Scottish colours are political, British colours in the exact same context are not political, it’s official – or more accurately, officious. The private company organising the opening ceremony had planned that when the Red Arrows did their flyover, they should trail blue and white smoke – the colours of the Scottish saltire – seeing as how the Commonwealth Games are being held in Scotland. Despite the best efforts of a very shouty Gordon Matheson to assert otherwise, Glasgow is most definitely a Scottish city. I’m sure I’d have noticed if it wasn’t, and my geography is pretty good – I can get zero points on Pointless geography questions even when the answer isn’t Central African Republic.
Anyway, the request for Caledonian contrails went to the MoD, and got a Naw from the Tory Defence secretary Michael Fallon. Mikey was rehearsing for all the Naws Scotland is going to get from Westminster if we’re daft enough to vote Naw in September. Mikey is now being bigged up by the Daily Mail as the man who faced down the evil Alicsammin and his dastardly political plot to get the Red Arrows to display the colours of the Scottish flag.
As Wings Over Scotland points out today, the RAF has previously blown smoke in shades other than red white and blue. The Red Arrows did a red and white display for the Maltese, and even made a lovely St George’s Cross for the English fitba team – and in 1999 they trailed blue and white smoke over Edinburgh to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Parliament.
But Michael insisted that Saltire smoke wasn’t going to happen, and demanded that the smoke trails were red white and blue. So we got the RAF flying over Celtic Park trailing red white and blue smoke while someone in the stadium sang God Save the Queen and that isn’t remotely political at all, and isn’t going to piss off any Celtic fans who’re still uncertain how they’re going to vote. Aye, that Celtic Park. This may or may not be connected to the fact that Michael Fallon is himself a ProudScot™, born in Perth in 1952 into an upper middle class family of Tory voters. Like many ProudScots™ of that ilk he went south in order to get a political career because no one in the land of his birth wants to vote for him.
So instead of a streitched oot Saltire, we got long lines of red white and blue in the sky instead, which by a pleasing coincidence recreated the design of the Luxembourg flag. This was Westminster’s way of trying to sook up to Jean Claude Juncker the EC Prez after Cameron pissed him off by trying to block his election. Because the Luxembourg flag consists of horizontal stripes in red white and blue. Knowing that is the kind of thing you get zero points in Pointless for, as is knowing that Luxembourgy things are actually called Luxembourgeois. Michael Fallon is pretty pointless too, and receives zero votes in Scotland, and he was probably hoping we’d think the RAF fly past was Lothianbourgeois.
The Red Arrows could in theory create a Union flag, but only at the risk of multiple mid-air collisions and this is generally held not to be such a good idea. They just do a red white and blue tricolour, so not the Irish one then, and everyone pretends not to notice it looks more like the French flag than the British one. Vive la Auld Alliance. Mind you, the smoke trails looked purple from my windae, and gradually merged into a charming shade of lavender, so maybe they were celebrating Gay Pride a week late.
Despite the fact that the Scottish Government’s presence in the affair was about the same as the Tory party’s presence in the East End of Glasgow, this hasn’t stopped the UK media presenting this non-issue as a major blow for Alicsammin. They needed something to beat the independence campaign over the head with, since the crowd at Celtic Park had greeted the English team with cheers, thus failing to demonstrate the anti-English hatred which is supposedly consuming Scotland just now. So in the absence of anything as substantial as a tweet slagging off JK Rowling sent from a non-Scottish nutcase in Blackpool to use as a demonstration of Scottish unreasonableness, we get this non-story instead.
The No campaign is up to its usual tricks again – blaming its opponents for its own crimes. Just as the constant barrage of condescension, insults, abuse, and patronising dismissal directed at Scotland in the UK media isn’t remotely anti-Scottish racism at all, but Tweets from random nutjobs are evidence of systemic anti-English hatred. Likewise the Yes campaign isn’t supposed to politicise the Commonwealth Games, but Britishness is not political, so we can be deluged with Unionist symbols and that’s got nothing to do with the referendum campaign. The people handing out flags with Union flags on one side and Saltires on the other outside the venue weren’t making a political point at all, even if those flags have only previously been seen at Unionfests. Apparently the flags are being handed out by the Help for Heroes charity, although since they’re being handed out for free it’s not a fund raising campaign – which would be understandable. Instead this is costing the charity money, and it’s highly debatable just how exactly handing out Union Saltires to crowds at the Commonwealth Games does in fact benefit ex-servicepeople. I do not know for certain whether it was Help for Heroes, but as a former worker in the voluntary sector this activity seems to me to cross the legal line preventing charitable groups from participating in political activities. Oh but I forgot, promoting Britishness during the Scottish referendum campaign isn’t political at all. It’s only promoting Scottishness in Scotland that’s political.
But all of this misses the real point. The real point is that a major Scottish event which shows the city of Glasgow and the country of Scotland off to the world can be hijacked by a Tory in London that no one here has ever heard of – except for his maw and da – who wants to use it to make a political point in order to tell us that his politics aren’t political at all. And Unionist politicisation gets transformed into an attack on Alicsammin who is accused of politicising the event. That’s Unionist smoke and mirrors and Scotland is put back into its wee red white and blue box.
We’ll still get grandstanding patronising politicians in an independent Scotland. We’ll still witness political hypocrisy and crass stupidity. The difference will be that they’ll be politicians that Scotland has elected, and politicians that we can then remove from office – and unlike Michael Fallon’s other Scots Tory pals like Michael Forsyth, they won’t have a House of Lords to be bumped up to. Until then, we’ll continue to be treated like surly teenagers by a Westminster Parliament and and UK media, and not allowed even to decide on the entertainment for our own party. This must be more of that Home Rule that we’re promised, the kind that doesn’t allow us to home rule our own TV viewing.
Vote Yes, so Scotland can be a grown up country.