. Scotland along with all other parts of the UK have declined from being partners in this Union to being colonies of the financial industries of the City of London. Our resources are used to build infrastructure in London, our brightest children attracted to the opportunities the city presents – because there are no such opportunities for them at home in Scotland, or in Wales, or in Manchester or Liverpool. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions are all equally internal UK colonies who exist to service and further the development of the Global City.

If Martin really wanted some solid evidence that Scotland is not a partner in this Union, he only needs to look at the state-sponsored hoo-ha with which Westminster has surrounded the issue of a currency union. If we were truly a partner in the eyes of Westminster, a currency union would not even be subject to discussion – it would be seen as a perfectly logical and rational means of preserving and fostering cooperation between two neighbouring nations which have strong economic, personal and cultural links. Instead we have the bitter refusal to acknowledge that Scotland has played any role at all in “Westminster’s pound”.

If Scotland was truly a partner in the eyes of Martin and his Westminster chums, there would be no dispute that Scottish independence means the end of the Union of 1707, instead there is the insistance that Scotland was dissolved and abolished and Westminster not Holyrood represents the sole continuing state. That’s not partnership, that’s possession.

Back in the 1970s, the Marxist writer and thinker Michael Hechter published a highly influential book – at least it was influential on the Scottish left – called Internal Colonialism, in which he argued that the “Celtic peripheries” of the UK were internal colonies of the British state. At the time it was argued that Hechter’s analysis was mistaken, a Scotland which still preserved much of its traditional industry and was one of the centres of the UK economy could scarcely be said to be a colony. But then Thatcher happened. Scotland’s traditional heavy industry was decimated, along with that in the rest of the “British periphery” – in the English regions as much as Scotland or Wales. With the UK’s postwar failure to maintain itself as an industrial and military superpower, the new goal was for the UK to strut the world stage as a financial superpower. The regions and nations of the rest of the UK are the new colonies, serving the goal of maintaining London’s position as a leading centre of the financial industry, sources of revenues and labour to further those needs. That’s about as close to colonialism as you can get without actually being a colony. 40 years later the core of Hechter’s analysis has come true. But Scotland can choose another path, a path Martin can’t see, blinded by his pandanoculars.

There are only two exceptionalisms in the Scottish case for independence. The first is that the Scottish independence campaign is the only one in the history of the United Kingdom and its many colonial possessions where the party of UK government has been less fertile than a panda. Out-fucked by a panda, there’s an epitaph for the Union. The second is that unlike the rest of the UK, there is something Scotland can do to address the lamentable state of self serving affairs which passes for governance in the UK. The UK constitution exceptionally recognises the right of Scotland to self determination, and Scotland’s exceptionalism is the claim that Scotland can be a normal country like any other. Scotland’s exceptionalism is the exceptional ability to deliver Westminster a Glesca kiss and escape its strangling embrace.

It’s not really that exceptional in the cosmic scheme of things, but we can see why it’s got Martin worried. We have the exceptional ability to burst the bubble of the London commentariat. And we’re doing it for Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions almost as much as we’re doing it for ourselves.

The real exceptionalism is Martin’s and his exceptional panda eyes. Vote Yes so Scotland can be a normal country.


37 comments on “Martin Kettle’s pandanoculars

  1. Carrig Mick says:

    As usual, great post! Hadn’t known, or even heard of Michael Hechter’s book, Internal Colonialism. Will look it out; cheers for the heads-up about it!

    Your posts (and the fab contributing pieces) make my day. Love and respect to you and yours 🙂

  2. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    I feel violated.

  3. Dr A Brown says:

    This Martin Kettle sounds like a few folk I used to work with. Talk a load of drivel with big words slung in from time to time and the rest of the assembly don’t understand a word of it. So you must be really clever!!

  4. smiling vulture says:

    my reply to Martin kettle

    10 July 2014 10:06pm

    it is absolutely clear that further powers are likely to be devolved during the next UK parliament
    Horrible Histories
    labour devo bill–page 6
    For those that should NOT be devolved to Scottish
    Parliament and economic matters
    2.foreign affairs
    3.core of welfare state
    4.the constitution
    6.drug trafficking
    7.betting gaming lotteries
    9.civil service

    Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
    both ostentatiously boycotted the opening of the Scottish Parliament
    itself, and later the Holyrood building, in order to demonstrate their
    personal opposition, and that of the Labour Party, to the whole
    devolution project.

  5. […] You have to love Martin Kettle, desperately seeking an intellectual case for Scotland to remain within the Union, and all the while he examines Scotland from afar through the wrong end of ink cover…  […]

  6. macart763 says:

    Intellectual case is it?

