So have you fallen out with any family members yet? Over the referendum that is, not because your brother in law didn’t return your cordless electric drill. I couldn’t tell you if I’ve fallen out with any family members over the referendum, although mocking words have certainly been said, largely by me if I’m honest. But then that’s normal under any set of circumstances in our family and at any given time there will always be some of us not talking to the rest of us except via UN Blue Helmet wearing peacekeepers carrying coded messages. And more often than not, yours truly is the one with the Blue Helmet, which ought to give you some idea of just how prone we are to falling out. And you thought I was bitchy?
So given our familial propensity for having big fall outs, my granny was a woman who lived to be 100 and nursed a number of grudges for about 99 of those years, I’m feeling a bit left out, because according to the newspapers Scottish families are estranged and at odds over the referendum and we’re close to civil war. At least according to Madeleine Bunting who’s on leave from the Guardian to write a book about the relationship between Scotland and England. Maddie thinks we’re on the verge of irreconcilability and she’s a top Guardian commentator who studied at Oxford and comes here on her holidays and everything, so she’s clearly an expert on the dynamics of interpersonal relationships in Scottish families.
Mind you I can’t help but wondering why it is that commentators from the metronomenklatura have suddenly discovered that Scotland is a land riven with schism and social division, constantly on the edge of open warfare. But my more cynical half suspects that they might just be reacting against a debate that they feel excluded from and powerless to influence. Which is actually quite a good summation of how the average inhabitant of Scotland has felt about UK politics for the past 40 years and explains why we’re having this debate now. After all, if you continually exclude a group from a conversation, you can’t complain when they go off and talk amongst themselves like the people of Scotland are doing just now. But Maddie thinks this is dangerous, as Scottish punters aren’t licenced properly and don’t have degrees from Oxford. She’s touring Scotland looking for division and fall outs which the rest of us aren’t seeing.
So where’s the great Scottish stairheid rammy then? Magrit Curran’s probably away for her holidays, but that doesn’t explain the general absence of stairheidrammage. This is an essential precursor to any irreconcilability, because unlike the cultural norms to which Maddie may be accustomed, in some parts you cannot have an irreconcilable falling out with someone without first telling everyone you know, plus their relatives, just how much of an utter utter bastard the person is that you’re no longer talking to. Otherwise what is the point of falling out?
As everyone in Glasgow knows, a verbal disagreement doesn’t count as a falling out unless A) there are actual threats of violence which might actually come to pass, as opposed to suggestions that there may be malkydom in the near future or imprecations to get it up ye, and or B) one party gets the other party’s mother involved. And it’s only really serious when B happens.
My sister, who’s a confirmed No voter – and I can say this safe in the knowledge that she doesn’t read this blog and she’s not going to clype me to our maw – told me she didn’t want us to fall out over the referendum. I was a bit surprised, not because she’s a No voter, the fact she is a No voter is the opposite of surprising. And it’s not surprising that she’s quite keen to tell everyone about it either. There’s no sign of shy no voter with her, nor with most of the relatively small number of people I know who are certain to vote no. They’re pretty loud about it on the whole.
I was surprised that she thought I might believe I was able to change her mind, because she’s never listened to anything I’ve said for the past 50 years and there’s no reason she’s about to start now. But also I was surprised because she knows as well as I do that we have a million and one things to fall out over first before we get around to falling out over anything remotely approaching the independence referendum. However she’s now quite convinced that she must protect her virgin like innocent nawness from the deprecations of bullying Yes voters who might tell her some facts. She’s not keen on facts, like the fact that in our family she is in a small minority in her banged on nawness. I blame people like Madeleine Bunting.
However not for the first time in her life, my sister hasn’t been thinking things through, because as far as the referendum and my No voting sister go, I’m onto a winner either way – as I previously explained to another No voting relative. Either Yes will win and I get to be a smug git, or No will win and then when we get screwed over by Westminster – as we invariably will – I’ll get to say “See I told you so” for the rest of her life, and get to be a smug git. So I’m not about to fall out with my sister any time soon, there’s far too much smugging to look forward to.
But what the media campaign of “bullying Yes supporters” aims to achieve is to make Scots afraid of “the other”, only the “other” is ourselves and our own families and friends. It feeds on the ancient stereotype of Scots beloved of some outside Scotland that as a nation we are argumentative – which is probably true – but also that we are incapable of handling disagreements and are prone to irrational violence. Scots are supposedly too politically immature. It’s a form of anti-Scottish racism, a type of Cringe. Political discussions must be left to those who are suitably qualified, like those with a degree in Politics Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, staff writers on the Guardian, and elected politicians. The rest of us shouldn’t discuss politics because we might break something.
But the reverse is true. Scottish families fall out all the time and then we kiss and make up because family and friends are too important. Disputatious people are good at disputes, we have had years of practice in dealing with them and resolving them, and this referendum is no different.
The only difference is that for the first time in decades Scots have found differences of opinion about politics, when for the past 40 years there has been little disagreement amongst the Scottish public about the nature of politics. Politicians could all be summed up in one statement just about everyone could agree on: “They’re aw shite, aren’t they.” Only now there are many of us who think there’s something we can do about the shiteness of our political classes. We can do a better job ourselves, and with a Yes vote we can get a written constitution which ensures that politicians are properly accountable.
I won’t be falling out with anyone over this referendum. That doesn’t mean I won’t be disagreeing or putting my case across. And I’ll still be disagreeing with my sister, because I have no intention of changing the habits of a lifetime. But as far as the referendum goes I’ll be concentrating my efforts on those who do actually listen to other people’s points of view.
The Scottish public are considerably more mature and grown up than the Westminster elite and their media hangers on give us credit for. The truth is, they’re the ones who behave like spoiled and greedy children who have temper tantrums when they don’t get their own way, and in September Scotland can put them on the naughty step for good. My sister will get over it.