    Ah’m no genetically programmed tae unnerstaun sich things. His big wurds wid be fawin’ oan deaf ears in ma case.

    You ever get sick of being patronised?

  7. WRH2 says:

    At school we used to get vocabulary exercises to do every week and it was usually big, long words most of which I’ve never had the opportunity to use. I’ve tried for years to find ways to use them but its never happened. One of the reasons for my failure was that we had to use these words in a sentence that would make the meaning of the word clear. Failing to do that got a big, angry, red X at the end of the sentence. When I hear someone use an unusual word to impress and the meaning isn’t clear from the context, I mentally award them a big, really, really, angry, red X. IMO it just makes them look childish and silly. Some of the best speakers I’ve heard just use ordinary words yet are capable of turning them into well crafted pieces rather like the Dug/Paul does.

  8. Eilean says:

    Talking of the London Commentariat. I had the misfortune of watching some of “This Week” on BBC1 live from Edinburgh. Ye freeking Gods. Andrew Neil, Diane Abbott. Michael Portillo and Charles Kennedy. Not one of them had the first clue about what is going on in Scotland right now. They weren’t making anything up I genuinely think that they meant what they were saying. If you want a prime example of “looking out of the Westminster bubble” look no further than the iplayer.

    As for Sara Smiths rather long and toe curlingly embarrassing piece to camera. May I nominate her for “Sneer of the Year 2014”?

    I ran screaming from the house when they wheeled out Susan Boyle.

    (I didnae really! Just a wee bit o poetic licence like!) 😉

    • diabloandco says:

      Just watched it on bbbc i player .
      It was God awful .
      Scotty dugs , tartan cushions ,tartan trews and Brillo trying out his stand up and denigrate routine.
      How bloody jolly!

      The puir auld soul on QT was used by the BBBC like a hunter uses a duck decoy and probably more successfully since everyone appears to be talking about it.

      I say nothing about Mr Kettles ignorance because Paul has written the perfect rebuttal.

  9. cuddyback says:

    Braw! I followed your link to the grauniad, and you just have to love their typos: is “thatduring” a new verb to describe Westminster’s Scottish policies in the 80’s? Ah, and BTL, i see the Slovenian faction is as effusive as ever, in spite of your revelations about article 50.

    O.T. i know you’ll just love this guy!

    Is Andy home yet?
    Orrabest, j

  10. vronsky says:

    I read the piece and rather enjoyed it. I thought the idea of Martin Kettle trying to measure himself intellectually against Neil Ascherson was very comical. I still smile thinking about it.

  11. Hi Paul

    You are a sneaky we dug.

  12. faolie says:

    Thanks Paul for another excellent read. I clicked on your link to read the article and on the link to Neal Ascherson’s too. The problem Kettle (and others) has is that he peers into Scotland and draws a few conclusions based on what he sees, and on what he’s told by the Parties – more powers: guaranteed! Aye right.

    Ascherson on the other hand reflects what Yes voters are thinking: that we can do better and that this is our time. Kettle and the rest of them just don’t get it. There’s just no perception about what is actually going on in Scotland right now.

    Only Better Whatever Thanks actually gets it. Which is why their message is fundamentally a fearful one as they don’t have anything positive to say about remaining in the Union.

    Off to Yestival tonight for some more positivity! We are going to win this.

  13. Dougie Douglas says:

    “The real exceptionalism is Martin’s and his exceptional panda eyes. Vote Yes so Scotland can be a normal country”… and so that England, Wales and Northern Ireland can be too surely?

  14. Jan Cowan says:

    Rocked with laughter at your latest piece Paul………and as for BtP I always enjoy his snap comments. Glad to see the old Panda has returned as there’s something reassuring about the portrait!

  15. rosa alba says:

    Not original – thoughts on QT last night. IN the light of the visit from Grannie Labour.

  16. Dougie says:

    I am sick of Unionists saying I am a ‘proud’ scot
    What part of Scotland ceased to exist do they not understand.
    Do they not realise that a No vote Validates that position
    Unionists have to realise they cant pick and choose what parts of being Scottish suits them
    They ether vote for Scotland or vote to stay a region

  17. flooplepoop says:

    Great article, but to my shame, the sentence i will mostly be using tonight in the pub will be ” Out-fucked by a panda”
    my apologies 🙂

  18. and I’ll be wearing mainly black and white

  19. Superb The best clear
    description of Scotland’s place within the union I’ve seen thus far. I’ve posted it to my niece who is finding her way to a firm yes…Thanks Paul 🙂

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